Review

NaissanceE Review

  • Game release: February 13, 2014
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

Starkitecture.

Video games don't usually flex their ability to make you feel unsettled or unwelcome. Sure, games can craft a pretty convincing zombie-infested mansion, and they've got monsters in closets for days, but they rarely aspire to the sort of disorientation found in, say, the pages of Alice in Wonderland. Even the most frightening horror games tend to be marked by the allowances they provide for you. Think Dead Space's handy route finder, or the accommodating logic of puzzle elements in Resident Evil. Scary, yes, but the games are also ergonomic: their spaces feel constructed specifically to be occupied by you.

NaissanceE is not a horror game. Yet the hairs on the back of my neck were at attention for most of the 10 hours I spent in its world. The first-person exploration game by Limasse Five begins with a narrow escape from an implied threat, and though the bulk of the remaining experience involves light platforming and a touch of puzzle-solving, the specter of that early encounter looms large. You're never quite sure that another aggressive encounter isn't imminent, and the Parseltongue whisperings that make up most of the game's early soundtrack don't exactly steady the nerves. But the most foreboding element of NaissanceE is the world itself. Call it the architecture of the unwelcome.

See a distant, lit path, and it's probably where you'll be in an hour.

The first level's title pop-up provides what scant exposition is to be found: "Lucy is Lost." Lost within a giant city, or maybe a ship--it's never made clear. Whatever it is, it's stark and alien, black and white and monolithic all over. The majority of NaissanceE’s experience is given to plumbing its depths, simply walking or running about its many tunnels and gangways in search of a way out. The world is mostly composed of simple geometric shapes; if there's a video game equivalent of the bare concrete structures of Brutalist architecture, it's wonderfully realized in NaissanceE. The areas you inhabit run the gamut from cubist caves to massive superstructures. Limasse Five turns these monumental spaces into a ballet of forms; many of the environments wouldn't feel out of place in the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, gently spinning along to the strings of "The Blue Danube."

Like in Kubrick's best, there's a persistent, subtly threatening feeling that pervades NaissanceE's environments. For one, it's a terribly lonesome game: the spaces you occupy are almost entirely devoid of life. But the distant lights and empty bedrooms you encounter suggest that you're existing adjacent to some form of society--moving parallel to it perhaps, doomed never to intersect. Then there's the foreign construction of the world itself. Portions of walls are extruded into hallways. Pathways are tucked into corners and secluded sections of rooms, away from the traditional wayfinding landmarks you would expect. There are no railings to be found anywhere. NaissanceE puts its various themes through near-constant variation, meaning there's little time to develop a comfort with any given structure or mechanic. This is a game that has no qualms about leading you onto an infinite staircase in one section, and then setting an obscenely long--but not infinite--staircase in another. The former is enclosed, but the latter has no railings, thus tempting you to leap off to see if that's the true way forward. It isn't, of course. Then in an even later level, it is.

It's as though you have been cast into a giant machine, like something that humans were never intended to tour. Imagine being shrunk down and set inside an alien pocket watch, and perhaps you'll get the picture. NaissanceE's world has an internal logic that appears to accommodate you only by sheer luck. It seems to breathe, too, through the rhythmic pumping of pistons and the sighs of air escaping ventilation shafts. There's even a respiratory quality to the world's oscillations between cramped caves and massive open-air spaces.

Shadows lend the world its minimalist flavor.

Your character breathes too, taking gasps of air with regular clicks of the mouse button in order to sustain a full sprint. It's a strange feature. Bringing the protagonist's ragged breathing to the forefront tips the game's hand: Lucy is going to get chased at some point. But throughout most of the game, this breathing mechanic is just a fussy distraction. Absent this element, the game gives your avatar's body little regard. No hands drift into view when you're running, and nothing's visible when you look down at where your feet might be. It can make for some frustrating platforming when the game requires any sort of precision, as it does during a few ill-conceived sections. In general, though, the sense of disembodiment lends itself well to NaissanceE's overarching themes. The game is, on occasion, almost cruel in the way that it robs you of proper lighting and overwhelms you with discordant music. It's a solid audiovisual approximation of fumbling about in the dark, getting intermittent senses of nearby walls and floors. It's more than disorienting; it's positively unnerving, like charcoal scratchings on the mind of someone in a fever dream. This is a game that comes with serious caveats for those with motion sickness, seizure risks, or vertigo.

