Whenever I go to the beach, it’s a terrifying thought to think about what lies beneath the surface. The thought always crosses my mind that a shark will bite me in half, or a Kraken will drag me to into ocean depths, so I stay pretty close to the shore.
Subnautica is a game that takes that fear of the unknown and multiplies it by 10. It’s not meant to be a horror game, yet sometimes manages to be terrifying. The ocean of Subnautica is a beautiful, yet unsettling open world that never fails in drawing me into the world.
It’s true that it was in early access for many years like many other survival games, but Subnautica is actually one of the good ones. You can’t deny that most people love Subnautica, so I’ll explain why it’s considered so good and let you decide for yourself.
The way the atmosphere is presented is done extremely well. A good way to start describing the atmosphere is to give an account of my very first playthrough.
I started off the game by crashlanding on an alien planet, and I had barely enough gear to survive. The first time I dived underwater, I immediately started to fear the unknown.
The safe shallows that I started in was a beautiful area, but soon I noticed the towering kelp fields a few hundred feet away, and observed the areas where the ocean floor started to decline.
The HUD told me that I needed food, so I started to catch some fish for my dinner. After gathering some of the necessary items, I realized I had to venture further away from the shallow area of refuge. The 30 seconds of oxygen I had barely felt like enough, so I only ventured a short way down.
I began to hear distant rumbles from massive aquatic creatures, which made me even more reluctant to venture deeper. An item I needed to craft required kelp samples, and the only place to get them was in the nearby kelp fields.
Reluctantly, I swam into the forest of kelp plants, but it didn’t take long to realize that I wasn’t alone. Fast moving, shark like creatures lunged towards me, cause me to slice them with my newly crafted knife. They damaged me quite a bit, but I was able to cut away the kelp samples I needed.
These creatures were too strong to be killed by my small knife, so I high-tailed it back to the escape pod. Luckily, the monsters didn’t follow me there, but the experience made me even more reluctant to go into the black abyss that lay at the bottom of the ocean.My first time playing Subnautica
The developers did an amazing job of creating an underwater landscape that is extremely believable while still feeling foreign. Without any doubt, it’s the best underwater world I’ve ever seen in a video game.
It’s possible to play creative mode, but I don’t recommend it unless you’ve beaten the main story. The creative mode won’t give you the full atmosphere of danger that you’ll feel in survival, so definitely jump right into the story.
I was blown away by how incredibly huge the world is. At the start, you can’t go very far away from your escape pod, but upgrading your equipment will let you venture deeper for longer periods of time.
There are caves to survey, underwater wrecks to locate, a giant ship to explore, and many more awesome things to do and see. Every biome is incredibly unique and has a creative variety of creatures. Just when you think you’ve seen the biggest monster in the ocean, you’ll see an even bigger one.
There are a number of different submarines and movement equipment to use, ranging from handheld propulsion devices to a giant submarine that acts as a base of operations. You can craft an underwater mech that has interchangeable tools, such as a grappling hook and mineral drill.
As you go through the game, the further you’ll go underwater. Sometimes you’ll find a small hole in the ground that leads to a cave that’s hundreds of feet deep or find an old base from a previous occupant of the planet.
Everywhere you go you’ll discover new creatures and locations, making the game incredibly fun to explore. It’s worth it to get Subnautica for the exploration alone.
The way you craft things is also very unique. You’ll bring the necessary materials to your crafting station, and the station will form the item using lasers. You won’t be able to craft certain items until you find blueprints for them, so you need to make a scanner and find pieces of wreckage to scan.
This adds another level of exploration since you’ll have to actively search for blueprints. Once you have the full blueprint and craft the item, it’s very satisfying to see that all your searching paid off.
There’s a huge number of items that you can craft, and way more resources to be found around the world. Certain items can only be mined using the mech’s drill, which is something you can craft later on in the game.
The game makes it very easy to know what items you need, since it tells you the name and shows you what it looks like, but you’ll have to discover where to get it on your own. I recommend not looking at the Subnautica wiki for crafting advice, as that’ll make your experience much less immersive.
The building is similar to other survival games, yet somehow it’s still unique. All the base pieces are what you’d expect underwater buildings to look like, and there’s a large variety of them to use.
You need to power your base using an energy source such as solar panels, but those will stop working as you get deeper underwater. For areas with low light, you’ll need to find other energy options like the thermal plant, which uses heat to create power for the base.
You can make bases pretty much wherever you want, but not every location is ideal to call home. Biomes with large monsters can bump into your base, causing it to flood and fill up with water. You can fix the damage using a repair tool, but you never know when the monstrosity will show up again.
Whenever I play Subnautica, I create new bases all over the world, so that I can feel safe wherever I go. This takes a little bit of time farming for materials, but I think it’s worth it. When you’re not building your base, you can upgrade the Cyclops (the massive submarine base) with more equipment to help you survive.
Feeling safe in your base after a long journey is very satisfying to me, and I love being able to make a home in an alien world. The only limit to how big your base can be is how long you spend getting materials, so get ready for lots of exploration.
Subnautica has had a story ever since it came out of early access, and I think it’s quite enjoyable. Nothing is outright explained to you, so you’ll need to do some exploring to uncover the story for yourself.
You’ll periodically receive messages from the people who sent you to the planet, as well as find logs of explorers who were there before you. Some people don’t like stories in games, but in Subnautica it’s not a huge part of the game.
You don’t have to watch hours of cutscenes, but I think it’s enjoyable to pay attention to what’s happening. There are many mysteries for you to solve, such as how you crash-landed in the first place, who the previous explorers were, and other mysteries that lie miles beneath the surface.
I’ve said many times that I’m not a huge fan of video game stories, but I really enjoyed Subnautica’s story. I wouldn’t play the game solely for the story, but it’s a nice addition that gives you some context of why you’re on the planet.
I absolutely love Subnautica, and I believe it’s worth it. It’s definitely a nice change from the worn-out survival genre, and I think it’s one of the best survival games I’ve ever played. I highly recommend it if you enjoy underwater games, especially if you’re afraid of the ocean.