Subnautica is an aquatic survival game available on most platforms and I strongly recommend it.
I’m going to keep this as spoiler-free as I can, but since the definition of a spoiler is in the eye of the beholder, I will leave it to reader discretion on how far you want to continue reading.
Some of you may not be familiar with “survival” as a genre. In short, it’s the kind of game where you find yourself marooned/alone/naked/whatever in a hostile environment and you have to survive.
Most of the time, that involves starting out by punching a tree or a rock or something, then crafting some kind of weapon. By the end, you’ve built an impenetrable base of awesomeness.
Minecraft is a survival game. Ark, Don’t Starve, Rust … even Fortnite falls into this bucket.
Subnautica is by FAR my favorite one that I’ve played.
Okay, but Water?
I know, I know. “The Water Level” is gamer code for “Horrible, Terrible, Worst Level Ever.”
Subnautica got the water level so right that the few times you need to move around on land feel awkward and garbage. Underwater movement is fluid, easy, and for the most part intuitive. Never thought I’d see the day, but there you have it.
It’s Got a Story
And guys, it’s a damn good one. I’m going to leave this RELATIVELY spoiler free, but I will mention that you were part of an interstellar crew on a giant spaceship that is now crash-landed on this ocean planet. It involves a mysterious alien disease.
And everything else — from what your ship was doing here, why it crashed, and how you’re going to get OFF the planet — you find out as you play the story.
I honestly thought the story bit would be a bit humdrum for me, but it’s actually more enticing than I expected.
If you’re the kind of completionist who checks EVERY SINGLE CORNER in a video game … this game is probably for you. Especially if you enjoy being rewarded for reading various notes and logs scattered throughout a landscape.
In Subnautica, you only -have- to read a small handful of those notes … but man oh man the little treasures you find if you read them all.
Okay, this is subjective, but I never did love Minecraft’s voxel style, and many of the other games out there just fall short of the mark.
Finding a new biome in Subnautica feels like opening a treasure chest. You want glowy mushrooms? WE GOT SO MANY DAMN GLOWY MUSHROOMS. You want sharks? Have several different kinds, some of whom just want to play fetch with you. You want gloomy caves with psychedelic brain corals and skeleton critters? BAM. Have a bone graveyard. You’re welcome.
Every player has the same sci-fi looking components to build their base with — you can’t even paint the ruddy thing, and yet when I see my home in the distance, it feels like MY home.
I have rested gently on a sandy ocean floor and watched the terrifying Reaper Leviathan undulate sinuously overhead. I have swam alongside whalesong creatures larger than my base just to enjoy their music.
It’s just … it’s pretty, you guys. It’s fun to be in the game without even playing it.
With very few exceptions, you can go at your own pace.
Which is pretty damn good, since MY pace involves an awful lot of wasting time collecting monster eggs and planting pretty outdoor gardens.
(The exceptions I’m aware of are only if you want to WATCH the events happen. One is so early game it’s difficult to miss, and the other is also pretty early and gives you a generous timer to arrive at your location on time.)
I hate HAAAATE it when a game rushes me. Especially a creative buildy-style game like this one is.
This game doesn’t rush me. I like that.
TERROR OF THE DEEP
I may or may not have to stop playing once it gets dark outside in the real world.
And I may or may not sometimes rise to the surface of the ocean during game-nighttime and leave the console running until game-morning arrives. Underwater gloom music is scary, and yet somehow the utter silent darkness of the surface at night is gut-wrenching.
Especially early on, when every new sound is a potential monster coming to eat your face, the darkness and just-creepy-enough music really pack a terrifying punch.
Now that I know a little more about the world (and have my beloved Seamoth ship to keep my company) it’s a lot less scary, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty of heart-pounding moments here or there as I drive off the edge of a “cliff” and hope that something with some glow to it appears below me.
(spoiler alert: usually it does)
The reapers themselves are whispered about among gamers as a badge of honor to have survived your first encounter without wetting yourself … and the devs didn’t take advantage of this fact!
Yes, the reapers will aggro. But NO, they will not chase you forever, and the aggro range is pretty forgiving in most cases.
Despite being ready to shriek in terror when I’m scouting a new zone, the game honestly hasn’t intentionally abused jump scares, and hasn’t introduced enemies so horrible that you can’t escape them with relative ease.
If I wasn’t so sensitive to ambiance, I probably wouldn’t find it very scary at all.
Some Early Tips I Wish I’d Known
- If you have a really good computer, play there instead of PS4. PS4 has some lag issues and some environment-rendering issues which, while not game-breaking, detract from the enjoyment. Most notably, almost every damn time you surface for air. (seriously, if you’re waffling, go for the computer version. Plus, you can get a bunch of cool mods afterwards, like a MAP. MY KINGDOM FOR AN IN-GAME MAP)
- Scan EVERYTHING.
- Save frequently. Especially if you’re about to do something potentially
- Fresh-caught fish stay fresh in your inventory forever. Cooked food lasts for about 4 seconds before it starts to age and go gross. Cook it just before you eat it unless you’re curing it with salt — salted food ALSO lasts forever, and has better value. Very early, Peepers are your best bet for a good meal.
- You need a lot of water. Like. A lot. Before you head off on an adventure, make sure you have more than you think you’ll need. Learn how to catch those purple pillow-fish like a ninja.
- Don’t forget to breathe. The game will remind you of this even without my doing so, but it’s worth noting anyway — keep an eye on that air gauge and how deep you are — even after you upgrade your air
- You can open doors with a green light. I feel like I -tried- to do this multiple times, so it was mid-game before I realized I was only half-exploring all the shipwreck locations I’d found. Wasted time made me very sad indeed.
- Don’t store anything you love outside. I had a cache of creature eggs that just … despawned on day. The stuff I put in a locker instead of chucking on the ocean floor has never had a problem.
— semi-spoilery tips below —
- SPOILERY TIP (deliberately left cryptic so it will only make sense once you’ve reached this far in the story). Degasi 250 DOES contain a PDA which gives you a beacon to Degasi 500, but it’s very well hidden in teenager storage. (I wasted so much damn time because it seemed like I’d found everything there)
- SPOILERY TIP (also cryptic) Degasi 500 is your last beacon. Past that, you have to read your PDA to find more clues and hints as to where to go. When in doubt, go deeper.
- SPOILERY TIP (less cryptic) Explore the Aurora after you get repair tool, laser cutter, propulsion cannon, and radiation suit. You’ll find a lot of cute stuff (and some locked doors with codes found in PDAs) and you’ll also be able to repair the radiation leak! The water will finally be safe to swim in using a better suit. SCAN EVERYTHING and steal posters from the walls.
— end semi-spoilery tips —