Friday, June 12, 2015

PC Review #116: Subnautica

Title: Subnautica
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Platforms: PC
Price: $19.99
I doubt anyone would disagree if you said the open world-crafting-survival genre has become over-saturated in recent years. From zombie-infested cities and frozen woodlands to apocalyptic wastelands and everything in between, we've built shelters, faced dangerous nights, and crafted gear across a plethora of locales and scenarios. Subnautica adds a new depth to the genre, quite literally, as you explore and survive in the sprawling depths of an alien ocean.
Subnautica's settings is easily its strongest element. There's a sense of wonder and mystery and beauty here that forest, cities, and other terrestrial places can't capture. Awakening in an escape pod after your larger spaceship crashes, you climb out and are welcomed with only an expanse of blue in all directions. The only way to survive is to plunge downwards into the aquatic landscape, catching sealife for food and gathering debris and materials to craft new gear and upgrades. What a world awaits you: kelp forests swaying in the current, bio-luminescent growths along the walls of dark deep caves, swarms of weird fish twisting through the water, coral tunnels and reefs, and more. But this beautiful environment is npt void of danger.
Bone sharks swim among the kelp, the aggressive leviathan waits near the smoking crash site, and other aggressive lifeforms thrive throughout Subnautica's biomes. Luckily, with the right materials, you'll be well equipped to descend deeper and brave unexplored areas. Air tanks allow to stay underwater for longer, fins let you swim faster, knives and high-tech equipment like the stasis gun provide more effective means of defense. Lights, beacons, dive reels, air pipelines; the array of equipment to be constructed is varied and grows with each update.

It's an engaging cycle; new equipment allows you to explore more of the world (a reward by itself), thus acquiring new and better material and having access to better gear to explore deeper. In my opinion, the fact that every piece of equipment has a direct tangible effect, from faster movement or more air, makes crafting and collecting material more tolerable than in similar games. Once you're constructing bases on the sea floor or building submersibles, Subnautica really opens up, as you establish footholds in deeper terrain.
Subnautica is currently on Steam Early Access; the most recent update added a gravity gun-esque Propulsion Cannon and a Workbench to lets you modify your gear in new ways, among other content. You can follow its progress here and on the developer's Trello board.

*Subnautica is currently $17.99/10% off until June 22nd for the Steam Summer Sale.

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