A while back, I reviewed an Early Access game that was getting a lot of attention. It was finally released a week and a half ago, and while I have yet to complete the story, I can review it fully as someone who played almost the whole game already(you could nearly beat the game). So let's talk about the full release of Subnautica.

Subnautica


     The story of Subnautica starts out remarkably simple. You crash land on an uncharted ocean planet, and while you try to survive and gather the resources you need to escape, you uncover the fate of the others. There are some that died upon impact, others were consumed by the creatures living in the water, and some simply drowned. There's a reason you don't see any of them, either. You were knocked out in the beginning, so lord only knows when all of this happened.

     What is unexpected, though, is how deep this goes(pun not entirely intended). You uncover lore about the planet, what's been there before you, and how exactly you ended up there. And eventually, how you have to leave. The entire story is told in a mix of environmental and spoken story telling, along with written lore for those even more interested in what's happening.

And eventually, you travel to some dark places.

     As you can probably guess, I love this type of story telling and to me it works. You know nothing about this planet, so scanning things is something your character would absolutely do. He has to know it as much as you do, and it seems fitting that you're as clueless as he is.

     I'm sure a lot of you are saying, "But underwater levels are AWFUL. How can a whole game underwater work?" Pretty well, actually. While exploring caves can be a little disorienting, it actually makes sense. The game even makes reference to the fact that you should probably be careful, and even gives you essentially a string to find your way around caves. All you really have to do is point the camera and hit forward. Going up is just holding down the jump button. And the vehicles don't control like garbage, either, so that's an even better bonus.

     Remember, you have to keep an eye on oxygen(even the version where food and water aren't important), and it's actually pretty easy to not do that. The game gives reminders, but that's about it and they can be ignored. Again, it works. You expand your tanks and get to explore more, and the more you get to explore, the better the stuff you get. Improving is actually really rewarding, and massive props for making me actually have to invest in stuff to make my life easier.

So I can eat more of these little guys.

     All of this is put into one of the most difficult survival games I've ever played. There aren't really weapons in the game aside from a knife that by the standard of most of the predators wouldn't be more annoying than a bird pecking it. As such, all you can do to survive is swim away or juke around them, and most of the enemies do a staggering amount of damage. Some of the first ones you meet take off a third of your health in one shot, but this is balanced by having a health kit dispenser that spits one out about every ten minutes. So, basically, if exploring, be prepared.

     One thing I can say about this game is even though I know so much about it and have put 66 hours into it, it still terrifies me. It's really, really good at playing with instinctual fears: the unknown, darkness, heights, being eaten, and being completely alone. The game, while graphically beautiful, never loses a haunting atmosphere with the pressure of surviving and avoiding predators while carefully putting you in risky situations to move the plot forward.

     The final section of the game is particularly good at this. There are enemies basically everywhere, and you have to be careful and quick to avoid them. You have to go here, and no matter how many times I do, I'm truly terrified of screwing up. There are so many things that go wrong and you have to be very vigilant. You use all you've learned to beat the game, and you are rewarded for it with fast travel(extremely useful) to fully complete it.

     Visually speaking, even though my computer isn't happy with it, the game is very pretty. Each environment is carefully created and adds lore. They are also very unique and are essentially rewards for progress. Exploring is a big part of Subnautica so finding new places, while dangerous, gives its own rewards whether that's upgrades or the materials to make those upgrades.

    My favorite part of this game, though, is the sound. Not the soundtrack, though it beautiful and fitting for a sci-fi ocean adventure. I mean the sounds in the environment. Everything has a unique, particular sound and all of them are very fitting. The muffled rushing of water as you swim, the roar of a leviathan, or the inorganic sounds of Warpers. And of course, my favorite sound: the crabsquids. Just, please, listen to this. If this isn't the most alien sounding creature to you, please send me more sound files. I hate them for what they do, but I will literally sit in their house just to listen to them.

They EMP everything. Then eat you.

     Quick side note: for an a small, independent project, there's some good voice acting here. Not perfect, since sometimes the delivery seems a little rushed, but it's actually very solid. Two thumbs up!

     The game is definitely not perfect, however. It has some serious loading issues. Environments and creatures just tend to pop in, even when you're already there. This can be a serious problem, and people who read my blogs a lot my remember I complained about this two years ago. It's certainly better, but could be a bit smoother.

    While the AI has been improved, some enemies glitch through walls or end up in areas they're not supposed to be(see: Reapers following players all the way back to the shallows). Again, I talked about this two years ago, and they adjust a bit better, but it's certainly isn't perfect. Also, the AI has a weird tendency to be a little too aggressive. I've had stalkers follow me onto islands and finally die of suffocation.

     These problems can be a little annoying, but this game is still a wonderful experience, and a message of how early access should be done. There are a lot of things that happened because the developers listened to player complaints(remember, things I and others sent them were improved, even if still somewhat a problem). There's a great combination here, and I believe Subnautica has lived to its potential. The world building, atmosphere, and gameplay are extremely solid and worth the random bugs you encounter.