Hello everyone! Your chef Cherry is back once again after a bit of a hiatus! Since my last review I have been slowly working on a second one, and now it is finally done and ready for your entertainment! This time, we will take a plunge into one of my favorite games in recent years, and I will be going in quite extensively into the basic gameplay, as well as the world of it. So without further ado, let’s go. It’s Sushi time!
Ah Subnautica! It is hands down one of my favorite games to have been released in recent times, and a wonderful experience I will always recommend to anyone. In it’s current state it has two stand-alone titles, Subnautica and Subnautica: Below Zero, which both are fully released and ready to play! I will be going into some details of the story(though I will not spoil the ending, as I will mostly do setup and lore), so if you wish to avoid spoilers, I suggest stopping here and go pick up the game!
Created by Unknown Worlds, Subnautica is a exploration survival game. It has the usual features of such titles, like base-building & crafting. Where Subnautica differs heavily however from other games like it, is in its story and setting. As the title screen & name might suggest, the game is set entirely(for the most part) underwater. Each zone or biome is some kind of underwater region, and you need to not only manage your usual issues of food, health and drink, but also oxygen. Subnautica also has, while still fully open to explore and total freedom in your gameplay, a story. A completed story, with an opening, events throughout the game and an actual ending. You can play as long as you want of course, but if you so desire, you can eventually finish the ending and complete the game.(Do remember to save though, not only doesn’t it has autosave, but there is no postgame once you do the ending.)
Taking place in the mid 24th Century, in the game you play as Ryley Robinsson. Working as a Maintenance personnel aboard the Aurora, a large spaceship owned by the Trans-Government corporation Alterra, Ryley is part of a mission to construct a phasegate near the ocean planet known as 4546B. While in orbit around the planet however, the Aurora is suddenly struck by some kind of energy pulse, causing massive hull damage and begins to crash down into the planet’s surface. Ryley just manages to get to a lifepod in time before the crash happens and is ejected.
Waking up after the crash inside his lifepod 5, Ryley now finds himself stranded on the surface of this alien world. With nothing except his PDA(a datapad), some emergency supplies and a fabricator, Ryley needs to try and survive long enough for rescue to arrive, or find some way to get off the planet.
Leaving the lifepod, your first sight will be either the water or the wreckage of the Aurora. Unlike alot of survival games, Subnautica’s gameworld is fixed in terms of location, with only a few minor details & coordinates of your lifepod being randomly generated. There is no map in Subnautica, so the Aurora wreckage serves as an excellent navigation point for your explorations.
As shown in the images above, Planet 4546B is an ocean planet, with barely any landmass to speak of. In its current state, only three major regions of the planet is known. The Crater(where Subnautica takes place), The Void and Sector Zero(Below Zero’s location). The Crater, as the name suggests, is a massive inactive underwater volcano and where the Aurora has crashed. Due to the warmth of the lava below and the shallow water in parts of the crater, this region of the planet is full of life with all kinds of fascinating flora and fauna. Several different biomes exists within The Crater, with the shallows being the starting location.
For a lack of better comparison, The Shallows is the starting/tutorial zone. It is, as the name suggests, relatively shallow which gives easy access to the surface for air. The aquatic wildlife here is also fairly pleasant, mostly consisting of smaller herbivore fish, with only the occasional predator sneaking in from the local kelp forest.
As I mentioned during the start of this review, Subnautica is a survival exploration game! So it comes with some of the usual things included in such games, as well as its own unique gameplay elements. The bare basic gameplay & goal of the game is to survive, and as you explore around the world, find a way to get off the planet. As you start the game you have four options to pick from in terms of difficulty. All four still gives you full access to the storyline. You first got Survival. This is the base experience, and you will need to manage food, hunger, health and oxygen. When you die in Survival, you spawn back at your lifepod but with a chance of losing some of your items randomly on death. The second option is hardcore, and it works like Survival, but with permadeath. Once you die, the save file is removed. Third option for difficulty is freedom. This is similar to Survival as well, but you only need to worry about health and oxygen. And finally you have creative. You got no stats to worry about, you are given free tools and materials and every item unlocked and a base building tool from the start. You can still play the story if you want this way, but minor events might not play out due to already having things unlocked.
