Review – Subnautica: Below Zero

subnautica below zero art work

Welcome back to 4546b, a world full of wonder, intrigue and an unanswered question… what happened to Sam?

Two years have passed since the Aurora crashed on the planet, and since then Alterra have laid claim to the planet until an accident causes the company to withdraw from the planet. A perfect opportunity for Robin to sneak down and find out what happened.

The story of Subnautica: Below Zero is an intriguing story which delves deeper into the character developments of the “Architects” and what happened to the Alterra presence on the planet. This expansion of the characters provides a welcome change to the original, which was quite a lonely affair. Delving deeper into the story of Planet 4546b, the Architects, Samantha and Alterra is an adventure this reviewer will leave up to the player, as spoilers suck!

subnautica below zero

A stark difference between Subnautica: Below Zero and its predecessor is the focus on a storyline that is both engaging and involved. No longer are you a stranded survivor, but a scientist, desperate to find out what happened to your missing sister. Whilst this is a large change from the previous title, where you were a silent adventurer navigating the open world. In Subnautica: Below Zero, players will find a story with Robin engaging in open dialogue to further engage the player with the storyline.

subnautica below zero

Those who have experienced the adventure of the original Subnautica will know all too well that the mechanics behind the loot and inventory management that helps build out the player’s technology stack and boost the capabilities of Robin as she searches the depths for answers. There have been quite a few changes to the list of flora and fauna, although a few favourites make their return. A notable omission to the list of leviathans is that of the Reaper, however, there are some new faces that make for some amusing interactions. The inclusion of these new creatures adds a new dimension to the gameplay, with sea monkeys quick to interact and “pinch your kit” before making a hasty getaway, to the docile Penglings which can only be described as beautifully ugly.

subnautica below zero

The Boomerangs, Arctic Peepers and Bladderfish all make a return and are quite abundant in the early game, however, moving away from the shallows offers a wider array of flora and fauna. This new set of creatures varies from the majestic “Whale” to the blundering “brute shark”. As you venture further beneath the surface, the landscape changes drastically, as in the previous title, the lack of light gives rise to a new set of creatures, plants and problems. Venturing beyond 100 meters in the previous title in the early game meant certain doom, but unlike the previous title, the game actively rewards those willing to risk everything to seek more.

subnautica below zero

Players of the original title will notice the distinct difference in the size of the map, with Subnautica: Below Zero being considerably smaller. With that being said, there are still plenty of areas to explore below the water ranging from the relatively safe shallows, to the deep dark caverns of the twisted bridges. Once again, the team at Unknown Worlds Entertainment have given us a truly wonderful world to explore, with the art direction being simply breath taking. With the added grunt of this latest generation of consoles, Subnautica comes into its own, with beautiful lighting and textures interacting perfectly with the luminescence that is prevalent under the water. Backing this up of course is the soundtrack, with a track that is both mystical and futuristic and as the music fades away, you are left with an amazing array of organic sounds. From the rain hitting the surface of the water, to the rushing of air from your rebreather, the experience is made all the more surreal with a good home theatre setup or a solid pair of headphones.

subnautica below zero

It’s not only below the waves that has been given an overhaul, with a title like “Below Zero” one could be mistaken for assuming that the reference is to the depth of the ocean. A new concept in this survival adventure title is that of hypothermia. Ensuring that the player must be constantly aware of their surroundings takes new meaning as you step onto terra firma and begin exploring icebergs, glaciers and ice caves for clues to unravel the games storyline. As with the oxygen management below the water, the player must now manage their exposure to the elements by taking cover during extreme weather events such as blizzards or hailstorms. This added complexity provides an interesting puzzle for the players to solve as they aim to navigate their way across the barren landscape.

subnautica below zero

The familiar concept of resource acquisition for manufacturing of new and exciting technologies is back, with more ‘recipes’ to discover and new technologies to utilise throughout your journey. Whilst the Sea Moth and Colossus have disappeared, the Prawn Suit makes a triumphant return alongside the sea glider. To replace the sea moth and colossus submarine, players are able to now construct the Sea Truck, a modular vehicle that is able to have various types of modular cabins attached (or removed) to aid in the collection of specimens, or to attach your Prawn Suit to as you power your way across the vast landscapes.

Sadly though, there is a lack of a functional mapping system within the game with players having to rely on the 3D map provided by the sea glider, which does nothing more than obstruct your view of what is in front, or reference the map fragments found throughout the game. With no real time positioning, players will have to rely on the usage of beacons that can be found throughout the game or crafted at a fabricator.

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Keg for One More Game AU

8 – Great – this is a standout game where some minor changes would make it amazing. You could easily justify your purchase of this game.

Please click the link here for a full rundown of our rating scale.

Subnautica: Below Zero was reviewed on an Xbox Series X. It is also available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4|5, Nintendo Switch and PC.

The publisher kindly provided the code for this game. All thoughts on this game are ours and ours alone.

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