An underwater adventure game set on an alien ocean planet. A massive, open world full of wonder and peril awaits you! Descend into the depths of an alien underwater world filled with resources, creatures, wonder and threats. Craft equipment and submarines to explore lush coral reefs, volcanoes, cave systems, and more – All while trying to survive.
That’s the official description of Subnautica, and it’s pretty much on point. Unknown Worlds1 excellent game got my attention instantly and held it from the beginning to the, almost, very end. Read man rambling on one of my favourite games below.
Exploring the world is a major part of the game and very much encouraged from the start. Not that I traversed all the corners of the ocean floor mind you. My soul definitely needed some sort of incentive to bravely go were no Fred has gone before. Breaking your depth record time after time is a rather nerve-wracking experience. However, two things made me confront my fear of the unknown, leaving the familiar shallow waters and the safety of my base behind. Number one: the partially dynamic story elements which requires players to visit biomes, and two: the cravings for new blueprints and materials.
It’s worth noting that you’re free to go anywhere at anytime, the only limiting factor being what equipment you currently have at hand. Tanks good for 60 seconds of oxygen can only get you so far down the oceanic trenches. I actually discovered one of the more dangerous areas by chance pretty early on. I was on my merry way into a new biome when my onboard AI calmly stated “multiple leviathan class life-forms detected ahead”. Out of fear I instantly turned my hard-earned submarine seasmoooth around, to never return again.
There’s is a storyline in there, which is above average thanks to the enviromental desgin. It does not get in the way of what you feel like doing, and from what I can tell there is no fixed deadline a la Don’t Starve or 7 Days to Die in place. Because I sure took my sweet time mucking around with all sorts of things did not, to my knowledge, result in any sort of gameplay penalty. You might miss out on the story events though - which are few and far in between - depending on how distracted you get by base-building etc.
Some games pretty much requires that you have a wiki ready one alt-tab away. In Subnautica that is very much not the case, even though players are expected to figure out a lot of things on their own. I think works partially because the crafting recepies are very fair, no need for excessive grinding or trial and error. Only once did I turn to the internet for guidance, after spending a stupid amount of time looking for lead. What’s important here is that is was my decision to do so. I really appreciate when developers/designers leave it to me when I want a pointer or two.
Subnautica is void of offensive weapons, so tactial retreat or well planned routes is often the way to go. Survival comes down to learning about the flora and fauna, rather than killing whatever comes your way. Players can defend themselves somewhat efficiently with late game tools though. On the whole it’s more akin to Don’t Starve than Minecraft. The best approach is to circumvent danger instead of facing it head on, slaying things with that sword of yours.
The devs have really done a great job when it comes to the scale of ships, buildings and life-forms. The epic proportions made me feel small and vulnerable, especially when encountering creatures of leviathans class. I honestly think Subnautica is on par with Halo, a series with A Lot of fantastic 3D-models with a sense of scale.
I find the audio and the soundtrack to be pretty much perfect. For example: the different species you encounter all make distinct and beliveable sounds, working as a life saving early warning that you better get the fuck out, or that you can continute to mine that oh so precious lead in peace. The music, composed by Simon Chylinski2, is suspenseful and immersive. Reminding me of Faster Than Light’s title theme Space Cruise, which is the highest of praise.
Into the Unknown - really enhances that eerie feeling you get when diving down into the depths.
Abandon Ship - other parts of the game call for more intense compositions (a bit of volume warning on this one).
I could go on, but please take my word for it, Subnautica is something you should experience on your own. PS, the artist behind the amazing concept art in this post is Pat Presley.3