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Review: Subnautica Early Access September ’17

Subnautica is an open world, underwater exploration and survival game. It’s still in early access but should be released on October 31st of this year. Despite still being in early access this game already has a substantial amount of content ready to play. It will need some more fine tuning and tweaking here and there. But still, it caught my attention and I can’t stop playing it ever since I first tried it. It’s also playable in VR but you will need to use a controller or mouse and keyboard instead of the motion controllers that come with VR headsets.

It all starts when you crash onto an alien ocean planet with no land in sight. The planet is very large and has a bunch of different biomes. These can vary from a safe shallow coral reef to dangerous deep-sea trenches, bioluminescent trees, underwater rivers and even a lava zone. It’s important to keep an eye on your vitals when exploring the beautiful depths of Subnautica.

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After a short cut scene in which your spaceship starts crashing, our character rushes to a life pod and prepares for a hard landing. And a hard landing it is, your pod is damaged and you will need to go out into the water to find food, fresh water and resources to repair your pod and make tools to help you out on this journey. You will have to venture deeper and further to find the rarest resources that allow you to craft the most advanced items.

You can build your own underwater base to store your ores and food, park your vehicles and have a safe spot to replenish your oxygen. You will need to get yourself a power supply and manage the hull-integrity to make sure your base stays safe. To build all parts of your base and even some more advanced tools and vehicles, you will have to go out and find blueprints by scanning wreckage that fell into the ocean during your crash.

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But what happened on this planet? Why did your ship crash? How can you get back to your people? These are all questions that pop up at the start of this game, and as soon as you find your first clues to answering some of these you will want to find more and more. To find all of them you will have to go deeper as you search the treacherous caves and deeper biomes. These clues, however, are most of the time in the form of a PDA which you will have to read to get the location of where the next clue might be or learn what happened before you were there. And expecting from all players to do a lot of reading might be a bit much.

The sea is full of wonderful creatures, some are very dangerous and bigger than you would like them to be while others can be very nice small creatures that will mostly serve as your main source of food, but you can also keep them as pets in an aquarium. Speaking of pets, one of the last updates, (14th of September ’17) called the Cuddlefish update (Gif below) gives you the option to have a very cute and friendly fish to swim by your side and give you high fives and lots of love. You can scan most creatures and plants to get more info about them and maybe read up on some history of the planet.

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At this moment, there are 4 different types of vehicles in the game. First of all, a Seaglide. This is a small handheld engine to make you go a bit faster and makes exploring a bit more efficient. Secondly, there is the Seamoth. This one is a one-man submarine that can go a bit deeper and will also replenish your oxygen. This vehicle will be one of your best ways to get around fast to places that are a bit further out. Thirdly you have the Cyclops, this is a big submarine that can go even deeper. It comes with a storage room which can make it into a very handy mobile base for deeper exploration. However, the blueprint implies you need three experienced men to operate this beast, so you will have your work cut out for you when operating this one. Lastly, we have the P.R.A.W.N. suit, this exosuit can be very handy for different purposes, it’s the vehicle that can go the deepest of all. You can change out its “arms” and attach different tools good for the job at hand. For example, a drill arm to help you gather large deposits of ores and a grappling arm to make it easier to get around.

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Conclusion:

For me, this game is definitely worth playing and can give you hours and hours of fun just exploring and building a base. The fact that there is no map can make it a bit hard to navigate through the vast seas. But once you start getting around you can orient yourself on various landmarks or find other clever ways to locate the places you need to go to.

There’s a strong storyline that you can follow or choose to ignore. However, you will have to do a lot of reading. Maybe a few ‘flashbacks’ or cutscenes might do the trick of relieving you from having to find a safe spot where you can read your new-found PDA’s. But still, because of this, the storyline won’t come in your way when you just want to explore and survive without bothering to solve the mysteries, just go with the flow.

Unknown Worlds Entertainment, the developers of this game, did have to suspend all possibilities of adding a multiplayer to the game, which was a big bummer for a lot of the players that were hoping for this to be added eventually. Another thing I wondered is when you complete the story and you manage to get back home, wouldn’t it be a bit sad to leave your base behind on which you spend hours to build. Maybe you can return somehow… or maybe never be able to leave at all? We’ll see how it goes when it’s finished. I, for one, can’t wait to replay everything once it has been fully released and I’m excited to see what else the developers might add or change to this already fun game with stunning graphics.

8.5/10

Current release date: 31/10/2017