|Subnautica: Below Zero|
|Developer||Unknown Worlds Entertainment|
|Publisher||Unknown Worlds Entertainment|
|release date||May 2021|
The original Subnautica has become one of the most famous survival games. It was a bright atmospheric adventure in the underwater world, where we learned the secrets of an alien planet. The game was interesting for its plot, development system, crafting, and how skillfully the fear of the unknown depths was escalated. After the success of the first part, the developers quickly launched the addon, which grew into a full-fledged game with the subtitle Below Zero. The project went through a long period of development in Steam Early Access. It even went so far as to completely change the plot on the eve of a full-fledged release, which caused some concern.
The original Subnautica offered another variation of Robinson Crusoe, where the main character survived on a planet covered in ocean. And this simple concept looked very convincing and logical. The story was overgrown with details related to the alien presence and the virus threat, but this was organically integrated into the overall concept of the gradual study of the world. The events of Below Zero develop later than the familiar story, when the active study of the planet 4546B is already underway. The heroine of the sequel is looking for her missing sister, who, with a group of scientists, was engaged in research on the surface. She escapes from the orbiter and, after a hard landing in the Arctic zone, begins the usual struggle for life, collecting resources and studying the remains of other bases.
In search of a sister, we come across not only audio diaries, but also full-fledged living characters. For a significant part of the plot, the heroine is chasing a militant-looking lady who portrays an evil hermit. For the first time in the series, full-fledged dialogues and cut-scenes await us. The second important character will be an alien, who for a while will become an invisible companion in our adventures, periodically reminding us of himself with various comments.
The story seems to have become richer, but in reality this has little effect on the pace of the game. And if we talk directly about the fate of the sister, then you will still learn all the important information from the audio recordings.
The first steps in Subnautica involve collecting basic inventory items. Initially, we have at our disposal one basic underwater module and a manufacturing apparatus. By collecting minerals and other components, we create the main ammunition in the apparatus — a knife, a flashlight, an oxygen cylinder, etc. This allows you to swim longer, dive deeper and penetrate new areas.
The peculiarity of Subnautica is that, despite its small size, the game world is a three-dimensional environment, going far into the depths. And the deeper, the more dangerous and difficult the process of immersion. At the same time, Below Zero retains all the conventions of the original game, where the pressure does not affect the character in any way, only the oxygen consumption. We do not need a special suit to swim at a depth of 500 meters, but without special equipment you simply will not reach such a mark.
An important constraint in Subnautica was fear. Strange sounds and someone’s roar in the depths made us tense up every time we swam to an unknown place. And every time the game skillfully justified these fears, showing amazing and creepy creatures. And an attempt to break out of the playing area ended in an attack by a huge leviathan. Combined with poor visibility, it was a real horror, and the expectation of an encounter with an unknown danger caused a constant feeling of anxiety. There are plenty of predators in Below Zero too, but it will be a long time before you meet the truly formidable monsters. And small representatives of aggressive fauna can be easily avoided. And the edges of the map are not limited by the danger of mighty predators, but by ice walls.
To survive, you need to periodically eat and drink water. All this can be obtained from the fish swimming around. Ammunition items and equipment are available after we receive the required blueprint. To do this, you must first scan the corresponding fragments or part of the desired item. The first important acquisition will be a glider for fast movement. Then we collect data to build the submarine «Sailor» and the deep-sea walking «Crab» with large manipulators that can be used to chop mineral deposits and fend off predators.
The main blueprints can be collected after a detailed study of the near zones. Making complex things will require longer underwater searches. Important elements and debris are tied to story locations. If you find the remains of a sunken spaceship, it will have a lot of plot information and you will scan the elements for a lot of blueprints. At the same time, the game tries to duplicate important items. If you missed the elements of the «Crab» in one place, they can be found and scanned in another. But this does not exclude the situation when the process stalls due to the fact that the drawing lacks one element.
In my case, it turned out even more fun. The Sailor and the Crab have already been built, Margaret’s laboratory, Phi’s laboratory and a bunch of other zones have been discovered. That is, the map has already been well studied, but the tool for creating the base has not been found. As a result, I had to climb through the passages for a hint, and it suddenly turned out that the necessary tool was lying on the central island with a lighthouse, which was avoided far and wide. But all the visits took place at night or in bad weather, so the item was missed. But then I found another such tool in the area of the floating platform, where everything seemed to be studied in even more detail.