No matter which difficult you pick, there will still be some shared parts of gameplay so let’s get into that! The core part of Subnautica aside from exploration is crafting. Starting in your lifepod, you have a fabricator, a device used by Alterra to create fully functional items out of raw materials, so like a sci-fi 3D printer! As you explore around the world, you can find various raw materials such as iron, salt, plant fiber etc which can be used in the fabricator to craft more sturdy material and then converted into tools. For example, to build a flashlight you might need some glass, titanium and a battery. But to make glass you need some raw quartz, and to make a battery you will need acidic mushrooms and copper. As you continue down the tech tree you will also need to explore further into the world for rarer materials.
Subnautica has fairly minimal amount of keys to press and a small control scheme. You move around with the usual movement buttons, and pick up or use items with your left or right mouse button. Most things in the game is handled by your PDA. In the PDA you firs see your inventory screen, where you can see your equipment as well as the items you are currently carrying. Do note that some items and materials takes up more slots, so it’s not always a 1/1 slot for every item!
The second tab is blueprints. Here you see what you can currently craft, granted you have the materials. You can also pin a blueprint to be visible on your screen, as well as showing you which materials you are missing. New blueprints are unlocked through various means. Some are unlocked by story progression, some by crafting or unlocking certain blueprints which then unlocks more ones. The most common way to acquire blueprints however is to scan items and debris from the Aurora, something we will get into soon!
Next on the PDA is your waypoint navigation, where you can show or hide various story or created waypoints, as well as change their display for you. This can help navigating the world quite alot. The following tab is a photo one for screenshots, which you can then upload to your base for wall art!
The last two PDA parts are quite important. The second to last is your audio log. Every piece of audio or dialogue played in the game at any point is automatically saved and recorded here for you to replay at any time. Last but not least is the databank. This is where all your accumulated information is gathered. Anything you scan, from flora to fauna, to debris, as well as audio logs, text logs and any other info you can think of which you acquire is gathered here. It is vital to find out parts of the story, learn how to survive the planet and for example to get into locked doors on the wreckage.
Hunger and Thirst in Subnautica is pretty self explanatory. You catch fish or grow various plants to eat in order to not stay hungry, and you avoid thirst by filtering drinkable water either using a certain breed of fish or invest in filtration machines to get the salt out of the local water. You can also find emergency supplies on various wreckage around the area which can help.
Oxygen is also easy to get hang of. You can only stay underwater for so long before you need to breathe. If your oxygen runs out, you have a very short time-frame to reach the surface before you die. Initially as you start the game, you can only stay underwater for a few seconds. In order to prolong this, you can build and upgrade Oxygen tanks to carry around with you or equip. You can also use underwater bases, vehicles or air pumps going from the surface and connected with tubes in order to get more oxygen on deeper parts of the world.
Health is also simple. You have a regular HP bar like most games and if you get hurt, you lose HP. If it hits 0 you die. There are no weapons in Subnautica, aside from a small knife which can scare away weaker predators. So in order to survive, you need to learn how to understand the wildlife, which is where scanning comes in!
The most important tool in Subnautica is probably the scanner. You use this device to scan items for blueprints. You can also use it to scan wildlife and flora, which will then generate information in your databank to read up on.
A big part of what makes Subnautica so fun to me is the wildlife and the mechanics around it. 4546B is a world full of life, and this is reflected in its gameplay. The aquatic wildlife in Subnautica exists on its own without the player. Every single creature have behaviors similar to that of real animals. The various species of wildlife have their own behavior patterns which can be observed. They have territory, family, prey or predators they hunt or fear and so on. By taking time to observe and scan the wildlife, you can learn how they normally function and thus learn how to best utilize it or avoid it. Take the stalker above as an example! It’s one of the first predators you normally encounter. Often living in smaller groups, they hunt alone and prefers to ambush their prey. They are scavengers, and will often pick up debris and lose objects to carry back to their nest, making Stalker nests a good source for blueprints. They are also easily scared by the knife, and if you feed them fish, they will even eventually become relatively tame and not bother you.
Other predators might be extremely territorial, and will not chase you beyond their nests, but always go for the attack if you approach. All wildlife have these unique behaviors and it is the key to your survival. This does however bring us into the next topic.
Things in the Deep
So I should probably come out and say it now. Subnautica is a horror game. Perhaps an unofficial one, but it is a terrifying and deeply unsettling experience as soon as you begin to leave the shallows. At first you might hear a booming sound in the distance before spotting your first Leviathan-Class wildlife, the reefbacks. Now, reefbacks are friendly. They are large whale-like creatures that float around in herds and eat plankton. Very chill and you can even catch a ride on them!
