I have spent quite a bit of time on this game over the last few months. And in spite of the occasional bug or two, it’s surprisingly addictive. I can immerse myself in a vast ocean full of strange (and sometimes deadly) creatures, and I enjoy the challenge of surviving amidst the great deep.
If you’re looking for a story-driven game, Subnautica may not be for you. It doesn’t mean there isn’t one, and there’s no way to know if the developers will add more plotlines sometime in the future. It is, after all, an early access game.
You’re the survivor of the Aurora, which is a crashed ship not too far from your escape pod. The small area in which you start out is the only thing that stands between you and the world below, and your first task will be to repair it. That means gathering materials and crafting tools – all while keeping yourself from dying of hunger or thirst.
You can probably guess by now that it can be a little challenging in this early stage of gameplay, and it was a struggle for me to keep myself from dying of thirst. Water and food aren’t just given to you. You have to catch fish to cook, and you’ll need to make fresh water to drink. This can be hard if you don’t have the right tools.
But that’s not the only challenge you’ll face in the beginning. Until you have at least a couple of oxygen tanks, you won’t be able to stay underwater for extended periods of time. And it can really slow you down.
If there’s any consolation, the game does get easier as you progress – especially when you start to build underwater vehicles. That’s when you can start moving beyond the shallow reef from which you started, and it’s where the real fun begins.
One of the most common (and perhaps the most useful) tools of this game is the fabricator – a wall-mounted device that can be used for making stuff. Think of it as something similar to a replicator on Star Trek. It’s where you cook food (I hope you like fish), make water, and craft tools.
You’re going to need a welder to fix any broken vehicles, and you’ll need it to repair your escape pod. You’ll need a knife to gather various resources for crafting certain items. You’ll definitely need a scanner, which you will use to get new blueprints (a necessary part of increasing your crafting repertoire). These are a few of the common tools you’ll need, but there could be others as you progress in the game.
Vehicles play a major role in Subnautica gameplay, especially when you move into deeper water. And you’d be surprised how deep you can go. I’ve explored areas that are over 400 meters deep, and I almost crossed the 500-meter threshold. Each of the two vehicles has a maximum depth range, so you need to be careful how far down you go.
Unlike standard crafting, you won’t be able to use the fabricator to build vehicles. You’ll need a separate crafting station specifically for that purpose, and the blueprint isn’t just handed to you on a platter. Remember what I said about finding blueprints? This is what I mean, but the fun doesn’t stop there. You have to find blueprints for the vehicles themselves, and that can be far from easy.
Getting the blueprint for the first vehicle can be a challenge, but it’s a breeze compared to the Cyclops – a full-fledged submarine that can be used for long-term expeditions. There are other things you have to consider as well, like finding a way to recharge batteries and power cells. Did I mention you have to get blueprints for those as well?
As you progress in Subnautica, that little escape pod won’t be nearly enough to support you because you’ll only be able to do so much in that tiny area. That means you’ll have to expand your operation.
If you have played survival games before, you know that building a base is an essential part of staying alive, and you also know that that the process is far from simple. You’ll have to do some planning, and you need to be skilled at gathering the right materials. Believe me – you’ll need a lot of it.
The good thing is that you can build your base pretty much anywhere. I chose to keep it close to where I started out, and it took many hours of gameplay to get it to the size that it is now. My strategy is to find certain “safe zones” where I can build scattered outposts throughout the game, because there are some potentially deadly creatures out there. I guess building seabases is like eating salted peanuts. You can’t just have one.
Aside from the many positives of this game, there are some possible negatives, and they can be enough to turn some people off. Because it’s still in development, there are occasional bugs. And they can be a bit annoying at times. The knife will stop working on occasion, usually while I’m farming certain types of coral. You would think that making another one would solve the problem, but to my chagrin that wasn’t the case (believe me, I’ve tried). The only way to fix it is to close out the game and reboot, and that can be irritating if I’m in the middle of an expedition.
Subnautica also lacks a multiplayer option, which can be a stumbling block for some people. Part of playing these kind of games is interacting with other players – not that multiplayer doesn’t have its downsides. Spending hours on a base to have someone else rob you blind and destroy what you built can be frustrating, so having a single-player option might not be a bad thing for some people.
Like any video game, Subnautica has its share of both good and bad, and because it’s an early-access game some of the negatives are understandable. The question is if the good outweighs the bad. And in my opinion, they do. It’s a great survival game that you can easily get caught up in, and in some ways it can be as bad as World of Warcraft. You can spend late nights playing this game. Just make sure you can show up on time for work the next morning.