I am writing this at 3am because I can’t sleep and I’ve done everything there is to do in the game so far and am on mobile, so apologies for any mistakes. Also be warned there are many spoilers for the ‘story’ and quests in below zero so read at your own risk.
So before I begin, yes, I am fully aware subnautica below zero is in heavy development. With that being said…..I’m really not impressed so far. I’m a big fan of subnautica from watching multiple videos of the original game and eventually bought it to try for myself. The game had me shivering at every turn, constant fear even when I was in my base or the occasional laugh (referring to the kleptomaniac stalker that kept stealing my scanner room cameras).
Sure the game didn’t have a really big story but that didn’t matter, the gameplay itself was enjoyable and the scare factor really counted. It was clear a lot of love and effort was put into it and I’m thankful the devs took the time to make it.
Below zero on the other hand is very different, WAY too different for its own good. One of the reasons being is that the game‘s story is getting way too big for itself. In the original it was literally just the player for a vast majority of the game and the eerie silence that came with it (aside from the occasional radio signal). Hell even if you save the sunbeam nothing happens, you’re still stranded and afraid and alone with an ocean full of deadly monsters. This really helped add to the atmosphere and fear factor and as the devs themselves said is one of the main reasons multiplayer isn’t an official thing.
Below zero, however, has way too many plot lines and characters. Before the main character was accidentally thrusted into this situation and had next to no knowledge of the world which, again, added to the fear and mystery of the game. Now? The new main character PURPOSEFULLY thrusts herself into this situation just to find out what happened to her sister. You’d think that someone who purposefully thrusts herself into this would come prepared, right? Well no. The new main character starts off with LESS than the original character did and everything has to be rescanned.
Now if the world was some new planet or even mostly unexplored this would be fine and could explain as to how the main character has less than in the first game. But no, not only is this part of the planet explored but even colonized by big bad evil corporation with several abandoned bases scattered about along with even a freaking surveillance satellite in orbit. So why is nothing known about this beforehand? I’d like a better and less cliched answer than “oh big bad corporation no want people to know” but that is just my personal opinion.
And then there’s marguerit…..yes, there is another person already on the planet with you. You can find her in about the first 1 to 2 hours of gameplay at an Alterran island base. How did she survive the attack on the degasi base? Well according to the wiki she not only strangled a reaper Leviathan to death but survived on its floating corpse until she wound up in sector zero. Now i know what you’re thinking is “hey, wasnt the degasi crew infected with the Kharaa? And didn’t the Aurora crash 10 years after the Degasi when the Kharaa was nowhere near being cured? How’d she survive?” And well the answer is…..I dunno. Nothing that I can find so far provides solid evidence of how she survived with the Kharaa in her, and nothing about her makes sense. The Kharaa is incredibly contagious and very deadly which is why the precursors we’re willing to resort to anything to get away from it or cure it. So if her two crew mates caught it, why didn’t she? If she had some kind of immunity to it why did Bart never notice it? Plus I’m doubtful a disease that has killed over 140 billion different life forms doesn’t kill someone like marg in less than 10 years.
Your first impression of her is that she’s scary and a badass because she comes at you with an old, rusty looking, prawn suit with arm mounted blade and spikes. She says you’re either crazy for coming here
So not only is the feeling of being utterly alone now gone but the bad guy is comically stupid and the game has messed up its own lore. But moving on….Marg clearly knows you, the player, is a potential threat but instead of doing literally anything she just leaves you there, with the fully functioning communications tower that, if the player was a spy, could severely fuck her plans up by calling and tattletalling on Marg. Furthermore we latter find out that Marg not only has a base of her own and a tamed snow stalker, but a way to disable the tower that can be used to mess her up.
The ‘Test Override Module’ (or TOM) is a scannable piece of fully built technology that can turn the tower and spy satellite above off. And I do mean fully functional in every sense of the word as the fragment you scan to get it model looks the exact same as a fully built one. To which she asks the player to turn off the satellite. How does she have this thing? Nothing that I’ve found explains as to how she got her hands on this thing or even made it. Another pressing question is….if she had a seemingly working piece of equipment why would she leave it alone or even give the task to a person she doesn’t even know when she was literally just at the base?
Now let’s rewind a bit, there is a story section of the game where the player receives an sos signal from a precursor site (as to how Alterra never knew about this signal I have no clue). Once here the player downloads the conscious of the precursors (now called architects for whatever reason) into herself by accident. They fully understand human language but not the customs as they at first don’t understand why the player character is upset that they downloaded themselves into her body. So now you have a permanent ‘person’ inside your head that constantly talks and once more hurts the fear factor (Aside from the occasional jump scare caused by the precursor, now called Alan, suddenly talking). This also hurts whatever mystery the precursors had to them as the dignified and arguably desperate feeling you got from them is just one of confusion at the game’s attempt at comedy. What’s important to note is that Alan notes that his kind doesn’t differentiate between cybernetic, organic, or cybernetically enhanced beings which implies the precursors know how to at least create robotic parts.
And what’s even more surprising is that these precursors don’t seem to care that someone is on their quarantined planet (one that is so heavily quarantined that they built a giant space gun and literal teleporting life forms to ensure it never left the planet/infected others), how the player got on the planet, or if the Kharaa is even cured. They’re just chilled about it and have no questions or concerns whatsoever.
Later on you eventually find that you can craft the precursors a body. Which yet again makes a hole in the story. From what I’ve read the Kharaa can not affect robotic beings so if the precursors had access to the ability to make fully robotic bodies and transfer their consciousnesses into them why not do that and freeze your bodies until a cure can be found? In sub zero’s story the precursors don’t seem to mind never being able to get their biological bodies back and with how desperate they were in the first game why didn’t they just do the aforementioned suggestion? Freezing obviously works as later in the game you come across an abandoned Alterran lab where there is a frozen leviathan class monster infected with Kharaa.
