How can a game so brutal be so entertaining? Escape From Naraka is appropriately titled: Naraka is a variation of Hell; a realm of torment for several religions, and whether you’re religious or not, if this is where many of us will end up, start familiarising yourself with the layout now.
Let’s address the elephant in the room, and not those deviants intent on thwarting your progress, but the genre: a first-person platformer. I know nothing about you other than what you did last Summer, but I do know about me, and I don’t like first-person platforming or parkour. As good as it may have been, Mirror’s Edge was…awkward.
Far Cry 3 changed that sentiment for a bit, but the pace was steady, and you could take out any threats before auditioning for Ninja Warrior. In Escape From Naraka, making haste is of the essence. Each stage needs to be done with such finesse; otherwise, how will you climb that leaderboard? Boom! another element I don’t like: speedrunning. This isn’t looking good.
Escape From Naraka Review
Wrong again. Escape From Naraka is brill, if a little too harsh at times. From the very first steps, I had my doubts after missing the early platforms to jump on. Fortunately, there were no consequences as it was the introduction, but precision jumping with the mouse and keyboard in a first-person perspective doesn’t feel natural. A couple of minutes later and I’m gliding through the, quite gorgeous Balinese-inspired interiors like a mouse on fire in a labyrinth, being chased by a cat with a switchblade.
That’s quite a good comparison as, unlike Far Cry 3 and similar titles, there’s no time to dilly-dally – for a plethora of reasons. Could it be those elephant deities in hot pursuit? Crumbling floors, or maybe it’s just your pride chasing you so you can see your name on the leaderboards? It’s all of them and more. But why the heavens are you here in the first place? To save the love of your life, that’s why.
Your partner has been taken by the evil demon named Rangda the Leyak Queen. You have to enter her twisted temple of traps, gravity-defying portals and a wealth of enemies to inflict your suffering. While you can attack enemies, it’s not precisely an FPS, and the goal, other than rescuing your gal, is to burn your way through and come out relatively unscathed. Health is minimal, but beware: enemies and certain traps can one-hit-kill you.
Escape From Naraka gameplay is fiendishly good yet brutally hard. Considering the deluge of deaths, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as my adrenaline was pumping as just about to set a world record. Nope, cocked it up again. To contradict myself about not liking speedrunning, I’m pretty competitive. Seeing my first entry on the hall of fame as 40+, I immediately replayed, massively shed my time without missing a single item and made the top 20. I’m happy with that.
Other than rescuing your love from the evil Rangda, what is it you do in the game? Each stage is more or less a maze to devour in the fastest time possible, collecting a set number of crystals and artefacts without taking any damage. If you can help it. Early levels flow, and you’ll effortlessly collect everything as it’ll inevitably be on your path. But when more and more enemies are introduced and death-defying jumps that even a super-duper dash can’t fix, you start questioning whether it’s worth it and try getting the end. But without all the collectables, how will you rank?
As mentioned, you can’t defeat your enemies. That’s how hellish Escape From Naraka is – you can’t cull the threat. Yes, you can slow them down with your early ice projectile, but the speed at which they recover, you may as well be covering them in jam and tickling them with a feather duster. Besides, projectiles have better functionality for triggering access to new areas and traps – occasionally slowing down the latter, albeit briefly. As lovely as it would be to tone down the danger by killing the enemies, it’s something you have to live with and incorporate into your strategy. What strategy is that? RUN!
See Things In Hell
I’m not one to comment too much on visuals. Naturally, they’re one of the first aspects of a game we judge, but it shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all. Escape From Naraka feels like one of the classic id Software titles of yesteryear, only for a modern audience. Before you start making comparisons to 30-year-old titles, when they first came out, they were fabulous, within context of this being hell. That’s what this game is.
Naraka’s mysticism – the deities, folklore, structures and what-not – is very appealing for some of us minor culture vultures. Sprinting through these corridors gives you enough time to get an instant vibe of claustrophobia and urgency, but also fascination. If only there were enough time to pause and take in the ambience, noting the 3D modelling and superb lighting effects throughout. Again, not a techie type, but Xelo Games worked with Nvidia to use all the latest cool stuff that high-end graphic cards can do. Not that you need all that, as you want to make sure this runs as sleek as possible.
When time means everything, having a good rig makes the difference, or lowering the settings to accommodate it is crucial. I made this Escape From Naraka review on a mid-range(?) PC on high settings without any flaws, other than my timekeeping or pressing the dash button when I meant to use my freezing powers; getting up close and personal with the odd spike or bottomless pit. Though I often have my games configured to 1440p, I did switch to 1080p here, based on the game played before that. With my set-up, the game may stutter a little at full settings (no ray-tracing on my card).
Escape From Naraka gameplay can be ridiculously difficult at times, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t exit out after frequent deaths in the same spots. But once you suck it up and able to complete each run, you can go back and collect everything and improve on your time. For that reason alone, this one will be on the playlist for some time to come and is recommended.