The world of NaissanceE is a lonely, yet captivating one to journey through. Its setting is based heavily around clean, brutalist architecture, with no detailed textures, and a very drab use of colors. The visual design is outstanding. Strong enough that it essentially became the sole factor that urged me to continue through the game, despite some annoying gameplay sections. I definitely wasn’t compelled to turn each corner to do another lackluster, first person platforming segment. Much of the platforming is there for the purpose of getting around the environment, rather than trying to challenge you with platforming for the sake of platforming. That’s not particularly a bad thing though considering what it’s actually going for. NaissanceE is mainly a first person exploration game, with some platforming and puzzle elements.
The first 20 minutes had me in a lot of really enclosed, dark, and cramped feeling areas that were a bit uncomfortable to traverse through. It did open up substantially afterwards though. NaissanceE is a very linear game, but it often doesn’t feel as linear as it actually is because of how massive the environments around you can get. The goal in many scenarios is to search the area for a path that would lead to the next area. There are a fair amount of red herrings and dead ends that distract you from the right avenue. In some cases, it felt like there were certain landmarks that seemed like the obvious place to go, but would actually lead to nothing, or even traps in some specific instances that you would have to find your way out of. (Like an endless staircase, for one) I sometimes found myself frustrated at being deceived, but I sort of appreciate many of those moments when I look back on it. Though, parts that I always found annoying were ledges that I could drop down on that seemed like a potential path, but weren’t, and left me trapped down there with no other way up, making me have to kill myself to respawn at the previous checkpoint.
Some segments are less about finding a path and more about overcoming an obstacle presented to you. The platforming generally ranged from serviceable to shoddy. Certain puzzle elements that involved touching floating orbs of light to move them to different positions presented some interesting ideas. Some surfaces would only be materialized when light was shining on them, and would dissipate into some kind of dark matter, lacking any tangible attributes, when in the dark. These were the gameplay mechanics that I was interested in the most, and what I hoped would have been expanded upon more. As it is, those puzzles aren’t really there to challenge your mind, but more to set a mood. It worked for what it went for. Those elements, combined with the ambient and dissonant soundscape, some uncanny visuals, and surreal elements elements sprinkled about, gave the game a very distinct atmosphere. Just running through the environments was enjoyable because of how interesting the setting was. I didn’t have much tolerance for getting stuck though. I usually took a break from the game whenever I couldn’t find my way for more than a few minutes. However, the world of NaissanceE always ended up drawing me back in each time, and if it weren’t for that, I probably wouldn’t have kept playing.
Sprinting isn’t a completely idle task. While performing the action, there is a breath icon that pops up in the middle of the screen periodically that needs to be maintained by pressing down R3 in a corresponding manner. Missing the prompt multiple times won’t slow you down or stop you from running. It’ll only make the sides of the screen glow more and more white until (I presume) it eventually gets to point where your character passes out. I never screwed it up enough to know for sure. It was a fine mechanic, but I never felt like it really added much. Makes me wonder why they chose to put it in the game in the first place. Maybe to keep players engaged with something while running through some of the vast terrain? There was one segment near the beginning that had me chasing an orb of light while jumping from platform to platform. I had to keep up with it or else I wouldn’t be able to see the surfaces that I was supposed to be jumping on, as the light orb only lit up a relatively small circumference of area around it. I had to coordinate the act of timing my breaths with taking leaps and keeping up with the light ball in an almost rhythmic fashion. It was one of the most engaging gameplay moments in the game for me, and at that point, that’s what I thought a lot of the game would be about. Unfortunately, that’s the only segment like that, and looking back on it, I probably didn’t even need to focus on my breaths as much as I did because there isn’t that harsh of a penalty for missing it here and there anyway.
The alluring artstyle of NaissanceE is what initially drew me to the game in the first place, and is ultimately the aspect that got me through it. It was an intriguing world to explore. There was a portion late in the game that really freaked me out to the point of shutting it off because of certain surreal/trippy elements. I’m pretty sure that was just due to my abnormal fear of that kind of stuff and that not many people would have the same reaction, but it’s a moment I doubt I’ll forget. I’m sure this would be an amazing thing to experience using an Oculus Rift headset. (Although particular moments in the game with a lot of flashing lights and a heavy use of Depth of Field effects would be pretty headache inducing) As a game though? It doesn’t hold up too well in my eyes. Still, I can’t stress enough how much I loved the visual design. I couldn’t stop pressing F12 to take pictures. Here are some more I took.
Extra Notes –
Took me a little over 5 hours to beat.
Played on PC using a 360 controller.