ltdk avatar

ltdk

Review writes 13
2022 Sep 22

Subnautica: Below Zero Game Review by ltdk

Below Zero is definitely a solid improvement on the foundation of the original game. it strengthens the parts of the game that were good, adds newer parts I didn't know I wanted, and overall makes for a fantastic experience. probably the weakest part of the sequel is the pacing, which isn't that important to a lot of people, but feels important to me. I might even go far enough to say that the pacing in the sequel is worse than the original, even though it feels like they tried to address some of the problems with pacing

to start out more specifically, we need to talk about Subnautica as a genre. the first game really wanted to be an underwater survival-*horror* game. not only is the ocean scary on its own, but they felt the need to add additional, even cartoonish horror elements on top of it. a lot of the vibe of the first game is about wondering whether other people survived the crash of the Aurora, given the vast swaths of evidence that a lot of people *did not* survive the crash of the Aurora. ultimately, the first game leaves a lot of dead ends beyond the implied dead-ness, with the justification for the dead ends just being "horror." while these unresolved mysteries feel very realistic in the sense that you *wouldn't* know what happened to these people, it feels just like bad narrative design

the sequel does away with a lot of the distracting horror elements in favour of just being a good underwater survival game. yes, the ocean is still dark and horrifying, but they don't need to add anything else to make it more scary. you're just on an underwater adventure, trying to figure out what happened to your sister, and occasionally getting swallowed by a very large fish* with a blood-curdling roar.

* yes, I know not every underwater creature is a fish, but it's also on an alien planet and literally doesn't matter

in terms of story, they took a step beyond making their silent white-man protagonist a black woman, and gave her a voice and personality. Robin Ayou is an excellent character with a lot of nuance, and all the other characters in the story are great too. having an Indian woman as the voice of the PDA also angers a lot of xenophobes and I'm all for it. having all of these characters with a wide variety of different emotions is great, as opposed to the first game where the characters were sparsely developed due to that whole dying thing we talked about

if you want someone to nitpick all the gameplay details, honestly, there's probably a better summary out there. the bottom line is that Subnautica strives as an adventure game, and I think that Below Zero does a great job improving on this. the world definitely *feels* smaller than the original's but I don't mind that nearly as much. and the addition of temperature and more above-ground exploration was nice. base building is better than before, a load of bugs were squashed, and overall, it just feels fun to play, with jank physics and weird behaviour not getting (nearly) in the way of the actual game. I'll talk about the two big bugs I experienced in the spoilery section after this review.

like the first game, there is a problem with pacing in the sense that a whole lot of the game relies on you stumbling into the next hint or the next area, with occasional messages leading you to a new place to go. the first game required you to go all the way back to your base to reach a radio, and the second game thankfully did away with that and just periodically gave you new waypoints to explore. however, ultimately, there are points where you have no hints and just have to keep guessing, or worse, look up what's next

in the first game, they did a rather good job of making the game tread down a gradual path to its end. ultimately, all of the different waypoints were just gentle nudges to explore the whole map and gather the resources you need before discovering the real destination. the story reaches its peak, there's a nice reminder of what you've achieved, and roll credits

in the first game, there was a clear end goal: leave 4546B. the second game starts with the nebulous goal of "find out what happened to your sister," then early on develops a more clear goal which I won't spoil. there is a definitive ending to the game, but the build-up is too weak, I feel. and, while there were a lot of good story beats all the way until the end, it felt like they were only loosely paired with what was happening in the game in the meantime. as a result, by the end, I more wanted to get on with the story and finish it up for the sake of it, rather than enjoy the game

and that's a hard problem, too-- a lot of the gameplay elements want you to get *attached* to your base and the environment, but ultimately, you have to leave. the first game had this problem too, and I don't really know what the best way to solve it is. it is a problem, though

final thoughts -- I really liked this game, and I'm cautiously optimistic about the untitled Subnautica 3. they really fixed a lot of the minute-to-minute gameplay and improved the story, but like the first game, they had problems with pacing. while I'm still not sure if the first game is necessarily worth your time to play, without a doubt, this game is, and you don't need to know the original to play it.

