…it's pretty known by now that Below Zero is going to be a more story-driven game in that there's a lot more voice acting (even your character is voice acted) and specific events that you are led to. The first 10-15 minutes of the early access are pretty much a linear path and can't be played out much differently.
What I LOVE about the original Subnautica is that you literally begin with your ship crashed in the middle of what appears to be a vast, endless ocean with only two actual above-water visual waypoints (The Aurora and your Lifepod). From there, yes, there are certain radio signals that can lead you to the story bits, but for the most part you get immediate free reign over where you go, what you do, and when you do it. Every single person has a vastly different experience (to the point where I have friends who played dozens and dozens of hours before they ever found their first bit of alien technology.)
But that's what makes Subnautica so special and personal. You feel completely trapped and alone and at the mercy of your survival skills, and it's YOUR personal journey to figure out how you want to survive it. By the end of my adventure, I didn't even want to leave the planet because I felt such a connection to it…almost like I had conquered it and could live there mostly worry free with no debt for the rest of my character's life. (Albeit maybe slightly insane from the extremely long-lived lack of social interaction with other humans.)
My point is…Below Zero really doesn't feel like that right now. I know it's obviously in a VERY early state, but the first part seems very "far along," if that makes sense. Acting as the game's intro and tutorial of sorts (which lasts about 10-15 minutes depending on how much you explore/read stuff) it feels very linear and like you can really only play it out one way.
Then, once you actually get out into the ocean to really explore, the icebergs all over the place sort of make it feel like you are in a giant cave network rather than a vast endless ocean. On top of this, at least for a decent while, you have pretty frequent communication with certain members of your space team and other characters (which I won't spoil). So the feeling of being alone and stranded and in dire need of survival skills doesn't feel quite as present.
My concern is simply that the game will feel less mysterious, dire and OPEN than the first game. There is nothing like taking your very first step out of Lifepod 5 and looking around you to see only infinite ocean and your crashed ship in the far distance. Right now, Below Zero doesn't really have that, and the abundance of icebergs and land-based gameplay definitely kill that sense of "lost in a vast, endless ocean" feeling, which I love so deeply from the first game.
What do you guys think? Obviously it's still very VERY early access so things could definitely evolve over time. Do you share my concern or do you think a more linear/structured experience is fine for a survival game like Subnautica?
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