You'll hear that NaissanceE is evocative of M.C. Escher's works. The game certainly shares his palette, as well as his penchant for disorientation and illusory staircases, but Escher never feels quite as prominent here as he does in, say, 2013's The Bridge. The developers themselves cite Anouk de Clerq's animated short film Building, and there's at least one direct reference to Tsutomo Nihei's cyberpunk manga Blame!. But the more salient precedent might be Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Carceri prints.

Like those prints, NaissanceE has the ability to convey a larger world than what you're shown. When the game treats you to one of its grand vistas, the stairs and lights you see in the far distance are your eventual destination more often than not. Still, the environment is seeded with other, distant paths that remain forever closed off, giving a pleasant illusion of depth. With all the time you spend in NaissanceE clambering through vents and down cliff faces, when you find yourself stumbling onto more "conventional" pathways, it feels like coincidence. Should you backtrack along these routes, traveling against the grain of intended direction, you'll find that though the paths inevitably dead-end, they're surprisingly detailed. The way forward has you crisscrossing back and forth across any given area's designed track, intersecting with it only by happenstance. NaissanceE's world is an interactive Carceri, powerful beyond description.

There's no written exposition, but the world conveys its own story.

Everything comes together in the level "Going Down." The once-claustrophobic architecture plunges away into a massive open shaft. Look down, and you can see your destination, seemingly miles away. The Parseltongue gives way to rich horns and a fuller synthesizer. You clamber down ductwork and ride caterpillar-like assemblages of cubes, going from something resembling an upper residential area down to a foundational support structure beneath. At one point, I slipped while maneuvering for what must have been my hundredth screenshot, and got a preview of the bottom the hard way. It turns out that beneath the foundation there's an entire other district. I careened past its giant buildings, their myriad windows lit by unknown inhabitants. Layers and layers, as far as the eye can see.

The Good
Mysterious, expansive world that feels larger than it is.
Beautiful, varied interpretations of a minimalist video game aesthetic.
Manages to be spine-tingling in an unconventional way.
The Bad
Breathing mechanic is a distraction.
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Nick Capozzoli is an architect by trade, which might make him more receptive to NaissanceE than some. For the purposes of this review, he played through the game over the course of approximately 10 hours.

Discussion

57 comments
Evamorgana
Evamorgana

I feel like that last paragraph should be hidden by a spoiler button. Otherwise- good review and awesome game.

xantufrog
xantufrog

Looks very interesting. These sort of games are great for when I'm sick of getting my ass kicked by monsters in Demon's Souls or invading foreign lands in an RTS - using your brain in a different way to mix things up. 

I remember being captivated by the emptiness in Myst back in the day, and that type of haunting sense of being alone in a world where others have been remains appealing to me to this day.

TheJamin
TheJamin

Cracking review. Will pick this up.

Jah_Glow
Jah_Glow

While I tend to disagree with your taste in games Nick, I have a lot of respect for the work and thought you put into your reviews and I think you make an excellent addition to GameSpot's review staff. I look forward to reading more of your reviews!


As far as the game at hand, it does look to be (and this is a crude comparison I think) a better take on some of Antichamber's puzzle elements mixed with something that has a darker aesthetic (I apologize for not remembering the game that comes to mind, it's an indie title I don't own).

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

I'm a bit bored of worlds that "convey their own story." What happened to stories actually conveying stories? Indie games are shunning narrative now as if some of the literary masterworks of the past can't be considered artistic. It's all a minimalistic cop-out; an excuse not to have to make an effort, just like with the minimalist silhouette games of which there are now an abundance.

Side note: I do like a ton of indie games, before you bash me for hating on indies, lol.

