Subnautica: Open World Survival Done Right

Discussion in 'Games' started by Xylia, Mar 10, 2019.

  1. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard

    So... I finally got around to Subnautica. A bit late to the punch, but hey. I wasn't sure about the game, I kept waffling back and forth over whether or not to get it, I've heard friends say it had horror elements to it (they were vastly exaggerating how scary the reaver reapers are) so I was kinda hesitant... but I saw someone stream it and I'm like "Dude this looks awesome..."

    So I gave it a whirl and... wow, it *is* awesome. 12 hours in and I find myself planning when my next dive into it (lol) will be.

    I think Starbound (and maybe even FU!) can learn a lot from Subnautica, and I'm going to talk about why I think out of all the open world games, including those with survival elements, Subnautica knocks it out of the park in every way.

    SURVIVAL First up, we have the Survival elements. The game is all about survival, so how does Survival in Subnautica work? It works pretty darn well, that's how. You have your basic needs -- Food, Water, and Air and these are all managed very sensibly -- you are given 45 seconds of air to start with, and you can make yourself an oxygen tank to bump it up to 90, and then you can bump it up to 135 with an improved Oxygen tank, and I've since unlocked a blueprint for an even bigger o2 tank. Food and Water are very reasonable, they decay, but at reasonable rates. There are also coral formations that release bubbles of air that you can use to replenish your air while underwater, and once you can build a submersible, you can hop in anytime to replenish your o2 as long as it has power.

    Food also spoils (except for the processed food bars but those are rare and difficult to come by, except for the 2 you start with), though you can add salt to food to make jerky which keeps far longer (but will dehydrate you when you eat it, so bring extra water). Food and Water can be gotten by a variety of means, either by catching fish or finding edible plants, or growing your own once you start building your own habitat.

    You also have environmental hazards: There's Depth, at 100m your oxygen efficiency decreases (you use 4 units of oxygen instead of 3 every 3 seconds) and I assume this gets worse the deeper you go, though I've never tried going down that far without the piece of equipment you need to avoid this: The Rebreather.

    There's Radiation (from the Aurora, the science vessel you crash-landed with), which you can avoid by building a radiation suit and later on, you can repair the leaking drive core once you get all the tools necessary to reach and repair it to stop the radiation altogether.

    There's heat; getting too close to volcanic fissures without the proper protection is dangerous, and some parts of the Aurora are on fire and will need a fire extinguisher to put out the flames.

    Some enemies emit poisonous gas, and some plants are poisonous to touch.

    All of these environmental hazards make sense, and they make for great metroidvania elements to build the tools to overcome these, and they never feel too annoying, and they make the world feel immersive.

    Beyond your basic needs, you also need power for your vehicles, your base, and a lot of the powered tools that you carry with you. These run on batteries which are fairly easy to make, and these batteries are later rechargeable at battery recharging stations, and you can swap batteries in and out of your items (even the vehicles!) at any time. The power system feels very well constructed, game mechanics-wise -- you don't run out of power every few minutes like in No Man's Sky (that turned me against the game less than an hour in, constantly refilling everything with ridiculous amounts of elements), but yet there's enough power drain that it makes you plan ahead, and want to seek better solutions or a system that you can manage it better as the game goes on.

    THE WORLD The world of Subnautica is not procedurally-generated unlike many Open World Survival games, though there is a fair bit of randomness in where rock formations (this is how you get most of your minerals to build stuff with) spawn, and what you actually get out of a rock formation when you break it (each has a specific list of things you can get when breaking them), and also where fragments are (fragments of tech that you scan to get blueprints to build that tech for yourself). It's a hand-crafted world which means it was carefully designed to make it feel organic and well-thought out instead of just randomly mashed together by some computer algorithm which is a refreshing change. Also, it allows for familiarity, and if you get stuck/lost, wiki. Though I would discourage one from reaching to the wiki straight away, because exploration is a huge part of the game. One of the very few criticisms I have about Subnautica is the lack of an in-game map. All of this space-age tech and I can't draw a map of the place?