NON-STORY, GAMEPLAY SPOILERS BELOW:

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so, the seatruck. wow, this is a brilliant idea. the cyclops submarine from the previous game was honestly an awkward choice and really detracted from the base-building elements, since it had the potential to be a base in its own right. making the seamoth and cyclops into a modular vehicle with the clear cost-benefit of bigger != better, is fantastic. A+, I hope that they go down this path in any future games.

as far as the two major bugs I discovered, the game still has issues with slope collisions, and by the end of the game I actually just abandoned my prawn suit because it got wedged in a hole it was too big to fall down, that it also couldn't jump out of. I also managed to deploy my snowfox into a hill where I couldn't retrieve it, which was similarly upsetting. ultimately, like a lot of the underwater glitches from the first game, you can resolve them by just not saving, but I messed up and saved, and there's no way to fix it without cheating. makes me upset.

ACTUAL (EARLY-GAME) STORY SPOILERS BELOW:

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Al-An is a very interesting addition to the game, and I overall like him and the fact that they really fleshed out the Architects in this game. getting him a body is the "clear goal" I mentioned earlier, and it's actually the only goal the game requires to finish, since even though it seems improbable you won't find closure on your sister before the game ends, you technically are allowed to finish without it.

the main reason why I'm cautiously optimistic about Subnautica 3 is that this really leaves a lot of confusion about how the series will continue, if the next game will be a prequel, or what exactly it will entail. I trust that Unknown Worlds will make a good game, especially after seeing Below Zero, but I'm just unsure what kind of game they'll make

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Comments

Frosty avatar
Frosty
2022 Sep 27 11:52:47

First one is a 10/10 game second one is woke garbage

Dan Niton avatar
Dan Niton
2022 Sep 27 08:19:42

As someone who played the first Subnautica, this is just a mediocre game. Not as good as the first one. I have not finished the game as of yet but I've played long enough to write this review. [h1]Pros:[/h1] 1. You now have land area to explore. 2. You have land vehicle aka hoverbike. 3. More building stuff. 4. There are actual live characters. 5. Your character have a voice. [h1]Cons:[/h1] [h1][b]1. Also hoverbike[/b][/h1]If you deploy your bike at a wrong angle, it will clip through the ground and you will lose it permanently. A bug that was never fixed. [h1][b]2. World size[/b][/h1] World is a lot smaller than the first game. [h1][b]3. Land exploration[/b][/h1] Although there are a few land areas to explore but there is only 1 big land meaning that big land is your one and only place for your hoverbike to drive around which leads me to my next point. [h1][b]4. Land base building[/b][/h1] You can build a base on land, but its pointless because there is no need to go back there once you did an objective. [h1][b]5. Leviathan[/b][/h1] So far I only encounter 1 leviathan. Actually 2 leviathan but only 1 is hostile. [h1][b]6. Objective[/b][/h1] Objective at times is not being clear on what you should be doing or where you should be going. I had to consult google or youtube videos for this. [h1][b]7. Progression[/b][/h1] There is no sense of progression. Unlike the first game, a lot of things in this game is thrown at you right away or doesnt take much effort to find. For example, in the first game, unlocking any vehicle gives you a sense of progression because they are needed for you to explore further or to collect a higher tier resource. In this game, you can pretty much collect 70% of the resource without needing a vehicle. [h1][b]8. Base building[/b][/h1] Because the world is a lot smaller, you dont feel the need to build more than 2 or 3 bases. [h1][b][u]Conclusion[/u][/b][/h1] If you've never played a subnautica game before, this is not a bad pick. However, if you've played a subnautica game before, get ready to be disappointed. I think this game is a 5/10. If anything, this game is neither a thumbs up or a thumbs down but since there is no 3rd option I think this game is more into thumbs down.

Todd La Fondler avatar
Todd La Fondler
2022 Sep 27 07:26:02

couldve used less water. coukldnt get to land cause i kept drowning. not sure what this game is evem about

Trickz avatar
Trickz
2022 Sep 27 02:11:47

Though not as scary as the first game. Subnautica : below zero still offers a sense of thrill through out the game and also gives players room to enjoy the exploration of the game with a bit more ease. For players who found the first game too nerve racking to explore, this game is definitely better for you

merrick.nitely avatar
merrick.nitely
2022 Sep 26 23:26:29

it's a good game

Cheshir3 avatar
Cheshir3
2022 Sep 26 20:30:36

10/10 though installing map mod really helped

scatman avatar
scatman
2022 Sep 26 16:58:25

good fun

martinestg avatar
martinestg
2022 Sep 26 16:08:20

Fantastic game.

Jega avatar
Jega
2022 Sep 26 14:21:17

Love it

kromak avatar
kromak
2022 Sep 26 13:51:51

Nice sequel to the original subnautica, that kinda scratch the itch even though the original is far better than this one, even taking into account the QoL improvements. The sense of exploration of the unknown is not as good in this one as is in the other, the story also does not add a lot of value.

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