I know I'm a bit late to this party, but what a delightful little game Subnautica was!
So I'll dive in with the first bit and bait the hook here a little. The big thing that kept me from going for Subnautica for so long was the perception that it'd be claustrophobic and take place entirely underwater. Both of those were definitely barriers to entry for me on this game, and kept me from picking it up during various sales on Steam. Xbox Games Pass for PC changes the dynamic a little and lowers the cost-to-attempt risk consideration to next to nill, so I took a dip! I'm glad I did.
Subnautica was a series of delights and wonders coupled with panic attacks. It's all about survival, discovery, and exploration. A whole heck of a lot of survival style games send you down a corridor of time-gated resource funneling that prompts heavy grinding without a lot of interruptions for actual fun. Subnautica manages to keep that resource grind thinly veiled under an elegant push towards exploring and leaving your comfort zone, while still keeping the sheer number of required resources to advance relatively attainable.
The story is fairly intriguing and has a slow build, but there are definitely parts where I kind of wanted to be a little more hand-holding or some nudges in the right direction rather than letting me flounder. The story tends to accelerate along a curve, and things finally begin to start coming together - although pacing can be a little jarring, overall the experience was good.
• The biomes and diversity of scenery is impressive. You can absolutely experience a full playthrough and not see everything.
• "Just Right" levels of resource gathering and crafting mix. There are a lot of games out there that rely so heavily on gating your experience to a pure time exhausted grind for resources to reach the next level. Subnautica for me gets right in at the Goldilocks zone - just enough to move your butt to go get more, not too much to agitate and suck the fun out of the experience.
• Will change your perception of living underwater. Started the game with a hopeful need to settle on dry land, ended up musing about real world desalination and bathyscaphic colonization / seasteading by the end.
• The critters and plant life is awesome, even if you don't like that kind of thing.
• While the game has a fairly soft learning curve, the Prawn suit is a sharp spike that can (did) prompt rage quits. It is the most powerful, and ultra-useful vehicle in the game, and you'll suffer with it for an hour or two before "getting it". There's also some pretty rough clipping issues when maneuvering that persist even past Spider-man style whizzing around forests of underwater mushrooms.
• The Cyclops vehicle seems somewhat pointless at endgame. It maneuvers like a dumptruck and is as fragile as tissue paper. A missed opportunity.
The consensus isn't wrong! A highly recommended game, great to pick up for casual play. I'm definitely going to give the sequel Subnautica: Sub Zero a go just as soon as the storyline is finished up and the game is feature complete.
To those of you who played Subnautica - what did you love and hate about it?
To those of you who haven't yet played Subnautica - how come?