Similar situations are possible due to the complex underwater landscape with labyrinths of caves. On the one hand, this makes studying the underwater world more interesting, but here you can naturally get lost and lose sight of something important.
Attentiveness and thoroughness when inspecting all places is an important element of passing the game. Traditionally, there are no maps. We orient ourselves, relying on memory and conspicuous objects of the landscape. This has its charm and atmosphere of the researcher, but it also creates its own difficulties. Orientation by islands and icebergs would help with surface traffic, but visibility suffers from bad weather. It often snows, snowstorms and everything is shrouded in fog. And at night it is even worse and visibility is sometimes zero. Therefore, it is better to plan outings in time, stocking up on provisions and going on an expedition so that the main searches go on during daylight hours.
More time is devoted to water adventures. We have access to many ice zones, where we constantly hide from the weather and bask in caves, near geysers or near special plants. There are predators and giants here, and in order to quickly move along the intricate icy paths, you will have to assemble a special “Polar Fox”.
Changes in maritime transport were the result of a more complex landscape and a decrease in the sea zone. Now we do not need a big «Cyclops», on which we sailed from one point of the map to another, in order to descend on the «Crab» into the dark depths. Small nimble «Sailor» is the best solution for narrow passages. You can attach additional modules to it, but then the maneuverability and meaning of this device are lost. It’s easier to build a base somewhere in the center of the sea zone and from it to make sorties to different areas.
Having a base expands our capabilities, allowing us to assemble battery chargers inside, collect upgrades on a special workbench, grow food and generate healthy coffee. The main thing is to properly build the foundation or strengthen the hull at great depths. Then you can hang additional modules with a search station that will help you look for minerals, with a docking station for sea transport, put rooms with beds. And when you start building all this, you will gradually want to acquire a viewing room with glass walls in order to admire the beauties of the sea world or watch the sunrises from the top of an elevated mountain.
Resource management and searching for components is the main activity in the game. Carried away, we sometimes forget about the main story, which is the impetus for development as a result of random finds. The storytelling also contributes to this. Everything that is connected with the main line, you need to look for yourself using hints and conditional landmarks. The question often arises: “what next?”. Something similar was in the original game, but in Below Zero there are even fewer landmarks, more difficult terrain and weather severely limits visibility. As a result, the phrase «Look for me a kilometer to the east!» may end with a long search in the maze of icebergs.
The plot is clearly stretched due to side actions. And when trying to put more emphasis on the narrative, the story is sometimes perceived chaotically and superficially. Replacing the script and reworking the plot at the last moment did not do any good.
Technically, the game is made on the Unity engine and does not offer any obvious differences from the first part. There are new effects related to the weather. Probably, they tweaked the LOD a little — drawing large objects is faster. Bribes game visual style and variety of natural areas.
The game world is divided into several biomes with unique vegetation and living creatures. In shallow water there are more corals, algae and small fish. Around the geysers is a completely different environment and inhabitants. Huge lilies live in a separate zone, their roots go far to the bottom. Somewhere majestic analogues of whales are splashing, somewhere terrible krakens and jellyfish live, and completely unearthly species await us at the deep bottom.
The biomes of Below Zero look familiar, but they have their own unique features and new creatures. Ground ice zones are perceived unusually. And although some may not like the departure from the marine theme, it brings new sensations and variety to the game.
If the formidable leviathans can be considered the main symbol of the original game, then Below Zero is strongly associated with cute piguinowings.
The system requirements for the game are quite modest. We carried out a detailed analysis of performance in a separate article. Older GeForce GTX 1060 and Radeon RX 580 graphics cards can handle Full HD. For 4K, you need top models of the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and Radeon RX 6800 level.
Subnautica: Below Zero looks like a logical continuation without any major changes. The game is built according to a well-thought-out scheme with a gradual study of the world, where progress is tied to the search for resources and the creation of new equipment. All this worked well before and works well now. However, the main plot is often lost behind resource management and the endless hunt for ingredients. The key difference between Below Zero is new biomes and icy surface locations. In this regard, the game can surprise and evoke the old feeling of a keen explorer of an alien planet. But expect something fundamentally new is not worth it. If you’re a beginner, then the original Subnautica will deliver more emotions — it wins with a creepy atmosphere, and the story seems to be more harmonious and logical.