On that note we find out that Sam, the player character’s older sister, found out that big bad corporation wants to mutate the Kharaa for their own evil purposes. Sam, upon finding this out, tried to convince her co workers not to let this happen and to help her cure the frozen leviathan but was ignored. So she somehow found a cure for the Kharaa and hid it, going off to where the frozen leviathan was being researched without the cure. “Why didn’t she bring the cure with her“ you ask? Well I can’t really tell you. Her main goal was to cure the leviathan and if she had successfully snuck into the lab she could’ve done so. If she was caught she’d either be killed or be put in prison and thus she’d lose either way
Now most might think the best option would be to go to the media with sufficient proof of this experimentation and show what the company hoped to achieve with it but nope, from what I’ve found Sam didn’t even consider that possibility. As stated before it is never mentioned as to why Sam doesn’t got to the media, since whether she succeeds or not she’s sure to go to jail due to Alterra’s size but with media influence this could be avoided. If the media wasn’t an option just bring the cure with you since no matter what she does she‘d be dead or going to prison and the company would more than likely look for where the cure was stored and destroy/study it.
Well again none of that happens as, when Sam is sneaking into the frozen leviathan area, she is caught by the guard. So she blows up the cave in an attempt to stall the research/experimenting of the Kharaa and leviathan, ultimately killing herself and the guard in the process. Once the player finds this all out the player finds the cure (using a robot built by Sam called the spy Pengling) and injects the leviathan with it using a special robotic arm. Now had this arm been destroyed by the explosion the player would have a much harder time doing their sister’s dying wish, but that’s for another time.
Gameplay: (this has been separated by Bullet points to show the different types of gameplay).
- The game plays fairly similarly to the first subnautica game but with the extra feature of the temperature measure which goes down when you’re in the bare weather but can be refilled via special plants, food, taking shelter in caves, or just going into the water. And I’m going to be honest…..this meter is pretty much useless right now as, other than a few small things like the frozen leviathan, the player doesn’t have much of a reason to be on land. I mean you’re extremely slow on land, the ice worms like trying to kill you, and the only land based vehicle (the snow fox) controls like trying to ice skate on skates made of melting butter.
- In terms of vehicles the game is sorely lacking in vehicles that, besides the snow fox, justify their existence. The sea truck is basically a combination of the sea moth and cyclops, which sounds cool on paper but it’s worse than both. It starts out with a default depth of 150 meters which is lower than what even the sea moth started out with (and I swear it feels slower than the sea moth but that may be me). Many have said the sea truck is like a mobile base but so was the cyclops, and a much better one at that. With the cyclops whatever space didn’t come built in could be added by building lockers in it, it could dock with either the sea moth or prawn suit and recharge and (if you had the upgrade) repair them, do silent running, launch decoys, and so much more. The only thing the cyclops was missing was maybe an option to build an aquarium in it which the sea truck does have, though I personally don’t see why you’d need a mobile aquarium. The other most notable sea truck module (out of the 6) is the teleportation module which, as it’s name suggests, will teleport the player back into it with a special tool. You unlock the module after scanning a certain amount of precursor artifacts but if you wish to keep what remains of the fear factor I’d recommend not getting it. One of the things that made the og Subnautica scary was that at a moment’s notice your ship or yourself could be attacked out of nowhere with no way to really escape it except booking it and hoping the monsters weren’t faster than you. With the ability to teleport back that fear factor is taken. There’s also the matter of how food, water, and even watching your oxygen is now useless. About to die of hunger because you didn’t bring enough, if any, food or water? Well teleport back to your sea truck and eat what you have stored. About to drown because you weren’t paying attention to your oxygen? Well teleport back. Being attacked by a big bad monster? Teleport back, etc., etc.
- The biomes thus far are very meh in my opinion. The twisty bridges were cool to look at and explore and lily pads were cool as well but the kelp forest was, well, the kelp forest. Thermal spikes was massively disappointing as it didn’t look new, mysterious, or anything like that. When I first ran into thermal spikes I didn’t even know it was it’s own biome where as I never really got that feeling with the og subnautica. The deep parts of these were just are just the same but purple and underground and do nothing to differentiate themselves other than be underground and purple. Now there are more biomes but if I gave my two cents on each one there’d be a lot more reading.
- The fauna (animals) in this game is right on the middle with me. When you first start the game all you see are bladder fish, boomerangs, and a slightly different colored peepers. But as you explore more the scarier and more interesting ones you’ll find. Except sea monkeys, those guys are more than annoying and resource costing than the stalkers could ever hope to be.
- Base building got some very much needed upgrades like the large habitat rooms, Crystal domes, and the control room. I can’t tell you how many times in the og subnautica I wanted to turn power to my scanner room off without having to deconstruct it which this room now allows, among other things. Though it’s very confusing why you don’t start off with the habitat builder since it’s a very essential part of the game. The habitat builder can only be obtained by scanning it on the delta island, and from what I’ve explored of the game that is the only place it can be found. Unluckily for me two Cryptosuchus were camping right near it’s one entrance which made it pretty hard to get there.
- If you thought the og subnautica was dark boy will you not have fun with this. Since at night even with a flash light you cant see in half the areas which was more so annoying than fear inducing.
Now I’m not some purest who thinks subnautica should never grow or change, as I know most games need to evolve and change in order to stay alive. But if these games change too much too fast it can alienate the audience and lose what makes it unique. Subnautica doesn’t need some great big story but just one that makes sense and so far the current story and quests don’t have any and seemingly fail to take into account the previous game. If you would like to debate me on points I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so but ask you try to remain civil.
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