I picked up Subnautica about a week ago and I have been submersed ever since. I had seen vids and streams of the early access stuff and I had chocked it up to another survival game; honestly I didn’t have much interest as The Long Dark and Near Death just frustrated the crap out of me. However, a friend of mine raved about it so I picked it up. I was an idiot! This game is beauty!
Subnautica, like the Long Dark (TLD) and Near Death (ND), forces you to look for resources to survive a harsh landscape. Unlike the other two though, Subnautica doesn’t maintain this consistent pressure of the environment. In TLD and ND, the player is incessantly (and brutally) accosted by the weather of the environment. There is no real chance to take stock and work out the situation, you must hit the ground running and pray you figure it all out in time. Personally, I found ND to be the most frustrating survival game I have ever played, but I’ll talk about it in another post. Subnautica, on the other hand, gives you a safe place to figure out what you need to do, plan, test the plan, and move on to the next problem.
Beyond the basic need to figure out how to survive on an alien planet comprised (almost) entirely of water, the game teases you to explore and learn of an underlying mystery. And it’s the tease of mystery which really makes this game shine. Because Subnautica doesn’t force its story on you, it gives you all the choice to partake in it, if you want (and I recommend you chew it all up). Further, as you progress through the game, it becomes apparent that the player can push beyond mere survival and actually live on this planet. Not everything is rosy, you are on an alien planet and there is a food chain of which you are just a (very) small, and unexpected, part.
Subnautica is a beautiful surprise of a game, part survival, part RPG, part base-design, part exploration. The graphics are amazing, save for a rather niche complaint concerning the HUD. I have dived in, head first, and clocked in about 36 hours in the last week and I can only imagine I’ve scratched the surface of this experience. I look forward to exploring the oceans of Planet 4546B.