Subnautica PS4 review08/01/2019
Developed by Unknown Worlds Entertainment, Subnautica is a free roaming RPG which lets you explore an alien planet known as 4546B. Exciting times ahead. Kind of.
The game begins and from your first-person view, you’re strapping your seatbelt on, alarms are glowing red, rumbles are heard outside the room and you watch your spaceship explode through a window of the escape pod you’re in. That could’ve been a short game if you hadn’t have got out in time… oops! Now a fire has started in the escape pod as you crash land onto an alien planet. From this point you’re in control – time to put out the fire and begin your adventure – just don’t expect any of this to be explained.
I sat watching the opening scene with intrigue and excitement building inside me, then sat there longer waiting for something else to happen (preferably a tutorial or at least a controller settings screen) before realising that if I don’t fumble my way around and find a fire hydrant then learn the buttons myself I’d have been barbequed snack for some hungry beastie of this new world.
Once you’ve become fire marshal of this new world, your arm beeps and a little screen appears – some strange voice comes out to tell you that you’ve crash-landed on an alien planet (no sh!t Sherlock) … and that’s about it. You’re on your own from here.
I climbed the ladder out of the escape pod, scared off some flying creature, saw the spaceship had also crashed onto the same planet and realised this was a very wet planet. Nothing but water as far as the eye could see (except the huge burning spaceship, obviously) – quite beautiful and exciting. So, now what? Who knows. When it says free roaming – it literally means free roaming. Is there a point to this game? A mission to complete? I know I crashed there by mistake, but surely the creators decided to give it a storyline other than “you’ve crashed – oops!”?
Maybe that’s it? Maybe I must try to find other survivors and make our way off the planet? Quick! Dive into these strange and possibly dangerous waters (his arm TV told him the water was safe to swim in… I think?) and swim for the ship!
Take a deep breath and you can dive beneath the surface to where this world really comes to life. The visuals on this game are stunning – not only are the rocks/plants interestingly beautiful. The creatures (which loosely resemble our own planets sea life) swim about you in a mesmerising waltz. Small, odd shaped “fish” scurry between rocks, glowing in the sun’s rays – go deeper and manta-like neon ghosts glide through the water whilst electric eels literally zap past. This world is filled with incredible wildlife and it’s there for you to find… if you can hold your breath that long. Yeah – you only have a certain amount of time underwater before the alarms beep and your oxygen meter begins to countdown to death. Not exactly much time to go exploring the depths of this ocean.
Still, it was a nice swim towards the ship (took a while but I stopped to see the sights along the way) and as I got closer, my heart prepared for the next part of the story where I, the hero, arrived back to the ship and volunteered to find the parts we needed to repair the ship and head home into the sunset . Nope, radiation poisoning was all that met me as I approached, and I didn’t notice until it was too late. Dead. Well, that was fun…
Back on the title screen, I noticed there were different levels of difficulty which give you the option of playing without the inconvenient worries in life such as oxygen, hunger and even death. Who needs those when you’re trying to play a game? Since I wanted to try to play the game for a little longer for this review and had already seen how annoying oxygen levels were, I selected the easiest option – I became invincible!
Seat belt on, spaceship boom, fire extinguished – here we go again. Still, I had no idea what I was supposed to do, so I just went exploring. Without the worry of breathing, I got to new depths and found new creatures, volcanic fissures ready to burst – and darkness. I couldn’t tell if I was playing Subnautica or a new underwater version of Resident Evil … It was terrifying, swimming around with only enough light to reach a few feet around you. Luckily, I didn’t doggy paddle into any of the fanged monsters I’d seen in the trailer but still managed to jump a couple of times as I saw something swim by – at one point I almost leapt out of my seat as a bubble went across the screen. Even if this game doesn’t have a storyline, it has the fear! After that, I thought I’d stick to brighter territories and see what else the game could do.
An hour later, I’d built an underwater sea-base worthy of the Avengers – if the Avengers wanted to study alien tuna. Still, I was proud – collecting items from the seabed meant I could use a new tool to create a room which then connected to tunnels, to other rooms which held a bedroom, a scanner so items were easier to find and my favourite room – the aquarium. The aquarium meant you could go out and capture smaller fish or discover “creature eggs”, bring them back and display/incubate them in the aquarium and then use them to study the planet’s lifeforms. It may not have the complexity of raising a Tamagotchi but it finally felt like the game had a purpose. Build a base to study life here.