For as long as I can remember, water levels in video games have made me feel uncomfortable. While I’m not scared of water, I do find myself… cautious of what lurks in the deep, dark depths just outside of my character’s vision.
Given my fear of the watery unknown, it’s surprising that I’d ever willingly find myself playing a game like Subnautica, a game all about exploring and surviving in a water-covered planet with a seemingly endless depth filled with strange creatures (both big and small, hostile and friendly).
But, after playing through the game’s 3-hour trial on Xbox, I knew I’d be back for more once it had exited Game Preview. Somehow, Unknown Worlds has managed to leverage my curiosity and make me face my fears through a series of smart gameplay decisions, eye-catching biomes, and intriguing story.
Like most survival games, Subnautica has the player focus on juggling various aspects of well… survival— like monitoring their food, water and health, and building suitable shelter and tools. Subnautica excels at ensuring there is a healthy balance of survival mechanics, exploration and crafting to keep you busy while not falling into the trap of a mindless grind.
You’ll have to hunt down fragments of tools, modular building pieces, and gear upgrades to progress in the story, build your own underwater base and outfit yourself with the tools necessary to brave the deeper, more dangerous waters and find out just what you’re sharing the water with.
There are several different game modes to cater to different types of players (survival, freedom, hardcore, and creative). I opted for freedom mode which means not having to worry about monitoring my water and food intake, making it easier to get my sea legs without adding more stress to an already stressful situation.
After all, it’s a bit easier to focus on befriending the denizens of the deep if you’re not worried about dying of thirst.
There is a generous amount of discoverable items/tools, locations, creatures, and bits of lore to be found in Subnautica. It’s difficult to go into detail without spoiling anything, but I’ll say this: fortune favors the bold (and the curious). Striking out and leaving the relative safety of the shallows is a necessary step, and while scary, opens up an entirely new world.
While the overall technical experience has improved leaps and bounds from when it first landed in Xbox’s Game Preview program, I did notice some lingering performance issues while playing on both the original Xbox One and the Xbox One X.
There has already been one patch published since the game released fully that addresses some of the game’s hiccups but the framerate, as well as in-game loading times, have ample room for improvement across the board.
Even with its occasional technical shortcomings, Subnautica is a beautiful game, and while my sense of impending doom grew the deeper I explored it’s dark, watery depths, so did my sense of wonder.
Unknown Worlds has built a watery world filled with bioluminescent foliage, alien creatures and a sense of adventure that kept me swimming forward to find answers even though every fiber of my being wanted to head for the surface as quickly as my flippered feet would take me.
DISCLAIMER: This copy of Subnautica on Xbox One was provided to me by Unknown Worlds for the purpose of content creation and review. The opinions expressed in the article above have not been affected by, dictated or edited in any way by the provider.