WereCatf
WereCatf

I'm intrigued, but I honestly find it difficult to say if a "game" like this is worth the asking price on Steam.. I am afraid that I would just grow tired of it quickly, and being a proper storyline - junkie I might just eventually become annoyed by the lack of a proper narrative. I suppose I'll wait and see if it ever comes on sale or something.

DoogyDonDoogy
DoogyDonDoogy

Wow no game footage, not a lot of action described that's going on in this game. Still, I want to buy this! 

JetSetWally
JetSetWally

looks great! reminds me of the huge environments in portal 2

kachal
kachal

"... that feels larger than it is." I know what you are talking about! ;)

smitherean
smitherean

I wonder if GS has ever thought of doing multiple reviews per game? Obviously not for niche indie titles like this, but I'd love to have Carolyn, Nick, AND Kevin's opinion on, say, the next GTA or Dragon Age.

Sefrix
Sefrix moderator moderator

 "This is a game that comes with serious caveats for those with motion sickness" Well I'm not going to have to let that stop me I suppose. Also judging by the comments I hope to one day be as popular as Nick :P Anyway, the game sounds really good. Will definitely have to check it out!

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

My new favourite reviewer.  I think I'll pick this game up.

RogerioFM
RogerioFM

This game looks really interesting. I think I'll get it.

BlackGenjii
BlackGenjii

The gaming industry needs more reviewers like Nick Capozzoli. I dont know about you guys, but I'm getting tired of most video game reviewers in todays gaming biss. I guess It's just nice to see someone with a fresh perspective and a passion for atmosphere and depth writing game reviews.  

BlackGenjii
BlackGenjii

If this review is correct, which I think it is, and from the pictures I see here, this is the game of my dreams!

Hello many hours blissing away on my PC... ooooh yeah

It's been a long time since I got this excited about a game coming out today...

Can't wait to play it.

BrunoBRS
BrunoBRS

i'm sorry for not commenting on the review itself, but i couldn't help but look at the reviewer's portrait and wonder if he's trying to apply to be the next james bond :P

leikeylosh
leikeylosh

Nick, you reviewed Dust 514, right? I remember you! You're a great reviewer! I wish to see more reviews from you here on Gamespot! Keep up the great work!

jnyblujns
jnyblujns

Shocking. Another pretentious "game" where you just walk around doing nothing, with no story, no point and no actual game play gets a great score on Gamespot.

nick_capozzoli
nick_capozzoli staff

@Evamorgana  Thanks! Sorry about slightly spoiling that bit. Rest assured--it's very close to the beginning of the game.

nick_capozzoli
nick_capozzoli staff

@Jah_Glow  That's great to hear, thank you. My hope is that my reviews'll be interesting and helpful to folks that don't share my exact tastes, too, so it'd be awesome if that's panning out.

RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@MooncalfReviews Ernest Hemingway once told that sometimes he would not write something literally, he would instead write in way to imply a scene, so  you would complete the gaps in your own mind.


This wouldn't exacly mean its a minimalistic approach, its just ambiguity. Games though are not books, and they have a much greater range of narrative, you have the sound, the images, the expressions, all can be used to convey a feeling or a narration without a single word, and that is not lazy that takes much more effort that outright saying something and its also something that respects the intelect of the player. In real life how many times can you feel a person's mood without  a single word being said, that  same instict can be applied to games.


Games like Journey, Limbo, Brothers are games that does not need words and they can be understood and are as powerful as any heavily verbose game.

pip3dream
pip3dream

@MooncalfReviews  I can appreciate what you're saying.  I think we have to cut the indies some slack, for the fact that they just don't have the resources that bigger companies have.   I really enjoy a good narrative, sometimes at the detriment of gameplay (yes, I'm one of those weirdos) so I have trouble with some of the indie games that are basically just platformers that are all gameplay and nothing else.  I think I would of liked these games when I was younger.


It all depends on how they approach it I suppose.  There are definitely some games that come off way too pretentious with their lack of story.  Tales of tales (I think is the company) has a few games that seem to be borderline in this area.