But as you explore the waters further, you will eventually learn that there are more things in the deep. Larger things, hungrier things.
Exploring around the world, you will occasionally pick up distress calls in your lifepod. These are from survivors of the Aurora crash, who all escaped in their own lifepods. Normally, coordinates are attached as well to help you find them. However, when you do, the lifepods are broken, shattered and with no bodies or people in sight. Soon it becomes to dawn on you that you are the only survivor, and alone on this planet. Because of the Leviathans.
Leviathan-Class lifeforms are the largest wildlife you can find in the game. They vary in size, but is normally around the 50-100 meters in length and massive size. Most of them, with few rare exceptions, are apex predators and extremely aggressive.
One of the first hostile Leviathans you will come across are the Reaper Leviathans. Enormous monstrosities circling the Aurora wreckage, the Reapers are terrifying and their roar can be heard a long distance away.
The roar does however also serve a point and can be very misleading. Despite their huge size, the reapers are ambush predators and prefer to strike quick and fast, usually from below or behind their prey. The roar they let out is a form of echolocation they use for navigation, and in terms of gameplay, a roar means that the local reaper leviathan knows where you are and is en route towards your position. You can’t fight these monsters at all, and must use a variety of tricks and tools, such as hiding, decoys or just being really fast in order to avoid their hungry jaws.
There are many more leviathan and creatures in the deep, but the last one I want to bring up is even more terrifying than the reapers. As you begin to explore deeper waters, you will eventually come across openings into the caverns below. Instead of swimming around at a depth of 100 meters, you begin to descend into the 400-500 and even more. Light fades and eventually you will come across the lost river.
Not even halfway down to the maximum crush depth your vehicles can get you, lies the brine pools of the lost river. It is an eerie alien landscape with toxic underwater brine pools and fossilized remains of gigantic creatures that once roamed the watery surface of 4546B. One of these fossils is the gargantuan leviathan. The skeleton itself dwarfs any of the currently living Leviathan, with the remains of the skeleton measuring up to 400 meters in length. According to theories and the PDA, the creature in life was probably even longer, measuring somewhere between 1100 to 1500 meters in length.
It is in the brine pools you will also come across another terrifying leviathan, the ghost leviathan. These translucent predators are more prone to openly attack you than the reapers, as they seem to not be ambush predators at all but goes straight for the kill. They are however quick to lose interest if you get out of sight and will not search around much for their prey once lost. This is not the scariest thing about them however. The scary thing is that the creatures you encounter in the lost rivers are juveniles.
At the start of the review I mentioned the three known regions of 4546B. The Crater which is the underwater volcano and Sector Zero. The third region is what lies between, The Void. Most of 4546B that is known to date is just a waste endless ocean with very little land to speak of and unmeasured depths. Due to the wast empty sea reaching depths of several thousand meters and going, very little life exists out here. This is the Void. In gameplay terms, this is the end of the map.
Described by the PDA as a ecological dead zone, once you reach the void there is nothing else. Just dark empty ocean stretching out infront and below you with no end in sight. This is when you hear the roar.
Once you begin to enter the Void, you will hear the sound of the adult ghost leviathan. At the end of their maturity circle, the ghost leviathans leave the lost river to seek out the open waters of the void, feeding of stray fish and microorganisms in the water. This is their territory. They are one of the largest creatures in the game, outsizing the reapers and are far more aggressive. For gameplay, once you enter the void a ghost leviathan will spawn and hunt you endlessly until you either get back into the crater or die. It is also not alone however, as more will spawn until you leave their territory.
Getting near the end of this review, I would like to talk a little bit about the seabases! Eventually your lifepod will start to feel a bit small. As you explore the world you will also begin to discover signs of previous survivors, and bases they have built in the sea. You can scan these yourself to learn how to build a home of your own!
In order to build a seabase you first need to craft a habitat builder. Once that is done however, it is a fairly simple process! Seabase rooms can be built at any depth and doesn’t need to be connected to the seafloor. They can also be built above water. They come with a couple of preset rooms that can then later be customized inside by building various furniture or objects such as lockers, vending machines, tables, beds and so on. All of the rooms also serve some kind of special purpose with the exception of the generic multipurpose room that you can set up as you see fit. For example the scanner room lets you create a 3D map of the local area, send out camera drones to explore and scan for local resources within radius of the base. A monopool lets you dock and customize vehicles. There are plenty of more things to explore with base building!
