Discussion! Subnautica Below Zero Feels Small 20 Hours in, What am I Missing?

Subnautica 7 - Discussion! Subnautica Below Zero Feels Small 20 Hours in, What am I Missing?

Would love to keep this mostly spoiler free for BELOW ZERO only. I will include some minor spoilers for the original Subnautica, so just be aware.

I played Subnautica on PS4 in mid 2019, and it was easily one of the most addictive, satisfying, and impressive games I’ve ever played, easily my top 5 games of all time, right along with titles from the Soulsbourne games, Outer Wilds, and Disco Elysium.

I picked up Subnautica Below Zero (SBZ) when the final early access update became available last week. About 20 hours in and, while it’s still a VERY FUN game, it just seems the devs made some odd decisions. Perhaps I’m wrong here, but this is what I’ve noticed:

First as foremost, the map seems smaller, more claustrophobic, with less content like crashed pods and abandoned buildings (both human and alien). It was awesome going deeper in the original, finding giant mysterious skulls and strange alien technology. SBZ has some of that, but they’re reusing assets, reusing original subnautica story beats, and it all feels much less mysterious and much less dangerous.

Second, the “Gameplay Loop” of going deep, getting materials to craft things to go deeper, then going deeper for even more materials to go deeper has been chopped up. Not saying it’s completely gone, but in SBZ I was getting some late game gear from the original Subnautica pretty early on, and sometimes being able to craft 2 “depth upgrades” at once. In SBZ I loaded up on Ion Batteries within 10 hours of gameplay, when in the original, Ion Batteries with like an OP late game material.


Third, there’s only 2 underwater vehicles which are pretty easy to get within the first 10 hours, and AS FAR AS IM AWARE, nothing more. NO seamoth and NO CYCLOPS! I’d be fine with something similar to either of these, even reusing assets is fine by me, whatever. The cyclops was just amazing to pilot, and the “final” vehicle in SBZ doesn’t even talk to me. I adored the feel of the cyclops, and who doesn’t love “welcome aboard captain, all systems online”…

Lastly, In SBZ I haven’t felt the need to build more than a basic structure lined with storage lockers, an upgrade station, battery chargers, and four solar panels. In the original, I needed a Moonbay with an upgrade station, a thermal plant, and an aquarium, all sorts of stuff to maintain my ships and keep resources flowing. SBZ just seems to lack this content, and it’s strange for a game that basically reuses all of the assets of the original.

In summary, SBZ is a fun game and you should definitely play it if you’re looking for more underwater adventures. That said, just be warned that SBZ seems to play more like a DLC rather than a standalone game, and I fail to understand how the team couldn’t generate more content while standing on the shoulders of the previous game.

I would love to hear how I’m wrong though, and certainly appreciate the lack of spoilers for myself and those interested in the game.

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