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Subnautica: Below Zero Review

Subnautica: Below Zero Review

Subnautica: Below Zero is both beautiful and terrifying to behold. It is a survival game with a focus on exploration and narrative, although it plays more like a stand-alone expansion than a sequel. You explore the world, this time both the sea and across the frozen arctic landscape. Discovering new resources and blueprints allows you to push further into the unknown each time you head outside.

Many of the monsters and creatures that you will encounter are new to this game and its unique environment, like the popular Pengwing and its extremely cute children that you can kidnap, which I totally didn’t do... Your tools remain largely unchanged from the previous title with a few notable exceptions, such as the new Seatruck and Snowfox vehicles.

What sets this game apart from the previous entry in the series is its narrative focus, voiced main character, audio logs, and inclusion of side characters. This is also the first time you are spending a significant portion of time on land. In Subnautica, there were a couple of islands you could find that were essential to story progression, though primarily in the mid game. In Below Zero, land is not the safe haven it was in the previous title; hostile creatures nip at your heels as you slowly freeze to death.

While the main appeal of the Below Zero is that it is a survival crafting game, one of the things that makes the series feel unique is that it also uses a staple of the horror genre: the inability to fight back against the horrors of the deep.

Due to some corporate meddling, you find yourself with a lack of any real weapons; you have to make do with a knife and a gun that is capable of freezing opponents for a short period of time. The only other methods of attack at your disposal are the vehicles you can build, which includes the Seatruck, Snowfox, and Prawn Suit; while they’re technically not weapons, you can still damage creatures by running into them. This is particularly true for the Seatruck, a kind of vehicle that seems to sit somewhere between the Seamoth and Cyclops of the previous game.

The terror of the deep is further enhanced by the music and sound design. Sometimes it's a bubbly sci-fi theme that fits exploration, other times the music falls away so you can hear the roars of the leviathans of the deep and you suddenly realise that humans are really bad at swimming. In many ways, it does its job too well; only with time and experience does the terror give way to an understanding that, even if you can’t truly fight back, you can certainly avoid the dangers.

The first game was excellent. It felt novel and new, and very much revolutionised the survival crafting genre with its heady mixture of terror, beauty, and excitement for exploring the unknown. You always want to see what lies deeper or further. The original has enough of a story to keep things interesting without it being the main focus whereas Below Zero focuses more on its narrative from the beginning and even gives us first-person logs from our playable character. This felt like a strange addition to the game and is a focus shift from the original.

The game plays smoothly and was stable the entire time, having been built off the same engine as its predecessor. The only bug I found was a collision box on the shipwreck where the buoy I placed couldn't be interacted with.

While smaller in scale (compared to the original), Below Zero feels more tightly packaged and focused. As a result of being a stand-alone expansion, it's a more polished and refined version of the original formula, if not in the direction I thought it would go. I do think this is a worthwhile game to play, especially if you felt like the first game lacked direction and needed more of a narrative focus.

9.00/10 9

Subnautica: Below Zero (Reviewed on Windows)

Excellent. Look out for this one.

Subnatica: Below Zero is an excellent survival game, being equally beautiful and terrifying. The narrative is strong but can feel out of place at times.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review


Staff Writer

Probably watching Xanadu

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