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Subnautica May Be The Greatest Game You Aren’t Playing

The indie games market has some real hidden gems waiting to be discovered. With little to no executive meddling from bigger publishers, indie developers can push the envelope with their creative visions. This is especially true of survival-adventure title Subnautica, released January 23rd, 2018.

Subnautica has been in early access for quite some time, starting back in December of 2014, and since then has been receiving regular updates, new features, and a whole lot of polish. I remember fondly the first time I took the plunge and slept with the fishes (though in a bed in a submarine base I made out of pieces of a derelict space ship). Its unique visual style has always been one of the main draws, but like an angler fish, the pretty lights can belie some deadly terrors. Ranging from the minuscule, leech-like Bleeders and piranha stand-in Biters who are more annoying than deadly to the colossal apex predators like the Reaper Leviathan (and more!), the alien threat of Planet 4546B are a true menace and will shape the way you interact with the world. Having little to no weaponry encourages a playstyle of adaptation and learning how to handle the animals nonlethally. Of course, there are ways to kill them as well, but more often than not, you will find yourself evading and dissuading attacks. Remember, you’re the fish out of water here, and you are most certainly not on top of the food chain. But that’s to say nothing of your absolute worst enemy in game. One creature alone will get you killed more than any of the predators, no matter how aggressive, no matter how strong.


Your actions, your mistakes will be punished. The two main resources to keep you alive are, of course, food and water. You must plan to keep yourself hydrated and well fed if you expect to survive, and in some of the later stages of the game, both food and water will be hard to come by. You must learn to survive, to prepare everything in advance, and be ready to make sacrifices so you may live. If you die while out in the sea, you will lose everything you gathered after you left your base. Hardcore mode is even worse, with death deleting your save file! The biggest killer of players new and old, however, is oxygen. Until you make a submarine, you will constantly be fighting your own oxygen supply, having to resurface to keep yourself alive. Yes, you can make a surface air pump, but those materials can be put to much better use. Submarines will make their own oxygen so long as they have power, but this effectively puts a leash on the player’s exploration radius. If you run out of power for your submarine while very far beneath the surface, chances are you aren’t going to make it out alive.

Survival is the name of the game, and to than end, you must build everything you want to use. Very few tools will be found intact. I can think of precisely one that the game gives you for free, and it’s a fire extinguisher. You must build a scanner, and with that scanner, scan fragments of other tools so that you can build those as well. In my most recent session, I spent about a half hour searching for one fragment so that I could make an even bigger submarine than the one I had already. I scavenged through several biomes and dove to incredible depths to find the bounty, only to see that it was actually remarkably close to my starting base.

But at no point was I ever frustrated with it. Instead, I rather enjoyed just getting out and exploring the world of Subnautica. Gorgeous visuals and lifelike alien creatures make for a world I wouldn’t mind getting lost in. If you take nothing out of this review, understand this. You will die in Subnautica. But you’ll love every second of it.



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