The two biggest challenges to build a base aside from how to decorate it is to manage hull integrity and power. In order to make your seabase function properly it needs power. Without power your devices within won’t work, you won’t have light and air will begin to run out. Power can be generated through a few different means. You can set up solar panels to collect up power during the day, build generators powered by heat from geothermal vents or if you want you could go full nuclear with small reactors powering your base. These aren’t the only options, but just a few examples! The more devices you have active in your base though, so filtration machines, battery chargers and so on, will drain your power quicker.
The other core aspect is hull integrity. If you build a base above the water this isn’t much of an issue, nor is it a problem in the shallows. However the deeper you build your seabase, as well as each new room or expansion you add to it, will all weaken the hull integrity. If the hull goes into negative numbers your seabase will begin to crack under the water pressure and leaks starts to appear in your seabase, filling it with water. By repairing these leaks, the pumps activate and the water is ejected. In order to prevent this you can add additional structure to support your hull. It can be something like a sturdier wall along the base to platforms to hold up the rooms a bit more. Additionally you can build in vault doors inside the base so that you can close off sections in case of a flooding, keeping the rest of your base operational! Leaks in the base can also happen due to physical damage from a leviathan attack or if you drive a submarine into a weaker glass section. So do be careful!
Finally, to end this review, I would like to talk just a little bit about Below Zero! It came out of early access a few months ago and is a sequel to the original Subnautica. That said however, it is basically the same game with new content, so more of a standalone expansion.
Below Zero takes place a few years after the original Subnautica, and does have alot of references so I recommend playing the first game before going into Below Zero. You play as Robin Ayou, a former Alterra employee who has taken it upon herself to explore the frozen north of planet 4546B in a region known as Sector Zero. Seeking answers about the mysterious death of her sister Sam, who worked on a secret project for Alterra in Sector Zero after Alterra has begun to investigate the planet following the events of Subnautica one, Robin embarks into the frozen wasteland with nothing but a drop pod and her own personalized PDA.
Straight from the get go, there are some differences to Below Zero compared to the original Subnautica. First of, Robin has a voice and talks quite alot throughout the story, unlike Ryley who was a silent protagonist. Secondly is how the story is handled. While the world is still fully open(albeit a bit smaller this time around), the story itself is more structured and present, with alot more focus on it as a narrative rather than a backdrop to your own adventure. There are clearer acts and events that occur, and actually some npcs you can encounter as you play. Sector Zero itself is also slightly different to the crater. It has land, quite alot of it, albeit most of it are just frozen icebergs and glaciers. The game world is also a bit smaller, but with alot more detailed and filled biomes rather than just open spaces of water.
In terms of gameplay, Below Zero is mostly more of the same. It has some very nice additions to crafting and base building, including alot of small quality of life and larger enjoyable things. Such as new room layouts, new furniture and better placements and other things to make base building alot more enjoyable. It also has a slight overhaul on vehicles, with the two submarines(the Seamoth and Cyclops) from Subnautica being replaced with the Seatruck, a smaller submarine which you can attach rooms onto to form a underwater train/truck. The game also has a land vehicle, the snowfox.
Due to Below Zero being set in the arctic, it also comes with a whole new variety of wildlife and plants. All of the new aquatic species are both beautiful and terrifying, and there are only a handful of smaller fish that are re-used from the previous game(albeit in arctic form). Everything else, especially the Leviathans, are all unique to Sector zero!
Aside from the new additions, Below Zero also does add one new mechanic that is rather fitting, cold. When on the surface or land, cold is now a thing that needs to be managed to avoid freezing to death. This can be handled by various means such as seeking out local heat sources, wearing winter clothing or even bringing warm coffee on your trips!
That is all I had to say about Below Zero, and about Subnautica in itself. They are both wonderful games well worth the cost and time to play them and I wholeheartedly recommend then to everyone to play! Just be sure to save often as neither games use autosave and most important of all, be safe and don’t get eaten! Don’t become sushi for the sushi!
Thank you all for reading and thanks to Pinkie once again for letting me write and work here on the resort! Have a lovely time until the next one!