    CONTROLS In No Man's Sky, I found spaceship flight to be....awkward and unwieldly. I don't know why. It just didn't feel very good. On the other hand, in Subnautica, movement especially underwater, is sublime. I don't know why, but they just knocked it out of the park here. You have such freedom of movement, WASD+Mouse gives you full 360 control over your character, and all of your vehicles and methods of transportation. Everything is just a pleasure to do in Subnautica and its butter-smooth controls are at the heart of why. Movement speed with the various modes of transportation feel right; you start off somewhat slow at first, but once you make a pair of flippers, you find that you're swimming like an Olympic pro. The one and only thing I'd complain about here, is how easy it is to accidentally eat something you meant to put into a container, or how easy it is to drop something instead of putting it on. I lost a Re-Breather to dropping it once, and I could not find it again no matter where I looked. I think a yes/no prompt on dropping things (other than materials/consumables) out of your inventory would have been nice.

    STORY Probably the game's weakest point (I'm not saying it's bad though!). It has a story, don't get me wrong, but you're basically jettisoned out of a burning spacecraft in a lifepod, you land in the water and... you gotta survive. You uncover more of the story later, in small chunks through PDAs that you find laying around, and through discovering certain things on the planet, that tells you this planet isn't what it appears to be on the surface. I haven't gotten that far into the game quite yet, though, and I already find myself wanting to see more of it. It's a bit sparse, but yet I think they did things right here. You get that sandbox survival game, and you get a bit of a sprinkling of sweet story ontop of it, but the story doesn't get in the way of the gameplay whatsoever. The one and only time that I felt that the story was in the way, was when I was waiting on a timer for a certain thing to happen, they give you a 45min timer to be at a specific location for something to happen and I found myself getting bored waiting, because I didn't wanna miss it. Also, at the beginning of the game, radio messages can get mildly annoying, but they are usually for something good, so that kinda offsets the annoyance factor a little.

    GRAPHICS/SOUND Hoo boy, did they ever knock it out of the park! This game is absolutely gorgeous. It's easily triple-A quality. You have all of the amazing lighting effects you'd expect in a triple-A, and fine details such as water running down your goggles when you get out of the water. The sounds are also awesome, so is the music that plays now and then. Nighttime looks absolutely gorgeous, as do many underwater caves full of bio-luminescent life glowing all kinds of colors.

    CRAFTING/BASE BUILDING The game is very generous about crafting materials, I never felt that they were asking too much from me, and anytime a material seemed too hard to get, I was either not understanding where I should get this material from, or I was attempting to build something earlier than I was intended and I was missing something else that would help me get that material far easier. Building a base in this game is a pure pleasure. Unlike No Man's Sky, you don't build walls, floors, ceilings and such. You build your base in modules. This is a bit more limiting, but yet I like the ease and the pieces you can build all look nice and sleek, like a futuristic sciency-lab should. Getting the pieces to connect is easy, and should you make a mistake, or misunderstand how things fit together, you can deconstruct anything you've built for a full refund of the materials spent which is very nice too. My only gripe is that they didn't give you the Multi-purpose Room (which is absolutely required to get a functional base running) from the get-go, that you have to find one somewhere which is not exactly easy earlier in the game. I also liked the fact that you don't have to manually wire up each of your base's devices, that they automatically draw from the base's power source.

    OVERALL: I just can't say enough good things about Subnautica. It's a Triple A game for Indie Prices. It's only $25 and it is easily worth more than what many $60 Triple-As offer you nowadays. The game has been nothing but a pleasure to play and I greatly look forward to continuing it!
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2019
  2. Jonesy

    Jonesy Sarif's Attack Kangaroo Forum Moderator

    Funny, I only just installed Subnautica last week. Didn't expect much of it since I don't really play survival-based games, so I was mostly interested in the base-building. After some tinkering with the creative mode, I tried my hand at freedom mode (i.e. regular gameplay but no hunger or thirst) and promptly fell in love. I've made a pretty impressive base in the shallows, along with a couple of smaller outposts. But I'm enjoying scavenging for materials more than I expected for the most part. It'd be nice if I wasn't constantly hurting for quartz, though. Seems there's always that one slightly uncommon material I'm constantly short on in games like this.
  3. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard

    Quartz is absolutely everywhere, but you wouldn't know that at first glance as it tends to hide in the grass.

    Build a Scanner Room, and the Scanner HUD from the Fabricator in the Scanner Room (I also recommend 2 range and 2 speed upgrades too). Then tell the Scanner to scan for Quartz and look around. You'll see a million quartz pop up after a 10-15 seconds or so.
  4. Jonesy

    Jonesy Sarif's Attack Kangaroo Forum Moderator

    I've already got a scanner room, but I've been trying to find some magnetite so I can get the HUD chip. Should make finding materials a little easier.
  5. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard


    Easiest place to get Magnetite that I've found is in the Jellyshroom Caves.... with all the big blue mushrooms right underneath the red grass area. It can be a pain in the butt to find the entrance to the thing, but once you do, there's a *lot* of goodies down there, though you need at least the first Seamoth Depth upgrade.

