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Subnautica: Life (and terrifying death) Under The Sea

PenguinZero

Wark!
RPGnet Member
Validated User
So, some of you may have heard of Subnautica, a game under development. It has a lot of marks against it that could make people wary -- an Early Release open-world survival game with crafting on Steam? Usually a recipe for disappointment. But I took a chance on it during the Steam Winter Sale, and I've been pleasantly surprised so far.

The basic premise: the spaceship you were traveling on blew up mysteriously while in orbit around an uninhabited planet. You managed to get to a life pod, and splashed down in the planet-spanning ocean, while the ship crash-landed relatively nearby. There were no other survivors. The good news: you have a couple of bricks of nutrient-rich food, some fresh water, a wetsuit with basic oxygen supply, and a set of fabricators that make medical kits for free and many other things if you can provide it with the right resources, while your life pod, though damaged, is still airtight and floating on the surface. The bad news: there's no land in sight, no other survivors, and very little hope of rescue -- at least before your minimal food supply runs out. Oh, and there's alien wildlife all around, some of which is innocuous, some of which is very dangerous, and you can't always tell which is which at a glance...

You quickly start figuring out how to use your fabricator to cook fish (and purify seawater, either by using salt and coral to make bleach for disinfection purposes, or taking advantage of a local fish that has a bladder of filtered pure water inside it), and build a hand-held scanner that can tell you more about the local flora and fauna, or examine debris from the wrecked ship and give you blueprints to make useful devices. Eventually you can start making tools to protect yourself and improve your capabilities, vehicles to extend the distance and depth you can safely travel, and your own base made from of scrap and local minerals to give you a more secure shelter than the life pod.

There's no end-game yet, but you can get up to some quite interesting things as time goes on, and the most recent patch has added some plot material. Which was actually the cause of one of the best bits of emergent storytelling I've seen in a long while, which was the inspiration for me to create this post...

Spoiler: Show
Early on in the game, you can repair the communications relay in your life pod, which starts picking up messages from the other life pods that managed to eject, and give you beacons to their coordinates -- though unfortunately (but not unexpectedly, given that your computer explicitly didn't pick up any human life signs nearby), all of them are damaged and sunk by the time you get there, with no survivors. However, you also start picking up a series of messages from a small ship passing through the system, the Sunbeam, which detects the crash and comes to try to rescue any survivors. Eventually, they give you a pickup spot -- and a timer until they land, warning you not to be late.

I quickly dropped the construction I was working on, gathered up some supplies (salted food, water, my useful tools), and set out with my Seaglide (a sea scooter, the simple kind that's basically an engine you hold on to) towards the landing point. My battery was running a little low, but I figured I had enough to make it there and back again, if necessary. (I knew that realistically they wouldn't put a rescue into the game like this, but it was fun to play along.)

I made it to the pickup spot with plenty of time remaining, and discovered it was the first actual land I'd seen so far -- an actual island, jutting up out of the sea! The spot was on the far side of the island, and after a few run-ins with small but vicious crab creatures on the beach, I just swam around, to find the spot in question...

...right next to a rather ominous looking structure -- a giant building in an alien style, parts of it glowing with energy.

As this was the first constructed thing I'd seen on the planet that wasn't either wreckage from the ship or something I'd built myself, I was intrigued. There was an obvious opening, but it was blocked by a force field. Scanning a sort of terminal near the entrance gave me the recipe for an artifact that could be used as a key, but since it required a material I hadn't found yet, I brushed it off as something to explore later, and instead decided to take a swim around the island.

Eventually, though, I found a path up to a higher spot on the island -- and found one of the artifact keys there. I took it to explore the inside of the building, where I found one of the crystals I needed to make more of the keys. Further on in, I found a terminal I could scan and get a partial translation of... which indicated that an automated defense protocol would target and destroy any ship attempting a landing on the planet. Like the ship I came in on... or the Sunbeam.

The scan also indicated that the defense array could be deactivated from a chamber further in the facility -- accessible through a moonpool from outside, or a sealed elevator shaft from inside. Since I didn't have any of the more advanced submarines yet, I didn't give myself high chances of finding the moonpool before it was too late, so I looked around inside more, and found a gravity-beam lift that floated me down to another force field -- where I realized I'd need another of the artifact keys.

I quickly scrambled my way back out of the building, picking up the crystal I needed on the way out, Seaglided my way back to the escape pod (with my battery running dry within sight of home), crafted the artifact, crafted a new battery and a little more food and water, and rushed back, time nearly out. I made it to the facility with minutes to spare, hurried to the elevator shaft, and unlocked the force field, then navigated my way up a series of ramps and corridors, finding another artifact I used to unlock a final force field. Just as I turned a corner and saw what looked like a big reactor core with a prominent button beneath it, my suit started picking up a local transmission -- the Sunbeam, just beginning to enter the atmosphere. I raced to the core just as the captain said he was detecting some unusual energy readings, the last seconds on my timer ticking down, and slammed the button...

...tried to slam the button. A force field grabbed me by the wrist before I could make contact, and a tentacle probe extended from the core, looked me over, and then jabbed me in the arm with a spike. The button retracted and was sealed off, as an alien message explained, through my suit's translation, that the planet was under quarantine, and that no infected subject could deactivate the safety protocols...

