Subnautica is one of many games that I have heard good things about, but seeing as I had already watched a playthrough online, I saw no reason to play it for myself. That all changed when I was perusing the PlayStation Store, only to notice that Subnautica was available for…free? Was I seeing this right? A small amount of research told me that, as part of PlayStation’s Play At Home program, select games were available to download for free. This whole Plat At Home thing has since ended, but I was at least fortunate to get this gem of a game for, I repeat, absolutely free!
I know, I’m jealous of me, too.
Well, I already knew what to expect (or so I thought), but for anyone not familiar, Subnautica is a survival game where you have crashed on an alien planet. You are free to roam about the ocean at leisure…though you have deadly sea life, starvation, and dehydration to contend with. So it’s not really that leisurely at all. Of course, your level of freedom depends heavily on your gear, which can be crafted using the fabricator in your lifepod using the various materials found in your environment.
Let me tell you, there are few things as satisfying as upgrading your equipment in this game. Better fins, higher capacity oxygen tanks, and vehicles for making your survival on this hostile alien planet just a bit easier, such as the Seaglide, which helps you to swim much faster, and the Seamoth, a small vehicle you can actually enter, meaning you can stay underwater indefinitely without the need to worry about your oxygen on long journeys. (I mean, you still have to exit the Seamoth to gather materials, explore narrow caves, and whatnot, but the Seamoth is definitely one of my most beloved pieces of equipment, that’s for sure.)
All was going quite well until an island decided to consume my first Seamoth.
You heard me right. An island ate my Seamoth. I beached my vehicle on the shore and left for a bit. I found this thing that teleported me to another island. Unable to locate the teleporter again after a good deal of exploration, I used my Seaglide to return to the location of my Seamoth. As the island popped into existence, piece by piece, I notice my Seamoth is nowhere to be found, despite following it to its beacon. It turns out that my Seamoth had sunk so far into the sand, only a tiny bit was sticking out. I assume that the island disappeared when I was far away, causing the Seamoth to sink down a short ways with nothing to hold it up any longer, and then when the island loaded back into the game, my poor, unfortunate Seamoth was inside.
After a fair amount of grumbling, I finally built a new Seamoth. I explored some more, gathered more blueprints and materials. And my love for the game was restored when I decided to build my first base.
I swear, this game is ocean-themed Animal Crossing. With sea monsters and the ability to drown. So ever so slightly different.
After finding a map online, I spent a bunch of time speeding around in my new Seamoth, looking for the ideal location. I eventually settled on a spot that was near the most variety of materials. I originally didn’t want to build in a kelp forest because the stalkers there like to steal things, but alas, I went for it anyway because the spiraling pinnacle of rock I had settled on was just too lovely to pass up. My base began as just a room with a fabricator and lots of storage, but it quickly expanded to a moonpool for my recently renamed Seamoth, now the glorious “Seaduck” and a scanner room for locating specific materials and items. (As expected, the stalkers stole my cameras. After retrieving them many times, the cameras have since been placed inside a friggin’ spire of rock, and I can’t get them back. I can always make more, but I haven’t exactly been using the scanner room, so what would be the point?)
The base continued to expand until it was a whopping 17 rooms, if I’m counting correctly. I have an entrance with all my frequently used tools, two storage rooms (one is not really being used yet, but it’s available for when I need it), two moonpools (since the “Seaduck” has since been joined by my Prawn suit, “The Iron Duck”), a scanner room (joined to the second storage room by a glass hallway), a work space, a room with two water filtration systems for making clean water from seawater, a bioreactor (as those water filtration things really drain power, even with a grand total of 12 solar panels), an indoor garden for extra food and water (I also have an underwater garden filled with both harvestable plants and ones that I keep merely for aesthetics), a glass observatory, a 3-story alien containment filled with predators I hatched from eggs, and a bedroom atop a 2-story alien containment where I have non-predatory creatures.
Needless to say, I have had such an adventure so far, and very little of it has been related to the actual story. Other highlights include:
Scanning a reaper leviathan: This was actually not that bad. With my Seaduck safely at home (I clearly care about it more than I do my own safety), I sought out the reaper I’ve seen frequenting the waters where the grassy plateau meets the dunes. Being quite nimble on my own, I managed to swim around it until I was able to freeze it in place with my stasis rifle. After that, I scanned the monstrosity and got the heck out of there!
Entering the dead zone: The playable map is surrounded by insanely deep, open water. Mother Duck, clearly lacking my thalassaphobia, encouraged me to enter this water before I fully knew what it was. Heading straight down into pitch blackness, and growing increasingly nervous, I was informed that I had entered a “dead zone”. I eventually couldn’t take the endless abyss anymore and headed back to safety. Later on, I learned that adult ghost leviathans can be found here!
Reefbacks, everywhere: They keep getting stuck on my base or the land upon which my base sits. All the time. They get stuck for days, and then they finally end up in another part of the kelp forest, sometimes nearly vertical. One of them even had a tiger plant on its back, which proceeded to shoot my base and cause a hull breach. It was cool at first, but the reefbacks have turned into a real nuisance!
The Cyclops: Oh yeah, I can’t forget my Cyclops, a huge submarine which I have since renamed “Quackn Kraken” (it would have been “The Quackin’ Kraken”, but I wasn’t allowed that many letters). I haven’t really used it yet, but this thing is so cool.
Subnautica has been so much fun. The creatures are well-designed, the biomes are varied and beautiful. The feeling of satisfaction is unequaled. I started out in a little lifepod, unable to stray too far from safety, having to constantly gather fish for food and water. And now I have a self-sufficient base with plenty of supplies, not to mention a Seamoth, a Prawn, and a friggin’ Cyclops (all with the same color scheme of lime green with dark purple accents). I even have two huge fish tanks to ease my loneliness on this harsh, but beautiful ocean planet.
I think all that’s left now is exploring the harshest remaining biomes, particularly the deep ones. Which sounds kind of terrifying. (My Prawn and Cyclops can now go to 1300 meters, if I recall correctly. Um…no thank you.) But I’ve come this far, and I welcome the challenge, even if it causes me way more stress than it really should. (It’s only a video game, Duck. It’s not real…) I have since sunk (pun intended) countless hours into this game, and I’ve loved (almost) every minute of it. And I still can’t believe that I got it for free!