A game like Journey though i think really pulls it off.  Actually, I think it can be misleading to call Journey an indie game because there was quite a lot of money behind it - but it has the indie aesthetic, and I think a lot of effort went into that game to convey a story without conventional means.

RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@BlackGenjii  Basically I'm sick of Kevin, he's great, but he reviews most of the top games, he has similar tastes than I do, but his writing is getting too predictable.

Also, Nick likes Blame!, so he's cool.

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

@BlackGenjii   Yea he has a totally different taste in games than I do, but I really enjoy his reviews.  Well written and informative, they generally give you a great idea of what the game is actually like, and not just his own personal experience with it.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@jnyblujns  "Another pretentious "game" where you just walk around doing nothing, with no story, no point and no actual game play gets a great score on Gamespot."

...

Because we know how much you hate wandering around being pointless and pretentious...

DepressiveMan
DepressiveMan

@jnyblujns  Shocking, another pretentious comment by someone criticizing a review of a game he didn't play.

Jah_Glow
Jah_Glow

@nick_capozzoli Between you and some other reviewers across the web I am finding my ability to honestly reflect on why I like certain games more than others is drastically improving. I have found myself more actively eliminating the clutter from my game collection and plan on selling off some physical titles to make way for more head space in my house. I also see myself playing games I actually enjoy in the future, as well as helping others make smarter decisions about games. In some cases I have already chosen which upcoming titles I should pass on simply by analyzing "Let's Play" videos and cross-referencing them with reviews. 

All this from reviewers who take the time to dissect a game and whether or not it is enjoyable. So I would say your mission there is a success.

nick_capozzoli
nick_capozzoli staff

@pip3dream @MooncalfReviews  NaissanceE, as I saw it, has a lot what you're describing in Journey. There are even a few very overt nods to that game in it, I'd say.


I'm all for games that have a good ol' fashioned narrative, too. I just believe that games can succeed in any number of ways, and NaissanceE happens to be one where its environment does the job remarkably well on its own. 


It's also very much an abstract game, and when taken in tandem how discomfortingly alien the world feels, and its themes of disembodiment and mystery, a lack of a traditional narrative felt like a fitting choice here.

jnyblujns
jnyblujns

@DepressiveMan @jnyblujns  Don't have to play it. Just please point me to the part of his review where he mentions any actual game play? All he does is talk about walking around, trying to decide which way to go next and gushing over it's "atmosphere" and rambling on about how it makes him feel. Reading this review, all I can take away from it is that there is no actual game play other than walking around and finding new, pretentious words to describe the beautiful virtual architecture. 

xantufrog
xantufrog

@Dsolow5 @jnyblujns@DepressiveManExactly. I get a lot of Journey and Portal vibes from the review. If I liked Journey and/or Portal I would buy this game. If I can't stand "that sort of thing" then I won't buy it. Seems like the details given are sufficient to interest people that will actually enjoy it, and turn off people that don't like "interactive art"-style games.

Gwarpup
Gwarpup

@jnyblujns @DepressiveMan  The gameplay; Dolemite, is the figuring out how to get from A-Z using your *gasp* brain.  It plays much like Portal but often using light instead of creating gateways.  You are totally dependent on light in many areas and how to make the light sources reveal pathways and look in the right angles the light reveals or keep up with the light to see where to jump, drop, climb, and/or cause some walls to reveal hidden passages.  Not all games are designed for ADD afflicted boys.  

DeanTheJinn
DeanTheJinn

have you played silent hill 2 ? The gameplay is not that good but the thing that carry it to its legendary status was its atmosphere and story. there is something about game that just controlling the character make it more immersive more than any movie could ever hope to when i play fallout 3 i just wonder the wasteland for hours, not shooting super mutants i play it for its world and the people that inhabit it not for the vats system. And about that comment that I shuld find another medium why ? Just because the games you like have x amount of shooting people her and y amount of jump her and then talk to som guy for 5 minutes ?. your games are in a formula and it's a creative sin in my book. game are the most flexiball medium out there it's not confined to pages like a book or the 2 dimension like a painting each game can be unique i mean try to show someone who never heard of video game civ 5 and mario he would never guessed they are from the same medium there is nothing wrong with games that follow a formula but please don't go on a witch hunt for every game that try to break from it