...and as I took that in, I heard the captain's frantic message as an energy beam destroyed the Sunbeam.

The timing on all this was obviously not intentional by the developers, but it was amazing how dramatically it all worked out. Now my mission is to find another underwater alien base, where research for a cure for a deadly bacteria was underway, and cure myself so I can deactivate the defense system and go home... (Though the full event chain isn't in the game yet, I believe at least the base I'm looking for is.) I also picked up a message from the Sunbeam, saying they survived but the captain is dead, and they'd crash-landed somewhere, but I don't think the site is implemented yet, either.


I think the game has me hooked now -- it's one of the most fascinating game worlds to explore I've seen in a long while, and I'm just scratching the surface of the crafting system. (I want to find the plans for a larger room I can put a large fishtank in, where I can breed my own food...)
 

Fhtagn

Vorpal Fluff Bunny
Validated User
I recently restarted again after the Precursor update came out - still gorgeous, though they've tweaked the tech-trees in a few annoying ways. Interestingly, I've never actually purified water outside of using either a desalinator (say Goodbye to your power generation) or a Bladderfish - the chemist in me shudders too much at their pseudoscience.

As for the event,
Spoiler: Show
You were far more proactive than I. I got there and onto the mountain, but when I hopped into the water by the Array, I spotted a Reaper Leviathan swimming about below and promptly decided to not go there again. I eventually watched the Sunbeam blow apart to fragments before returning to my pod and the base below it.


The game really does reward exploring all the new biomes you find, and I suggest keeping a repair tool handy when exploring wrecks.
 

Kath

The Furthest Away
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I recently restarted again after the Precursor update came out - still gorgeous, though they've tweaked the tech-trees in a few annoying ways. Interestingly, I've never actually purified water outside of using either a desalinator (say Goodbye to your power generation) or a Bladderfish - the chemist in me shudders too much at their pseudoscience.

As for the event,
Spoiler: Show
You were far more proactive than I. I got there and onto the mountain, but when I hopped into the water by the Array, I spotted a Reaper Leviathan swimming about below and promptly decided to not go there again. I eventually watched the Sunbeam blow apart to fragments before returning to my pod and the base below it.


The game really does reward exploring all the new biomes you find, and I suggest keeping a repair tool handy when exploring wrecks.
Spoiler: Show

I've just watched the Sunbeam blow up. I made it to the weapon control panel (via the pool) with 10 minutes to spare, realised there was nothing I could do, and so decided to stay and watch the tragic end of the people coming to rescue me :(


It's a really good game. I love the visuals - underwater is so pretty!
 

PenguinZero

Wark!
RPGnet Member
Validated User
It really is. I love the extensive use of bioluminescence by the creatures and plants -- it makes night time beautiful (though still hard to get around in).

After my little adventure surrounding the Sunbeam's fate, I ended up heading home to craft some new items -- the Seamoth minisub, the stasis rifle, and the propulsion cannon. The Seamoth especially has been a game changer -- it has its own air supply, so no longer do I need to dive down, explore something, and then hurry to get back to the surface before my air runs out. I can just park it near whatever I'm investigating, and pop back in to refresh my tanks once I'm getting low. That's allowed a lot more exploration of deep wrecks, though I keep getting distracted from them.

I ended up deciding that it was time to start exploring the wreckage of our old ship, the Aurora. After packing all my useful tools and a lot of food and water, I embarked for the crash site... and promptly got my Seamoth eaten by a sea serpent swimming nearby. Whoops. In my defense, it was dark enough that I didn't see it until it was too late. Thankfully I still had the Seaglide to get me out of the area before it could turn on me.

So, after scrounging up the resources to make a second Seamoth, I proceeded to find the actual entry area on the wrecked bow of the ship, and set out exploring within. That was a very different challenge, and an interesting one. I did have to abandon my expedition about 3/4 of the way through due to rapidly dwindling supplies of food and water, but I made it back to the life pod before serious dehydration set in. (Then, upon my return, I started noticing more bottles of water hidden in places that I'd overlooked before, especially in the locker room... Whoops.) But in the end, it was a very successful pair of missions, with many resources and blueprints gained (including a stuffed animal), and the reactor leak sealed, so that soon enough I should be able to explore the area near it without needing a radiation suit.

After that, I went back to the mountain island to poke around a bit more, and found some interesting things...

Spoiler: Show
Delving into a cave I'd passed by before because I didn't have a way to deal with the cave crawlers yet, I eventually made my way up to the top of the mountain... and found a big alien artifact in a cave there. It seemed to need power, but thankfully I had left an ion crystal back down at the superweapon facility. Running back to get it didn't take long, and activated what turned out to be a teleportation portal. It sent me to what turned out to be a much larger, much more verdant island a few kilometers away, covered with plants I hadn't seen before. Exploring that island took an interesting turn when I spotted a man-made structure on one of its highest peaks. Heading up there, I found an old, rusted-out construction with a small greenhouse in it, and a data pad indicating that it was the creation of a previous expedition stranded on this world, which I'd learned the existence of from data pads I'd found in the Aurora. No signs of any survivors, alas, but I decided to head home to store things and refresh my supplies, then return directly to explore more.


