Genre: Open World, Survival
Original Release: December 2014
Developers: Unknown Worlds Entertainment, Panic Button Games, Grip Digital
Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Platforms: Windows, Mac OS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Played on: Windows
One of my all-time favorite movies is Cast Away. There’s something just inherently brilliant not only about Tom Hanks’ performance, but also tapping into that underlying fear of “what if I find myself alone in a survival situation?” I half-jokingly call it a horror movie because of that.
Subnautica hits those exact same notes for me, but with a futuristic setting and an alien world. The core premise is that you, a member of the Alterra company, find yourself stranded after your ship, the Aurora, crash-lands on a planet known only as 4546B. You’re alone, you have no idea when rescue is coming, and your supplies are limited.
Luckily, your escape pod is equipped with a fabricator to help you make almost everything you need to survive. You’ll still have to gather some of the local fauna in order to eat, and in some cases drink, but a lot of the hard work is expedited thanks to what’s basically a 3D printer mixed with the replicator from Star Trek.
It’s kind of interesting to talk about how much I like Subnautica. Survival games typically aren’t my cup of tea because they tend to feel shallow. I’m going to apologize for this now because I have no other way of saying it, but Subnautica is deep. Both figuratively and literally. The more you explore, the more blueprints you find, the more clues about the world you’ve found yourself in you reveal, the deeper you can go in the ocean until you’ve basically hit the seafloor.
But first, you’ll need a proper base of operations.
Yes, beyond your basic survival needs, there is also base building. Everything has a material requirement, but the required materials are so plentiful that as long as you don’t go too crazy, you’ll be able to construct most everything you need. A bed, a water filtration system, and maybe a couple of planters for the potatoes and other fruits and vegetables you come across to sustain yourself for the long haul. It’s also a convenient place to respawn should you find yourself dying either to some of the more hostile wildlife, of which there is plenty, or because you went too deep on one of your latest dives and couldn’t reach the surface in time. And yes, both have happened to me several times.
I would love to talk more about the story of Subnautica, as there is an actual story and lore to the world, but it’s something best experienced and discovered on your own. Instead, I will give this game a glowing recommendation. Once again, it is beautiful, it is deep, and it is immersive. I found myself losing track of time so often and thinking about it so often when I wasn’t able to play it. There’s so much to see and learn about, and the devs did a fantastic job of making me both appreciate and want to learn more about our own oceans.
So to the development team, I say hats off to you, friends. I will definitely be checking out Subnautica: Below Zero in time. For now, allow me to leave you with the approximate words I wrote on finishing the game:
This world is not as cruel as it may seem at first glance. Take the time to observe and learn about the local fauna and you’ll not only survive, but thrive as well. Of course, it helps that there is some incredibly beautiful scenery to be found if you know where to look.
Go check out Subnautica.