    That would be my #1 priority of what to do with Magnetite, IMO. I'm glad I went for that first lol. I found like 5-6 pieces in there in a quick go-through of the caves though gotta be careful there's some aggressive worms in there.
  6. Jonesy

    Jonesy Sarif's Attack Kangaroo Forum Moderator

    I only just discovered the cave yesterday. Kinda surprised I overlooked it until now, but I'm glad the game is full of surprises. I've just done a quick expedition down there and grabbed enough magnetite not only for the HUD upgrade, but also to upgrade the scanner's range and my Seamoth's crush depth. I've actually got it up to the third depth upgrade now, but I doubt I'll be going down 900 meters anytime soon.

    My main goal at the moment is to focus on finding some more wrecks. I've got half-complete blueprints for the alien containment unit and power cell chargers, and I'd really like to build both of them. Good thing I have my new HUD-connected scanner to help me with that.
  7. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard

    Dude, you already have 900m depth? I'm stuck on trying to find the Vehicle Upgrade Module, lol. But yeah I plan on turning my scanner on Fragments and just go to town picking everything I can up. It's nice that fragments of things you have completed give 2 Titanium which is nice.

    But yes, I saw that cave very early on, and I'm like "I am SO not swimming down here, my luck I'll get lost and drown".

    Then when I made the Seamoth, I'm like "Sweet! I can explore that purple glowy cave.... uh where was that again?" I spent a whole Power Cell worth of driving around trying to find the stupid cave, and then I was like "I gotta build a moon pool just so I don't have to keep making power cells..." and eventually found the blueprints, made that... and in so doing, found the entrance, dropped a beacon there so I'll never lose it again and.....


    That's how you know a game is good. 3-4 hours later you're like "wow, it's time to go to bed already?"
  8. Jonesy

    Jonesy Sarif's Attack Kangaroo Forum Moderator

    Welp. I finished the game last night. And it kinda hit me like a truck.

    After dozens of hours without intelligent contact, meeting another sentient being was pretty significant. Once I tracked down the Sea Emperor and hatched her eggs, I felt pretty invested. Watching the youngsters play with their mother, after seeing and hearing what the precursors did to them, was heartwarming. But seeing her start dying afterwards was pretty upsetting.

    Considering the work I'd put into my base - and the implication that life under the trans-govs is a corporate dystopia - I was starting to roleplay my character as someone embracing being stranded on the planet and being okay with remaining there. I guess some of what the leviathan said changed his mind and he decided to go out and explore the universe (even though the post-credit audio implies otherwise). But I like to think that's something of an alternate timeline. I'll probably return to that character later to explore some more, and follow through on some leads I didn't fully investigate.
    Xylia likes this.
  9. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard

    Yeah, for an open-world survival game, that game had an actual story to it, and the way said story was delivered was just spot-on.

    Oh, and I did a thing on my Youtube channel:

    On my first attempt, I got my Cyclops down to the deepest depths, and back out without taking any permanent hull damage.

    Maybe I should have become a submarine pilot or something.
    Jonesy likes this.
  10. Jonesy

    Jonesy Sarif's Attack Kangaroo Forum Moderator

    I must admit, I had a pretty bad time with the Cyclops before I discovered the cameras. After that it completely re-invented the game. I spent several hours building a base by that big tree in the caverns just so I had somewhere I could recharge my powercells. Of course, I soon got the thermal energy upgrade afterwards, rendering the whole base largely redundant.

    I also kept playing the Evangelion theme in my head whenever I dropped out of the Cyclops in my Prawn Suit. Even though I'd kitted it out for mining more than combat, but still.
  11. MrsGuu

    MrsGuu Subatomic Cosmonaut

    I have started this game since a week and its so beautiful...really nice game! :nuruhappy:
    Xylia likes this.
  12. indiecitizen

    indiecitizen Space Hobo

    yeah, really cool, i am addict
  13. MrsGuu

    MrsGuu Subatomic Cosmonaut

    I played through subnautica yesterday.
    For myself it's a very sad story.

    I thought I will still swim and searching for the timecapsules, but then I was glad for the fast rocket building and ending the story, I was too upsetting.

    Subnautica is a game with a very good story. It's a long time ago, which I had a so good gamestory like that.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019

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