Title: Subnautica: Below Zero
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Release Date: May 14, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
I didn’t play Subnautica for too long before getting my toes wet with the newest entry Subnautica: Below Zero. Still, the open design and survival elements made it something that lets you create fun moments unique to your playthrough, which can vary depending on how it’s implemented creating a daunting or confusing experience. However, Subnautica: Below Zero introduces a protagonist with a clear motivation and a goal to work towards. Exploration is still a significant feature, but uncovering the narrative gives more incentives to see all the gorgeous elements this game has to offer.
Subnautica Below Zero introduces Robin as she is on a quest to find her sister, who was working with Alterra. It’s learned that her sister’s entire research squad went missing in the Artics of Planet 4546B with no clues as to what happened. Robin decides to take matters into her own hands. Shortly after making a slightly botched landing onto the planet, she begins to look for answers, all while managing the limited resources to stay alive.
Subnautica: Below Zero rolls out its story through alerts on your scanner. A waypoint appears, and you can either go to it or simply gather resources to prepare for the long journey. Every bit of exploration leads to discovery, and there’s no rush to progress the narrative if you don’t want to.
In the beginning, exploration is limited, keeping you close to the surface since air is a real concern. During this time, you only have 45 seconds of air before you drown, which isn’t enough time to see everything. There are ways to refill your air, but these are few and far between. To go deeper down, you need to craft new upgrades and obtain blueprints.
A few upgrades are basic in concept, such as capturing fish or collecting raw material. As you explore, you will start picking up blueprints that act as a progression system in the game. The further you can explore, the more likely you will find blueprints that will upgrade your oxygen or suit.
This provides an incentive to exploration since most of the places you go contain some kind of reward. I was consistently trying to slowly inch my way across the map to see what I could find. Things move a bit faster when an objective pops up to continue the story and hopefully find more technology.
There are moments that you’ll need to explore land. This is when the new temperature meter comes into effect. As you travel, it will slowly deplete. The only ways to increase it would be finding shelter, getting back underwater, or finding a source of heat like a fire.
Once depleted, you’ll be given a few seconds until the screen slowly becomes more obscured, and then you die, dropping some items in your inventory. In most other survival games, this would be the worst thing that could happen; however, it feels more like a minor inconvenience here. This is because, for all the times that I have either drowned or froze to death, I never lost my tools, only the raw materials. Allowing me to decide whether or not I want to risk everything to get my stuff back.
You’ll find a blueprint for the habitat builder tool in time, which allows you to build a base. Once created, you have access to few new options. The base is fun to utilize if you have space and materials to access all it has to offer, but the need for batteries can become a hindrance.
You see, you need to keep crafting more batteries that just fill up your inventory. There are ways to craft more boxes to hold them and later a way to recharge them, but that’s after the annoyance has weighed on the experience.
Subnautica: Below Zero offers an amazing world of discoveries through a mysteriously captivating campaign to uncover. Every moment exploring is rewarded through stunning environments, and I wanted to continue my adventure if only to see a little more. There are some moments of confusion through resource management, but once you dive in, Subnautica: Below Zero won’t have you coming up for air any time soon.
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