Saturday, February 15, 2014

PC Spotlight #78: NaissanceE

Title: NaissanceE
Developer: Limasse Five
Platforms: PC
Price: $19.99 (currently on sale for $17.99)
One element I value in games, probably only superseded in importance by a game's actual gameplay, is atmosphere, the way audio, visual, and interactivity coalesce to immerse the player into a world. I've experienced the abstract landscapes of Mirrormoon EP and the typographical environments of Type:Rider but I don't think any game I've played has compelled me to explore and established a sense of place in the way that NaissanceE has.
The environments are expansive, monolithic, not always in terms of being open to exploration but in terms of sheer scale. You feel small, lost and utterly alone in this world. It's a world that feels alien and weird, not in the twisting Escher-esque sense that Antichamber had, but like you just don't belong here, that this is truly not a place made for or by humans.. Even though it isn't a horror game, there's a distinct feeling of tension and apprehension of the unknown, and the unsettling sound effects add to this. You feel insignificant within the massive alien spaces, the technological canyons and geographical caverns.
The game is certainly linear, this is not some sprawling world, but you do have to find your way and it's easy to get disoriented, lost, turned around. NaissanceE accomplishes that feeling of exploration and discovery well, enticing the player with weird and intriguing architecture and structures far away and then later, you exit a corridor and you're there. It's a great feeling, that makes the game seem less like a linear adventure and more a journey where you're discovering the path. You never feel pushed or pulled in a direction, the game never takes control of your camera to direct you or tell you to head that way or in this direction. It's masterful in that aspect, subtly driving the player forward not through objective markers or compass arrows but with cues in the environment and the reward of some new area to explore.
But NaissanceE doesn't simply offer a world to walk through. It's actually a very challenging platformer and a puzzler. While the bulk of the gameplay is exploring the world, the developers have no qualms about presenting you with a tough platforming section, where timing and precision is key. Each section feels unique, with its own interesting mechanics to wrap your head around. The puzzle mechanic of manipulating light and shadow to reveal platforms or move objects is also well done and visually cool. However, those tough platforming section revealed my biggest gripe with the game and that is the checkpoints. The checkpoints aren't an issue when you're just moving through the world, but they become frustrating and feel much too spread out when you're playing areas where a missed jump can put you many minutes and several platforming sections back.
No explanations are offered, no story to why you're here or what built this otherworldy place, and none is needed. NaissanceE is all about the experience, that mysterious, engaging, ominous atmosphere that permeates every aspect of the game, and the challenges you face while traversing its cavernous spaces and claustrophobic halls. You can purchase NaissanceE on Steam.

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