A stellar effort from Unknown Worlds Entertainment and a truly magical experience. Subnautica is not without its faults and flaws, but these can be overlooked when compared to everything this game does right. A survival experience that feels enjoyable with a story that’s well paced and intriguing, all set in an incredible hand-crafted world.
Subnautica has had a long journey through Early Access and has grown immensely as a game during that time. The final product is a wonderful open world, survival-crafting experience, but the story and the absolutely stunning world that has been created are what really sets it apart from other games of its genre. Glorious amounts of detail are present, providing the player with a world that is teeming with life, colour and danger. The further you delve, the more of this mysterious world is uncovered and the more fantastic this place seems. Amazing creatures, phenomenal formations and fascinating discoveries await. This is a game that is worth its asking price and more, with an average playthrough standing at around 40 hours with plenty of re-playability for those that might wish to try a hardcore survival mode or just relax in creative mode.
You are crashed on an alien planet far from home. You have no idea if anyone else has survived the crash, but you have a lifepod containing tools that will allow you to begin your quest for survival. As you build and explore new blueprints and materials become available until you have a wealth of potential at your fingertips. New vehicles and upgrades allow you to explore further and dive deeper, discovering more and more as you go. Alongside general crafting, there is also an extensive base building system.At times the resource acquisition can feel somewhat frustrating, but for the most part, it is fairly well balanced. The progression generally allows for the continued creation of lesser items to feel manageable and for the building of more advanced items to feel within reach. There are times where the distances between points within the game can cause anger if you happen to have forgotten to bring along something you needed, or you didn’t realise you’d need to bring a specific item along. This is likely the only real downside encountered in the gameplay and generally only results in a time delay. The crafting system works very well and the combat is essentially non-existent, encouraging you to instead avoid aggression and find more creative ways to navigate problems. There’s plenty to learn but it’s not difficult to pick up and figure out. There are bugs present, but game breaking disruptions to your playthroughs are unlikely and are often more amusing than actually problematic.
For the most part, Subnautica is a beautiful game. There are some unfortunate graphical pop in issues which make the experience feel more juttery than it should, but this can be mostly forgiven with everything else the game provides on the visual front. The game assets are wonderful creations and fully immerse you in a breathtaking alien world, with creature design that achieves the fine balance between fascinating, scary and believable. The fabulous use of colourfully enhances this strange place you find yourself in. Pinks, blues and greens are used in abundance to create contrasts between the safe shallows and the ethereal depths. A gorgeous visual experience that will remain firmly embedded in your memory.
The music and sound design are excellent. From the main menu track to the sonorous humming of the Reefbacks, right down to the object interaction sounds, the audio in this game is superb and fully enriches the beautiful ecosystem that the visuals present you with. The sense of mystery, danger and suspense are all heightened by the plethora of intriguing noises you are exposed to.
Unknown Worlds have made a wonderful game. There are very few substantial faults with Subnautica and although in places it seems rough around the edges the depth and complexity of the game world teamed with well-constructed gameplay mechanics and a story that provides plot twists, heart-wrenching moments and the desire to keep finding out more, leaves you feeling completely fulfilled. A true gem.