Unfortunately, I then ran across a bug that may end my game -- on my way home from the mountain island, I noticed the beacon for my life pod seemed to be taking a long time to reach. Before I realized it, I was out in uncharted waters, with my PDA chirping at me that multiple 'leviathan-class' entities were in the area. When I finally reached the life pod, it was kilometers away from where it should have been, out of sight of the Aurora entirely. I reported the bug and quit without saving, which should put me back to just around when I was leaving the mountain island, but who knows if it was already moved by then. Not sure if this is just a bug due to the game still being in development, or if it's something to do with my computer setup (it is about five years out of date at this point, and sometimes struggles with things). If it persists, I'm debating whether to start over, or grab what I can from the life pod and work harder on building a permanent base, or just wait until the next update comes.
 

Reef

Incredible!
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I've had my eye on this one for awhile. But I've got a personal policy never to buy early-access, so I'm trying to be patient. Really enjoying these stories, though!
 

PenguinZero

Wark!
RPGnet Member
Validated User
They do seem to have slipped on their schedule multiple times now -- I think their original release date was intended to be sometime in early 2016, and now they've got their road map updated through April at the very least. Still, progress is being made.

The life pod moving, plus some crashes I've been getting that I'm willing to at least partially attribute to my computer, means I think I'm going to be setting it aside for a bit, but I'm sure I won't stay gone for all that long. I've got the itch to get more significantly into the base building aspect of the game -- I've yet to find the blueprints for the large rooms you can put useful items in, or the containment tanks you can use to breed fish, but some more diligent searching of wrecks could probably get me there, and then it's a matter of picking a nice spot and going for it.
 

Fhtagn

Vorpal Fluff Bunny
Validated User
They do seem to have slipped on their schedule multiple times now -- I think their original release date was intended to be sometime in early 2016, and now they've got their road map updated through April at the very least. Still, progress is being made.

The life pod moving, plus some crashes I've been getting that I'm willing to at least partially attribute to my computer, means I think I'm going to be setting it aside for a bit, but I'm sure I won't stay gone for all that long. I've got the itch to get more significantly into the base building aspect of the game -- I've yet to find the blueprints for the large rooms you can put useful items in, or the containment tanks you can use to breed fish, but some more diligent searching of wrecks could probably get me there, and then it's a matter of picking a nice spot and going for it.
I believe that the general purpose room is now found from the floating island, so you're nearly there.

I think the biggest thing I wish they'd add is a map-ish. Specifically, "coordinates" are already implemented via the signal, and so you can in theory triangulate any point using two Signals and a Compass. Of course, drawing your map by hand out of the game would be tedious as hell. I'd just like a PDA accessible map which scales according to your Signals and Beacons and for Beacons to report distance. That way you can build your own map, which is a game-y satisfying thing, would help navigation and would allow you to move the borders yourself.

In other news, I've decided to take a Beacon exploring with me as standard now since I've lost the damned Mountain, and countless crashes.
 

wapa

Registered User
Validated User
I haven't played since the latest update, but I love the designs in this game. Especially the habitat modules - they manage to look both pretty and like high-tech extreme-environment shelters at the same time. For all Alterra are comically evil at times, their survival shelters look like they were designed to keep the occupants from going stir-crazy at least.
 

Awall

Registered User
Validated User
Have you ever encountered a game that hit all the right buttons, even ones you didn't know you had? So much that you went back to a forum that you haven't posted on in over a year so you talk about it to complete strangers and old friends who may not recognize you anymore? That has been this game for me. I never heard of it until I stumbled upon a mention while watching a random YouTube video and thought I'd check it out and got hooked. I've always had a fascination with things aquatic and dabbled with diving at a young age. I think I was one of the few people who actually liked the movie Waterwold. Needless to say this game hit me in the sweet spot.

I understand that the game is supposedly in an Alpha Release State, but I've found it to be quite playable. I've really enjoyed swimming around in the safe shallows gathering enough materials to build new gear and subs, heck if gathering stuff was this much fun in Wow I would have actually not minded working on a profession. Eventually using your trusty scanner (think tricorder) and a Fabricator (Replicator) you are able to build new equipment and Submarines, then the real exploring begins. Each zone, called a biome, is beautiful and creepy. I think they've done a great job of using music and sounds to enhance the environment and I've gotten many jump scares the deeper I went.

One of the fun distractions in the game is base building, you can setup a habitat to call your own. There is even a game type where you're given all the blueprints and materials don't matter so you can build to your heart's content. I'd call it Minecraft like, but I've never played Minecraft and only know about it second hand.

I want this game to do well and have a great future. Right now it's pretty cheap on Steam, the price alone was what tipped me over the edge to give it a try. I'm not going to spend $60 on a game that's a maybe, $20 on the other hand is cheaper than a night out at the movies. EEK I'm sounding like a bad pitch man now. Anyway, I have really enjoyed this game and wanted to mention it so if you hadn't heard about it you'd give it a look see.
 
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