Subnautica: Joe's Mini Review!


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 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.

The Bad
• 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?
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From the hours I had in it, it was a pleasant and at times horrifying experience. One of the things that make Subnautica stand out is the excellent use of color. This makes the world feel more alive, which again also gives it slightly more realism than similar games have delivered in the past. The depth is a scary place and I like the suspense you get with it. You never quite know what you are going up against. I also like the exploration/crafting part of the game and totally agree on the Cyclops vehicle being clunky. Oh, and man, the sound effects are amazing! Hearing those deep noises from some distant creature for the first time is absolutely fantastic. If I were to give it a score, it would get an 8,5/10.

A game similar to Subnautica that I would like to recommend is Deep Rock Galactic. It is slightly more claustrophobic but soothing colors, maneuverability, and at times wide cave systems make up for it.


Community Contributor
Subnautica is a fantastic game and gets my wholehearted recommendation. I've enjoyed it since its early access days but it's only gotten better with continued development since then. For me, it's probably the best game at capturing the feeling of the unknown.

Because you're such an insignificant and powerless human in this vast and dangerous ocean, when you do start to gain mastery over greater and greater depths there's a real feeling of accomplishment.

I also have a lot of respect for Unknown Worlds as a developer. They stuck with their vision of creating a game set in a dangerous world that could still be exciting without the solution to survival being violence. As a player, my interactions with the game's various "enemy" creatures were that much more rewarding because killing them wasn't the most viable option.
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A game similar to Subnautica that I would like to recommend is Deep Rock Galactic.

I'll check it out! I'm definitely getting a kind of "Astroneer but dark and with dwarves" vibe from that one.

Because you're such an insignificant and powerless human in this vast and dangerous ocean, when you do start start to gain mastery over greater and greater depths there's a real feeling of accomplishment.

Great way of summing up Subnautica!

You guys going to give Sub Zero a go? Or have you yet?


Community Contributor
Subnautica was an awesome game for sure. I'm not much into survival but the survival elements in this seemed more about guiding you through the game, not making you spend hours cutting down 150 trees. If you really want, though, I think the game had the option of turning the survival stuff off so you don't ever get hungry or thirsty. (If that's important to you, please look it up to confirm before buying!)

Actually, that brings up another thing... DON'T LOOK AT THE SCREENSHOTS!!! Even the shots and video on the Steam page can hurt. Or maybe look at the screenshots, buy the game, then let it sit in your backlog for a year before actually playing so you forget them. <Perhaps some of you have already done this, then also forgot that you owned the game. ;> One of the best things about this game is braving the depths to see fantastic wonders and that's going to be a lot better if you didn't just see those wonders in a screenshot a few days ago.

My only complaint about the game is the saving. It's got a one-save system, which always irks me, but this game handles it OK. What it didn't handle, though, was safely doing those saves. My machine crashed* while the game was saving and corrupted some of the save files so I had to start over again. I wasn't terribly far in (maybe 15 hours?) and the game plays far faster when you know where you need to go but, if they had done their save system a little safer (first make the new save, then delete the old save), I probably would have just lost half an hour or so.

I didn't have issues with any of the vehicles and used my Cyclops quite a bit!

Oh, also, the music is really good. And the game is the only one I've ever 100%'ed.

* my machine just crashes sometimes. It's highly unlikely the crash was caused by the game.