DeanTheJinn
DeanTheJinn

People seems to forget the the first "games" we're text adventure

DeanTheJinn
DeanTheJinn

Fuck gameplay I'll take atmosphere, good writing and a cohesive world any day over shooting the quadrillion monster or solving a tidus puzzle that only serve to break the pace of the gameplay and jumping from point a to point b

DepressiveMan
DepressiveMan

@jnyblujns @DepressiveMan  You're clearly criticizing the game when you're saying it doesn't deserve 8/10 because in your opinion it doesn't have enough gameplay. You're allowed to complain about the review if you want and say you feel he didn't talk enough about this and that and too much about whatever else, though I feel like it would be easier to do that if you actually played the game. The issue is that you're saying the game doesn't deserve the score it got when you cannot possibly know that since you didn't play it.

Dsolow5
Dsolow5

@jnyblujns @DepressiveMan  And from this, you could conclude that the game is not for you. And in that way, the review serves its purpose.


People on this site bitch about everything.

jnyblujns
jnyblujns

@DepressiveMan  Fine, it's a game, and according to this review, the game play in this game warrants two sentences of description in nine paragraphs. 


Again, I'm criticizing the review for not telling me why I should play this "game" which is apparently worthy of an 8/10 rating. Tell me why I should spend money on this "game" instead of just going and watching a beautiful movie or reading a great book. Tell me in the review what makes this "game" fun to play other than walking around and somehow being emotionally moved by it's haunting atmosphere.

If it's a game, and this is a review of the game on a gaming website, then please give me more than two sentences in nine paragraphs that describe the game play. 


One of two things is true: Either two sentences is all that's really needed to describe the actual game play, which means this isn't much of a game at all, or this game has much deeper game play which the reviewer just didn't bother to talk about, which makes this a horrible review. Again, for the third or fourth time, I'm criticizing the review, not the game. I don't need to play the game in order to criticize the review. I'm not sure what part of that you don't understand, but I've had my fill of trying to reason with someone on the internet today, so have a swell day.

DepressiveMan
DepressiveMan

@jnyblujns @DepressiveMan  Here's the thing though, it clearly is a game, so your whole argument is just a waste of time. Play the game and then you can say you think it doesn't deserve that score.

jnyblujns
jnyblujns

@DepressiveMan @jnyblujns  Oh sorry. I take everything back. There is one sentence talking about actual game play in a 9 paragraph video game review. Two, if you count the one about the breathing feature which he says is the only negative thing about the game. 


Maybe there just needs to be a new category called "Interactive Story" or "Interactive Art". I'm not joking. If this was labeled as an interactive story or art, then this review makes perfect sense. But to call this a game, then have one or two sentences in 9 paragraphs that actually mention any kind of actual game play, is a bit of joke. This review literally spends 9 paragraphs talking about one single aspect of the game, which is it's atmosphere and how it makes you feel. I'm not criticizing the game, per se, nor am I criticizing it's artistic merit. I'm criticizing the review itself and maybe the way these "games" are labeled. Based on his review, this isn't much of a game at all, it may very well be an awesome experience and a work of art, but to give this an 8/10 as a game, when there is virtually no actual game play, seems ridiculous to me. 

DepressiveMan
DepressiveMan

@jnyblujns @DepressiveMan   "the bulk of the remaining experience involves light platforming and a touch of puzzle-solving", it was in the second paragraph, you're welcome :)


But it's all absolutely besides the point that you're criticizing a game before playing it and before even knowing anything about the game it seems, that's pretty stupid.

NaissanceE More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    NaissanceE is a first person exploration PC game that takes place in a primitive mysterious structure.
    5.9
    Average User RatingOut of 7 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Limasse Five
    Published by:
    Limasse Five
    Genres:
    3D, Adventure, First-Person