Thursday, March 08, 2018

Subnautica Review

So, after my last review, here another one. This time for the underwater survival game “Subnautica.” I mean, it’s an underwater survival game, what’s not to love here?

First of all, I have to admit that I didn’t have an eye on it at all. I had heard about it, seen some stuff on Steam sometimes (mostly in the ‘popular’ section), but I didn’t pay any attention. That changed when one of my favourite YouTube channels ran a first Let’s Play on it. I was completely fascinated by what I could see - even though it was not much of what you can actually do in the game. Since the guy doing the Let’s Play was just beginning, he was putting out the fire in his lifeboat and diving in the shallows, where you can’t go deep and every life form is either completely harmless or at any rate passive (except for that stupid exploding fish in the caves there).
What fascinated me was the great way the diving was simulated in the game. The movements of the character underwater felt right - even more so after I’d bought the game and started playing it myself. Swimming and diving felt like it should. I’ve never done any diving in deeper water (where you’d need an oxygen tank and training), but I’ve done some diving in shallow water while holding my breath. A lot of it while I was a kid, really.
In addition, the game was outright beautiful in my eyes. Some people might argue that the textures aren’t as high definition as they could be and, yes, sometimes stuff plops up without warning, but on the whole, the underwater world looks great. Well, not in that area where there’s little but some shark-like creatures and barren grey spires, but everywhere else. Even in the depth there’s weird and beautiful things. To a degree, even the leviathans (huge sea monsters in various types) look beautiful in a scary way.

So, I bought the game and started playing, completely losing myself in that world. The game comes with four different difficulty settings from hardcore survival (with permanent death) to creative (where you don’t have to worry about anything and have unlimited resources). While I do really enjoy the survival mode (not hardcore, bur regular, where there’s no perma-death), I’ve spent more time in creative mode, simply because it allowed for me to already build the two submarines you can build in the game (the small and manoeuvrable Sea-Moth and the large Cyclops). I also have quite a nice base constructed.
The two submarines (you can also build a heavy-duty underwater suit which allows for you to drill stuff and endure more pressure in deep sea) are another reason why I love this game so much. They are completely different in handling. The Sea-Moth is small and quick, it moves very much like the player does in the water. You can dart around, are quite a bit faster, have a place to replenish your air (while not in creative mode, where oxygen isn’t a topic), and have light for night-time or deeper sea explorations (fully upgraded, the Sea-Moth can go to a depth of up to 900 meters). The Cyclops on the other hand is a mobile base. It can host either the Sea-Moth or the Prawn suit, has space for putting up furniture or machinery (such as putting a fabricator in the ship), and can go really deep (down to 1,700 meters, if fully upgraded). It’s also more stable, in case you meet with a leviathan (those usually live in the twilight and dark zones of the ocean). Ideally, you put the Sea-Moth in the Cyclops for longer travel and do your actual exploring the smaller ship while returning to the Cyclops for creating and storing stuff.

The game not only encourages exploration beyond the direct surroundings, it actively pushes the player to go out and have a look around. As soon as you have repaired the lifeboat and the radio inside, you start getting messages from other lifeboats and you get destinations to go to in order to find out more. You find new technology to scan (among it the information for the submarines and the mobile base necessary to build them), you can scan new life forms, too, since some of them may come in handy.
There’s a lot of resources you need and can find in the different biomes, so you have ample reason to travel a lot. You’ll want an oxygen tank and fins first, because they enhance your movements underwater (you swim faster with the fins and can stay underwater longer with the tank). You’ll need a survival knife for harvesting some resources and stabbing the first smaller predators who’ll attack you. You’ll need the repair tool and the scanner to get anywhere. You’ll want to start your base and need to make a habitat builder and gather the necessary resources for the rooms. Later on, you’ll be sure to expand it or build an auxiliary base somewhere else. It should be noted that the game doesn’t overdo it with the need for resources, though. Most objects can be build from few resources, even if some of those are not too easy to find.

Besides, who doesn’t love a game where the PDA claims that severe head trauma is the best possible outcome after a crash? Or a game where you can find and explore several alien bases? Subnautica has a lot to offer, even in the longer run. Also don’t get me started on the Cuddlefish and how I can’t bear having one, because I would have to leave it behind when I finish the game.

Subnautica does have its weaknesses, mostly in the graphics, but it has a lot more strengths overall. It gives you a whole ocean to explore which is filled with the strangest alien life forms. It gives you amazing biomes, from the shallows to the fiery depths of a volcano. And it tops it off with an interesting story and a lot of emotional moments. For me, that makes it a great game to play, so you might want to check it out.

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