Posted: February 12, 2014
Thirty minutes in:
So I'm about thirty minutes into NaissanceE and it's as atmospheric and otherworldly as you might have hoped. The environments are expansive, monolithic, not 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 twisty Escher-esque sense that Antichamber had, but like you just don't belong in this place. 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. It's been a linear journey so far, but I don't mind that. It's a world I want to venture further into and discover more about.
Two hours in:
2 hours into the game and it continues to impress. There have been a few challenging platforming sections interspersed between the traversal and light puzzle solving, but for the most part, it's all about the experience. Some might say it's boring, too much walking, but if there's one thing the game has excelled at since the start, it's making you feel small, insignificant within the massive alien spaces. That has been the highlight for me, just traveling through this mysterious complex. You exit from a narrow corridor into a gargantuan space that makes you tense just looking over the edge, and then you realize you have to find a way down. The game doesn't hold your hand, doesn't direct you where to go, besides the visual environmental cues. The game is certainly linear, don't expect a sprawling world, but you do have to find your way and it's easy to get disoriented, lost, turned around. The game has a fantastic atmosphere: mysterious, engaging, ominous, otherworldly.
As for negatives, there's one mechanic that at the moment feels more extraneous than integral to the overall experience. It complicates a simple action, and while it kind of feels almost Receiver-esque in the sense that you have to focus on an action that is usually automatic, I don't think it has really added anything to the gameplay yet. One platforming section was quite frustrating and I ended up just turning up the gamma to complete it. Also I found some checkpoints can be bit too spread out, but that's only been an issue two or three times.
Three hours in:
The developer said that the game's four to five hours long, but I'm thinking that's only if you know exactly where to go, how to go there, not die (repeatedly). I'm still on the second chapter. Probably should shave about twenty minutes of my overall play time, because I got stuck on a puzzle with a solution that was annoyingly obvious once I figured out what I was overlooking
My gripe about the checkpoints still stand. Some of them are just too spread out. You'll do some difficult platforming, get a safe area, start another difficult section, die, and then the checkpoint is back at the start of that first section. While you're just traveling and exploring, it's not an issue, but once you're dealing with sections where you can die because of a missed jump after making some progress, it can be frustrating.
But despite this issue (or at least I consider it an issue), the game has not lost any of its luster or mystery. I think the world in this game is by far one of the most alien and atmospheric I've experienced. It's not alien in the way that Avatar's world was, but alien in the unsettling sense that this is truly not a place made for or by humans.
New mechanics are introduced, mainly to offer interesting platforming and puzzle scenarios. It's great when you just have to stop and admire some cool sight, and NaissanceE has had moment after moment like that so far. The sound effects are as well great, really adding a sense of place and tone.
Seven hours in:
Yeah, 7 hours and I finally reached Breath Compression. I guess me, first person platforming, and keyboard/mouse controls don't mix well.
But I'm still absolutely loving this game. It does something very well, that I've usually only experienced in sprawling open world games and it's the feeling of seeing something interesting in the distance and then after 10, 15, 20 minutes of traveling, turning the corner and seeing that landmark before you. NaissanceE accomplishes that so 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 exploration and discovery.
Now while the game is linear, it's certainly not tight corridors. Many areas have surprised me with how open they are, and all have been interesting to explore and just be in. Beside the exploration aspect, the gameplay seems to favor more platforming over puzzles, with a few light based puzzles and several challenging platforming areas.