Planet 4546B could be an idyllic if it wasn’t for a few things, Reaper Leviathans, enforcement batteries and the assorted things trying to eat you. You’ll spend your time under the water, scavenging, hunting, building and travelling. Always looking for the next thing and getting distracted on the way, if you’re anything like me.
Subnautica is at its core, a survival game. It asks you to build a home and to produce the resources, items you need to survive. Medical kits, food, water, only the start of the items you build. Soon after, you will be hunting for bigger and better items, vehicles to allow you to go further, faster, more importantly, deeper. It’s not just knowing what you need to build, it’s finding it, mining it, preserving it, marking its location so you can find it.
That’s perhaps the best feature of this game. For everything you can do at the surface, you are drawn to deeper, darker waters, even more dangerous waters for the resources they contain. Set on an ocean world, or an ocean on alien world, you start in the shallows. Schools of fish, coral tubes and grown surround you. Why your ship has been targeted and what else is around you start off as mysteries, the Aurora in the distance equal parts puzzle, landmark and danger, waiting for you.
That’s when Subnautica gives your first real task. You don’t get many of them, but working through takes a lot of time, even at Freedom mode. My first and current playthrough is at Survival, asking me to not only keep an eye on air, health, but food and water too. Creative mode is for the builders, who want to explore and see what the world contains, free from most constraints. Freedom sits between Creative and Survival, asking you track your health and air, blueprints and materials to build.
Base building in this game has been a joy so far. While at first, it’s not the most intuitive system, you can learn it quickly. Firstly, you need the materials to build items, mostly Titanium and Lead, if you want to give your base foundations. As you want to extend, you may want to add specialised rooms like the Scanner room, the Observatory, the Moonpool, all of which have different and specific requirements. Perhaps you’ve built deep, needing to reinforce your hull strength, another material again.
Blueprints are the other thing you need. Finding them can be easy if you know what to look for. There’s two ways to earn them, one is to find a databox, containing a data chip. These give you the complete blueprint, from the get go. The other is in the scanner, finding fragments of parts. Each scan brings you closer to building that item, most items only taking two, the most four. Rooms, additions to those rooms, the all-important modification station, bioreactor and nuclear reactor all can found this way.
However, you still need to get around, to go hunting for the resources themselves. This means you will have to build some vehicles. From the Seaglide, your first motorised transport, to the mighty Prawn suit and Cyclops, they each serve a purpose and can be upgraded. The first real submarine is the Seamouth, a minisubmarine that boosts your ability to move and dive, replenishing your air tank when you board it. The Prawn suit is the heavy lifter, miner you will build, one of its arms allowing to harvest from the many deposits on the ocean, sea floor. The Cyclops can be a home away from home and storage, the ship you take to go and build your new base.
Audio and Visuals
At first, I thought this would be the easiest part of the game to describe. It’s not at all. There’s so much in both the visuals and sound, music, that’s hard to really capture it. From the day/night cycle, to the many different creatures. That’s a good a place to start as any other. The fact that this has at least two oceans, that of the day and of the night. The light and the creatures out changes. The Creepvine or your torch you only source of light.
The creatures as well are amazing, for their variety and type. There’s so many out there it’s hard to write a complete list. Predator, prey, surface and shallow creatures are out in abundance. From the simple Spadefish, to the very different creatures like the Ghost Reapers, those who live below 1000 metres. Everything is just consistent, beautiful if it was out to eat you in most cases.
Exploring underwater is as much about the sound as it is the visuals. There’s something about exploring underwater at night, where you’re out there by yourself. You can get lost in the environment, only to know what’s around by their sound and calls alone. The first you learn are those of the Stalker and Sand Shark. Crabsnakes followed soon after for me. Music as well just pulls you in, bringing you along for the ride.
I must admit I’m torn here. It’s not needed at all, there’s already so much to do. However, there’s still a part of me that wants some co-op, having a friend along as I go deep would be amazing.
I got sucked into this game. I mean really sucked into it. Getting the Seamouth then the Cyclops, the Prawn suit, just kept opening the world. Going deeper, for longer, gave me more resources, more places became open to me. There were so many little caves, resource deposits, creatures out there, I was easily distracted. Some of the time to the point where I was close to running out of air. Even the building sucked me, working out where I could best place them. What resources there were close to. Then the story did the same and I just had to learn more, solve it, get myself off world.