Subnautica: Beneath Zero is Unknown Worlds Leisure’s forthcoming underwater, sci-fi, survival recreation, which began life as an enlargement to the unique Subnautica earlier than regularly evolving right into a stand-alone sequel. Unbiased developer and writer Unknown Worlds is an enormous believer in open improvement, and Beneath Zero has spent most of its existence in Steam’s early entry, the place the sport is presently obtainable for buy. The unique Subnautica made a splash amongst critics and players for its distinctive setting, deep crafting tree, non-violent method to survival, and intelligent use of non-linear, distributed storytelling.
Whereas all of those areas have been modified or expanded, the narrative is the realm the place Beneath Zero makes the best strides over the unique Subnautica, that includes a fully-voiced solid and a welcome break from the silent protagonist trope. Gamers step into the swim fins of Robin Ayou, intrepid xenobiologist and worker of Xenoworx, a analysis initiative that was lately devoured by the avaricious and insidious Alterra megacorporation. The sport kicks off with Robin sneaking onto planet 4546B to research the suspicious loss of life of her older sister, Sam Ayou, a fellow xenobiologist working for Alterra.
The sport’s opening is similar to the unique Subnautica, with Robin crash touchdown on 4546B, although the primary issues gamers will discover is that they arrive to a halt on strong floor slightly than the open ocean. Overland journey is a a lot bigger a part of the sequel, with harsh, arctic climate and plummeting physique temperature serving as price limiters on exploration, much like how oxygen gates early exploration within the sea. This warmth conceit permits a bunch of recent expertise designed to assist Robin keep heat in freezing temperatures, starting from chilly fits to warmth recharging espresso thermoses. However those that are involved about Beneath Zero forgetting its seafaring roots needn’t fear, as Robin should hit the water on quick order to achieve her life pod and beginning fabricator.
The voice appearing in Beneath Zero is expressive and sharp, and Robin is a decided, well-written character who will possible win over players along with her relatable wit and type nature. The presence of voice might be thought of a double-edged sword, as having a personality touch upon her atmosphere as she explores 4546B’s seas alleviates the oppressive sense of isolation that was current within the unique recreation. The good thing about this commerce is that mundane useful resource searching runs—a frequent exercise in Subnautica—are extra memorable and pleasant.
On the entire, Beneath Zero‘s narrative feels extra humorous and warmhearted than Subnautica, barely dulling the participant’s sense of desperation, horror, and dread. Even the Alterra PDA’s voice delivers extra quips than within the unique. This appears like the best route of evolution for the sequence, which has all the time prioritized natural discovery and scientific analysis over the inflexible, linear storytelling and visceral fight of devoted survival horror titles. That stated, Beneath Zero has its heart-pounding moments.
Leviathans, crashfish, and different enemies can deplete your well being bar in a flash, as can an sudden blizzard, or an erratic thermal vent. The scripted narrative occasions appear to be extra frequent, and extra concerned, than the unique Subnautica. Whereas Beneath Zero does a greater job of sign-posting outstanding narrative threads to new gamers, Robin should completely discover her atmosphere to find each thread of inquiry. Gamers may encounter one of many recreation’s most spectacular and vital narrative twists—which includes a sapient alien intelligence—inside the first hour of play or 5 hours in, relying on their crafting priorities and thoroughness of exploration.
There isn’t any denying Beneath Zero feels extra like an enlargement than a real sequel, although it could compete with a few of the most effective DLC 2020 needed to supply. Graphic enhancements abound and the narrative is definitely extra bold, however there are only a few options that essentially change the core gameplay.
The addition of warmth administration mechanics handle to make overland journey fascinating and difficult, whereas dryland excursions had been extra like breaks in the unique recreation, however a warmth gauge is essentially much like an oxygen gauge, and does little to combine up the sport’s system. It ought to even be famous that rocky terrain could be perilous—particularly when mixed with leaping—not solely on account of fall harm, however some lingering collision detection bugs that may simply get Robin caught. That stated, Beneath Zero may be very steady after its 2 years in early entry, particularly in comparison with newer early entry releases, and a a lot smoother experience than the unique recreation as a complete.
Whereas the new items of tech are cool, and a few acquainted items of expertise have obtained additional performance, the beginning craft timber are almost an identical to these within the first recreation. It might be nice to see extra instruments that introduce distinctive mechanics and impact change on the atmosphere in new methods. Subnautica proved that survival video games don’t require fight to be compelling, however the creators can do extra with their non-violent premise to present the sport selection, both by way of puzzles, minigames, or new core mechanics.
There are some standout enhancements that bear remark. The Spy-Pengling is an lovable robotic that serves because the dry-land equal of the digital camera drone, permitting gamers to discover tight crevices that might be in any other case inaccessible. The brand new, modular sea truck car can also be a novel thematically wealthy concept, permitting gamers to snap collectively a submarine one compartment at a time, including performance in trade for maneuverability. Base constructing has additionally obtained a significant shot within the arm, that includes a better number of beauty objects, and a jukebox with a number of formally produced and community-sourced tracks to enliven the place.
Whereas there are many new fish and different fauna in Beneath Zero, a lot of the fish gamers encounter early on are an identical to these encountered within the first recreation, elevating some fascinating narrative questions, but in addition making the universe really feel less complicated and smaller. This can be a disgrace, as most of the new environments, together with some reduce from the primary title, are extraordinarily artistic and cleverly designed. Ascending by way of deep trenches, desperately looking for oxygen flowers to outlive your race to the floor is an exciting expertise, whereas driving on the again of a glow whale is magically serene. Given the stand-alone nature of the story, Beneath Zero feels just like the definitive model of a recreation, and Change gamers could wish to skip over the unique Subnautica.
Extra of the identical is not horrible both, given all of the novel issues the unique did proper. At its easiest, the Subnautica sequence appears like underwater Minecraft, which shouldn’t be mistaken for faint reward. The unique is without doubt one of the finest underwater experiences obtainable in video video games, particularly when crafting is added into the combination. However at its zenith, Subnautica is a lot extra. It appears like starring within the lead position of a sensible, sci-fi-fueled drama, like Andy Weir’s The Martian, and due to Beneath Zero‘s elevated emphasis on storytelling, these moments arrive extra typically.
Subnautica: Beneath Zero is accessible now on Steam early entry with a closing, full launch deliberate later this spring for Mac, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Change, Xbox One, Xbox Collection X and S.