Fear of the ocean is hardly an uncommon affliction. The disconcerting tension as you bob, completely vulnerable on the sea’s surface. Calming ripples of salty water lapping against your arms as you battle to remain afloat, all the while blissfully unaware of the strange horrors that lurk in the murky depths beneath your flailing feet. After substantial time in early access/game preview stages across Steam and Xbox One, Unknown Worlds Entertainment brings to life this writhing fear once more as Subnautica finally wades its way over to PlayStation 4.
Subnautica’s survival adventure antics take place on an alien planet made up entirely of ocean after your spaceship The Aurora crash lands there. As the lone survivor, you must channel the Bear Grylls within you and endure the myriad of dangers that prowl beneath the waves. Although you have the liberty to explore at your leisure, a story is present that’ll see you return to the Aurora’s flaming wreck and uncover the many secrets of the bizarre alien underwater world as you fight to return to Earth. Subnautica really prides itself on its ability to have you constantly on edge as the consuming fear of the unknown eats away at you, leaving you weary and reluctant to journey out. However, the developer does attempt to balance the scales, showcasing the tranquillity of the ocean through its more luscious environments and intriguing eco-systems.
Visually, Subnautica is enthralling, with serene coral reefs bountiful with colour and endless cave systems home to bio-luminescent wonders. Yes, collectively Subnautica may seem to offer you a single environment to explore but dive deep and you’re greeted with a surprising level of diversity that’ll have you forever hankering to explore every inch of it. Sometimes it becomes so easy to lose yourself in all there is to see; it’s like being snapped out of a daze when your oxygen gauge starts blinking and your PDA starts screaming at you like an angry sat nav to scuttle to the surface before you black out. Fortunately, the story is cleverly chartered so that you’re able to take a little bite out of all that’s available should you struggle to muster the courage to venture out of your own accord. Exploring is joyous and swimmingly smooth for the most part thankfully, for the further you take your adventures, the more ferocious the wildlife you’ll have to contend with. It’ll ensure you remain grateful for your nifty hot bar that sees crucial tools are easily accessible.
Despite the obvious draw of the bewildering world you’re free to explore, at the heart of Subnautica remains its crafting and survival elements. It’s a very rewarding system that provokes the keen explorer within you. Your life pod is your crutch and provides the necessary stations for crafting and storage. You’ll find yourself here often, cooking up tasty fish. The fabricator is easy to use, clearly stating the resources you need to craft each item. Moreover, a simple R2 button ensures navigating inventories is effortless. It nullifies the tediousness of moving individual items or resources with the d-pad present in other similar survival titles like Ark: Survival Evolved. As with anything you’ll start off small, armed with a measly knife and a low capacity O2 tank. Fortunately, most low-tier gear can be fabricated from resources in the coral reef that your life pod remains buoyant above.
However, crafting yourself a trusty scanner is a real game-changer, at which point you’ll swallow that disconcerting lump in your throat and depart the safety of your life pod more frequently. Not only does this handy tool allow you to record helpful data on the flora and fauna that inhabit the planet (provided you can get close enough without getting nipped), it also allows you to salvage blueprints from the wreckage of the Aurora. You’re encouraged to search far and wide to gather blueprints as to craft better O2 tanks and submersibles necessary for traversing more formidable terrain. Fortunately, the story maintains the pace in your crafting endeavours and it isn't long before you’ve acquired the means to start creating your very own base using the wonderfully elaborate habitat builder.
Subnautica sees you submerged in a vast and utterly breathtaking underwater world, teeming with secrets and polished off with an unsettling atmosphere that instigates a real sense of thrill as you play. The game has a rewarding crafting system that encourages exploration. Furthermore, the story is full of endearing twists and turns that will take you to the deepest, darkest parts of the alien planet, even against your better judgement. Whether survival adventure is your genre of choice or you’re just a sucker for a gorgeous open world begging to be explored, Subnautica truly is a must-play.