Rarely are games capable of combining two mysterious elements that are most intriguing to humans: space travel and deep-ocean exploration. As one of the first games to do just that, Subnautica grabs the global intrigue by exposing the desire to uncover two of the largest mysteries in human existence.
You land on an alien ocean planet comprised of strange creatures, glowing fauna, and exploratory underwater landscapes. Abandoning your space vessel in an escape pod, you are dropped in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a storage bin and a Fabricator: a machine used to craft food, equipment, tools, and machines from resources found in the environment.
Typical of most survival games, you need to consistently consume food and water to survive. With the use of salt deposits found around most of the visible ocean floor, you can combine salt to craft cured fish and disinfected water. These are just a few options for combining your resources to craft different consumable goods.
To clarify, you don’t need to play in standard survival mode. The early-access release allows for survival mode without the need for food or water, hardcore mode with only one life available to you (die once and it’s all over) and creative mode where you cannot die, do not need to consume oxygen and can craft whatever you want. I found that the standard survival mode was most rewarding and the best way to become acquainted with utilizing resources and understanding the game’s basic functions.
From the start, you are given a limited amount of crafting options at your Fabricator. Only by capturing or gathering different resources and bringing them back to your Fabricator, can you unlock different craftable items. For example; I had to bring a fish that looked like a set of lungs to unlock the filtered water crafting options, which saved me the time of scavenging for salt AND coral to create bleach to THEN create disinfected water. Basically, it saved me a lot of time.
Aside from crafting consumable resources, you are able to create many useful tools and machines that allow you to gather data on the world for the in-game encyclopedia, create livable habitats, and travel faster with submarines and handheld water jets to propel you forward. By scanning fauna and flora for information, you unlock new blueprints. By creating other livable habitats, you are able to relocate, explore, and gather resources elsewhere and by crafting a submarine, you are capable of diving deeper into the ocean and can observe different environments.
The large and expansive world of Subnautica is by far its strongest attribute. From an assortment of hand-crafted environments, players are typically placed in a peaceful, vegetated, mildly shallow and bustling ocean terrain comprised of mostly herbivore species. Once you venture outward, the ocean floor descends deeper down and reveals entirely different ocean environments with far more aggressive, larger sea creatures. If you have a fear of the ocean, BEWARE.
Unfortunately, once you explore further out, the ocean floor disappears and the ocean becomes bottomless. Considering that the game is still in early-access, I’m more than certain that this is simply a premature condition for not being a completed title. I’m sure that once it is finished, we will have a better idea of why you crashed, why you were traveling in space, and will be introduced to even more explorable areas and the bottomless parts of the ocean will no longer exist.
Personally, I have not felt this excited about a survival game in years, probably since Minecraft. Similar to that sweet feeling of when you first discovered how to create glass windows for your cobblestone house, I felt that again while diving deep into Subnautica and quite frankly, I’m hooked (no pun intended). In only four days of owning this game, I have put nearly ten hours into its amazing world.
If you enjoy survival games and are fascinated with the ocean, space, and aliens, this game is definitely for you. Trust me, Subnautica proved to me that such an imaginative game is possible and not only that, it’s completely playable.