Author Topic: Subnautica: Below Zero [2021 -- Unknown Worlds Entertainment]  (Read 31 times)

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Subnautica: Below Zero [2021 -- Unknown Worlds Entertainment]
« on: September 11, 2021, 11:49:37 AM »
Subnautica: Below Zero is the sequel to an original survival game I reviewed a few years ago, Subnautica that I quite enjoyed. This new entry in the series occurs a couple of years after the original events from the first game and take place on the same planet 4546B. However players don't get to take control of the original character but of a new avatar, Robin Ayou.

Robin (whom for the occasion and unlike her counterpart from the first game is a voiced protagonist that many fans of Mass Effect will easily identify as having the voice of Ashley Williams) was informed that her sister Samantha was killed on 4546B during an accident. As Sam was working for Alterra (the "evil" conglomerate from the first game) and as Robin kind of hates Alterra (which recently bought the company she's working for), she decides to go and investigate the death of her sister. Trying to escape the surveillance by Alterra satellites, she goes in with a small space ship during a meteor shower. Of course, the ship is damaged by a meteor during the descent and forced to crash on the planet, Robin finds herself with no option to go back. Fortunately, she comes prepared as she already knows that the planet is mainly water. An undersea pod was dropped when the space tug collided with the meteor and will serve as temporary base of operation, until something more serious can be built.

Little does she knows, Robin will soon stumble on the wet dream of the exobiologist she is and the plot will quickly thicken.

As the title indicates, Subnautica: Below Zero takes place within the ice region of the planet 4546B (whether north or south is not known -- but I would guess North as this is the direction of most of the landmass) unlike Subnautica that sat comfortably within the tropical region. When it comes to gameplay that means two novelties: large bodies of ice and extreme cold and even some creatures that occasionally use ice as a weapon. A not so small part of the action of Subnautica: Below Zero will consequently happens on the surface where Robin's main problem will not be oxygen but cold. To confront this, the player gets a set of new tools to work with in complement of the tools already familiar to those who played through the first game. Some new elements have been added to base schematics so you can construct bases with even more rooms than in the first game. Bases elements come with full land support meaning that you can build a base on the surface if you find the space for it... and you get a jukebox. Yeah, now you can explore in music, and the songs are not even that bad (all were composed and written specifically for the game).

The two Subnautica submarines from the first game were merged into a single modular one, the Seatruck. The Seatruck is composed of a main cabin to which one can attach different modules, like a storage module, a fabricator module (to manufacture essentials on the fly) or even a sleeper module (equipped with stereo) so you can rest between two encounters with a leviathan class creature (and sure, they're still in there although different from the ones from the first game). One even can attach a docking module so one can bring a PRAWN suit. Of course all of this is not available at the beginning of the game, players have to find the blueprints and resources as usual in Subnautica. The Seatruck concept though is interesting because it virtually allows players to transport a mini-base with them like the old Cyclops submarine could afford in the first game but at the same time provide if necessary the same agility as the Seamoth just by disconnecting the modules and going with the Seatruck cabin alone.

Subnautica is as fun as ever to play and the new regions to explore are certainly beautifully rendered. However, if you already played the first Subnautica this new game is very easy as you already know 90% of the rules of survival in this game. The other 10% regard surviving on the surface, but even there's nothing really daunting. Adequately frightening creatures, sometimes annoying but not very challenging. Chances that one will die from frostbites are very much higher than from any other kind of bites -- except if one pushes beyond the known world in which case, like in the first game, one is liable to run into a very lethal fish...

But the proposition put forward by the Subnautica series has never been one of utmost difficulty but of exploration and discoveries. In that regard, Subnautica: Below Zero doesn't disappoint with gorgeous locales and interesting -- if not always friendly --  flora and fauna.

The only point where Subnautica; Below Zero might feel like a disappointment, is in the management of the story regarding Robin's sister death. The story itself is mainly told via PDAs that you find scattered around the world. Problem is, depending on the order in which the player is finding the PDAs, the story may or may not be satisfying. If you find the PDAs ordered sequentially -- or thereabout --, you may find the story more easily swallowed than if you find them in reverse order or in no particular order at all. Subnautica is open world after all and because the game is rather on the easy side, nothing prevent you from going first in places where you have no business being because you're not properly equipped and that in a harder game you would instantly die.

If like me you follow the difficulty path (for example finding a damn proper cold suit before venturing on the surface) than you will hopefully find the PDA entries in the correct order and gradually find what happened to Robin sister.

With that being said, to me, Robin's sister's plot is not the main story arc in this game. Yes, I was OK with finding what happened to her but one quickly realizes that the sister was only the needed pretext to lead Robin to 4546B. The true story is elsewhere, as any player should quickly realize one hour or two into the game.

Or maybe that's just me.

Anyway, Subnautica Below Zero is a fine continuation of the franchise and of course the way it ends guarantees a Subnautica 3, possibly with Robin still as the lead character.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -- A. Einstein