First Impressions: Subnautica (2018)

Unknown World’s indie underwater adventure game, Subnautica, has intrigued me since I first saw its trailer last year. Yesterday, after discovering it on Xbox’s Game Pass, I quickly set about diving head-first into the madness with a daring playthrough on Survival Mode.

After approximately one hour of play, there is no doubt about the fact that I would 100% perish on planet 4546B.

Initially, I did what any self-respecting survivalist would do: I assessed my condition, used a medi-kit, and considered my surroundings. I made a quick inventory of my rations: two food packs, two bottles of water, medi-kit and a few flares. It didn’t take long to realise that I’d need a repair tool to fix my escape pod and start working on a long-term solution.

Sounds easy, right?

For good measure, I mad sure to fling a flare outside of my pod, in the vein hope that I could attract the attention of any fellow survivors. Inevitably, I simply watched it sink to the bottom of the sea, with all of my hopes and dreams.

Undoubtedly, you’re on your own in this game, THAT was made perfectly clear.

Usually, with survival games, I go into them blind as a means of simulating the situation. It’s a fun way to play, offers a fair bit of motivation for adapting quickly and ultimately surviving the situation. I’ve done it with the Fallout series (1997-present), Astroneer (2019) and many others in the genre.

Your Subnautica PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). Slick and, intially, unhelpful.

However, Subnautica doesn’t give you a lot to work with. There’s a PDA that offers mildy-condescending advice, information and a log of events. Thankfully, I’m not actually stranded on 4546B, because this survival guide SUCKS. It’s all part of the fun, nonetheless.

In all honesty, though, I perished on my first playthrough: dehydration set in after scouring the sea near to my pod for some goddamn silicone rubber.

Surely, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, your escape pod should be equipped WITH a repair tool in the event of needing to survive. Perhaps asking too much on SURVIVAL mode but, hey.

Graphically, the game is great – the colours really convey the mood: it’s bright and playful on the surface, but the deeper you delve, the more panic sets in as you lose your sunlight and are left to the mercy of the unknown shadows.

The music and sound design are awesome, too. I’ve found that it sublty hints at your condition as the upbeat original music switches to a creepy lilt that really puts you on edge… naturally, exacerbating the intial feeling of discomfort you feel at being dumped in the middle of an alien planet’s ocean.

I experienced a few bugs that froze the screen for a few seconds but, to be honest, it added to my characters sense of disorientation due to being so damn dehydrated.

First impressions are incredibly positive and I look forward to attempting to A) survive and B) finally locate some silicone rubber before perishing once again. It was definitely worth the wait and it offers an interesting take on the survival genre.

Have you played Subnautica? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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