Brief Thoughts on Subnautica: Below Zero

Dec 20, 2022

Another recent video game I picked up on sale was Subnautica: Below Zero, a follow-up to the 2018 original. I really enjoyed the original; in fact, I still occasionally fire it up to play. This new entry, however, was only mildly enjoyable.

Crafting was a joy in this game, as it was in the original; there are tons of things to make, and you have to explore the world (scanning stuff in the process) to learn what's useful and what's not. The world is definitely much smaller than in the original, but the biomes are a little more diverse: they look vastly different from one another. Some of the biomes were fairly inventive as well (the floating lily pad islands being one memorable one). The story was mediocre, but what really bothered me was the lack of direction in the game. Most of the time you're not sure where to go or what to do. The original did a great job of nudging you in the right direction. In it, you would pick up distress calls from certain locations, each of which was usually near some point of interest that helped you progress.

In this title, however, there's none of that. Often, you just have to stumble upon the right place to move the story along. There are many maze-like areas of the world map, some of which were frustrating to navigate. This makes finding some of those key locations very difficult. All of the above-water locations were a nice new addition, but were equally confusing to navigate. This game either needs an in-game mapping function (maybe something that you have to craft), or it needs better nudges for the player. I eventually had to break down and look online for the location of a few key places; some of them are incredibly well hidden, which is odd given that they are key to moving the story forward.

I've already uninstalled this game (I don't envision playing it again), but it was fun while it lasted. I'll definitely check out any sequels that get made, if only because the first game was so memorable and fun. My verdict: C+.

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