America - Front
America - Back
By Ben Dye 13th Feb 2018 | 2,546 views
Unknown Worlds' Subnautica is another attempt at exploration for the sake of exploration. While more rooted to the ocean and less ambitious in scope than Hello Game’s No Man’s Sky, it still strives to make people excited about adventuring into the ocean. An attempt at which it succeeds... for a couple hours.
The set-up is that you've crash-landed on a planet and have to survive. There are points throughout the game where you'll receive messages about people trying to rescue you and what not, but this isn't a narrative-driven title. I should say, however, that the game is constantly being updated and could have a great deal more to offer story-wise in the future, but as it stands right now there's nothing really memorable or noteworthy about it. Rather, the point of Subnautica is to explore the ocean and, hopefully, have fun while doing so. Which begs the question: is it fun?
The answer to that question depends greatly on the mode you opt to play and the type of person you are. Right off the bat, you have to select between modes ranging from easy (only really worry about predators) to hard (constantly be on thel ook-out for food and water, heal when attacked, replace your batteries, and so on).
If you enjoy survival-like games that require you manually perform even the most basic of human functions on a regular basis, then the latter mode is definitely going to be your cup of tea. If, on the other hand, you prefer to simply explore the game world without having to worry about repetitive and realistic bodily expectations, then the easier modes are more suited for you. One of the best things about Subnautica is that it offers plenty of options and doesn’t shove a particular mode down your throat.
The downside is that you'll either be faced with too simple of a game or will quickly get bogged down in repeating monotonous and dull tasks, like collecting fish for sustinence and finding resources scattered around the ocean. Another negative of the more 'hardcore mode' is that you will have to constantly deal with oxygen issues, which prevents you from journeying too far away from your main pod until much later in the game (when you can build a kind of transport ship). Subnautica rewards you with being able to build more things as you scan the world and unlock research, which provides a nice feeling of accomplishment, but it can be incredibly frustrating to locate the objects you need and doing so may require you to research online (something I had to do for one particular thing).
Visually, Subnautica combines the character and weapon models found in a game like Portal with the aesthetics of something like No Man’s Sky, but with a slightly more muted colour pallette. The darkness of night can be terrifying, especially considering you're in a potentially endless part of the ocean surrounded by all kinds of terrifying monster fish. It's actually remarkable how much your mood changes from being a timid survivor at night to acting like you’re on a sea turtle tour in Hawaii during the daytime.
Sadly, these moments aren’t complimented by extraordinary music, or even any music at all most of the time. Not all art needs music, but video games tend to, often giving you emotional guidance through their soundtracks, and on this level Subnautica simply does not deliver when it really needs to.
In general, Subnautica is enjoyable to an extent, but rapidly becomes repetitive and boring after just a few hours, and there's no real narrative to motivate you to keep pushing forwards. If you enjoy exploring for the sake of exploring then you'll likely enjoy your time with the game, but otherwise this is a title to pass on and never look back at.