I love underwater games. BioShock, FarSky, even Depth Hunter 2 all gave me a lot of fun exploring life at the bottom of the sea. When I heard that Unknown Worlds was developing an exploration-based survival sim set down there, I was instantly excited for it. Now Subnautica has been released on Steam Early Access, I’ve finally been able to take a look at it. Suffice to say am I impressed.

The game is in very early access, the game only released on Steam on the 16th of December. Trapped in the sea with nothing but your escape pod, you must scavenge the sea floor and hunt alien fish in order to survive. Building your equipment out of metal fragments and bits of coral while also balancing your hunger, thirst, and oxygen.

2014-12-17_00010Right now, there is a limited amount of content, but there are still things to do. My usual goal when playing is to build the submarine that allows me to explore even deeper than my limited air will allow. To do that though, I must spend quite a long time gathering the materials needed. This is where the game really shines for me.

The game isn’t particularly intense, it isn’t like Rust or DayZ where everything is trying to kill you at any second. Collecting the resources you need to build are just the pretense to exploring the absolutely wonderful scenery. This is initially hampered by a very small oxygen supply, meaning you cannot really do much of anything, but once you’ve built a few air tanks and have increased speed the world really opens up. Even more so when you manage to build a submarine, allowing you venture in to depths you just wouldn’t be able to normally. Exploring in this game is very fun and rewarding.

2014-12-17_00013It’s not all a walk in a very, very wet park though. There have been times in the game which felt incredibly tense. I found a large, empty tunnel in the dark which would have been bad enough had I not heard the large roar of what I later found out was a completely safe whale-fish-thing. For that moment though, I was imagining Cthulhu itself rising up from R’lyeh. Underwater has often been considered an unnerving place in games, and those brief times of utter panic I experienced in Subnautica took me right back to Sonic 2 or Mario 64.  

Subnautica does have it’s problems, but almost all of them can be weeded out through the development process. I think more base-building would be a good addition, as right now there is a tendency to stick to a small area around your escape pod and only venture out in to the more alien territories for the sake of adventure. Being able to build bases would allow the player to expand outwards and explore the fantastic locations Unknown World has made, and encounter some of the more… horrifying… sea creatures. I also think some sort of storage chests would be of great help, as I had to build a small sand cave under my base to store my leftover materials rather than in my very small escape pod.

2014-12-17_00007I honestly think we will see great things from Subnautica. Unknown Worlds have been incredibly on the ball with their pre-steam early access: listening to the players, taking feedback on board and releasing regular updates. The experimental branch of the game’s development is updated twice daily according to them, so it is very likely the game will progress fantastically.

Overall, Subnautica is something special. Placing the survival in a very underused and alien setting and with a dedicated development team means that it over time the only way is up for Subnautica. Currently it has a slight lack of content and can be a bit buggy, but I still recommend it if you have any interest in survival or building sims. I really can’t wait to see where Subnautica goes from here.

About The Author

Former Managing Editor

Joe Parlock is an opinionated pop culture writer from the British midlands with 3 years of experience and a passion for being a general grump about games. Starting out before he could walk with a Sega Megadrive and a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, his favourite genres of games includes platformers, stealth, fighting, roguelites and the budding survival sim genre. Joe also writes not only about games, but also other areas of pop culture such as film and TV.

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