Subnautica : Below Zero looks too cool for an underwater survival sim

Subnautica’s murky depths are waiting to test your survival.

Indie developer Unknown Worlds Entertainment has partnered with console development extraordinaire Panic Button (known for the recent Nintendo Switch ports of DOOM and Wolfenstein II) to bring Subnautica to PlayStation 4.

If you have thalassophobia, this isn’t the game for you.

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What’s new with Subnautica?

Subnautica’s final release version gracing consoles doesn’t mean that the developer is done supporting it.

February 9, 2019

Below Zero, an arctic themed standalone expansion, will be coming to Subnautica on PlayStation 4 as soon as possible according to Unknown Worlds. It is currently in Steam Early Access, but the developer cannot release a preview on PlayStation because Sony does not allow early access games.

Players will be journeying back to Planet 4546B around a year after the base game takes place. New threats and mysteries await under the frozen surface.

What is Subnautica?

Subnautica is an adventure survival game that allows players to explore its underwater world to their heart’s content. This is no ocean you’ll be familiar with, however, as it is set on an alien planet with unknown threats. Whether you’re exploring a long-forgotten cave system, building a base, harvesting plant life and resources, or encountering some of Subnautica’s otherworldly creatures, there’s activities for everyone to enjoy.

Story

As I mentioned earlier, Subnautica doesn’t take place on Earth. When humanity begins to colonize other planets in the late 22nd century and a faster method of travel is needed, you’re sent out to construct such a device. While doing so, you’re also tasked with scanning a planet known as 4546B for signs of another ship that has been missing for nearly a decade. Whatever befell that ship appears to have struck yours as you’re hit with an energy pulse and crash land on 4546B. What awaits you is the mysterious tale of an ancient civilization and its quest to save its dying race. As the story unfolds, you’ll see just what measures they went to in order to try and ensure survival.

Environment

Planet 4546B is full of exotic locations to explore. As the developer states, there are “sun drenched shallow coral reefs to treacherous deep-sea trenches, lava fields, and bio-luminescent underwater rivers” among its diverse offerings. You’re not just skimming the rocky ocean floor. You’ll be discovering a whole alien ecosystem that sustains various forms of life. Some of these out there may help you on your journey, while others may be looking to turn you into a snack. No pressure.

For some encouragement to dive deep into these areas, you’ll also be able to locate crafting blueprints and maps to help you survive. The danger should be well worth the effort. So if you thought you could just be content in your little corner of the ocean (do oceans have corners?), you’re sadly mistaken. That is, depending on what mode you choose to play in.

Treacherous Survival: Gameplay

Survival sims tend to turn a lot of people off as the constant threat of death and micromanagement of resources can seem intimidating instead of a fun challenge. Luckily Subnautica has several modes that players can enjoy so they aren’t forced to deal with frustrating survival mechanics.

Survival mode

Survival is essentially Subnautica’s “normal” mode. You must manage your oxygen, hunger, and thirst to stay alive. Should you die, you’ll lose all of your resources and respawn. Your items will be at the location where you died so you can still attempt to gather what you lost.

There are ways to ensure that you don’t lose everything you’ve worked so hard for. By entering either a Lifepod 5, a Seabase, or a Cyclops, you can secure your inventory. This means that whenever you die, you’ll keep whatever items were in your inventory the last time you secured it in one of the three aforementioned structures.

Hardcore mode

Hardcore, as you can probably guess, isn’t for the faint of heart, and is meant for more serious survival sim fans looking for the greatest challenge. This mode features permadeath, so once you die, it’s game over. You’re only given one life, and the game completely begins anew should you meet your demise.

Freedom mode

If you don’t want to risk life and limb, there is a Freedom mode for your enjoyment. This mode takes out the stress of managing your resources so you won’t need to worry about dying of hunger or thirst. However, similar to Survival, you will need to keep an eye on your oxygen levels.

Creative mode

And if Freedom is just a tad too intense for you, there’s always a Creative mode. Think of this like Creative in Minecraft. You’re open to explore at your leisure without worrying about any hazards since your character cannot die. You can also craft anything without needing the usual required materials and blueprints to do so. Lastly, your bases and vehicles do not consume energy in this mode.

VR support?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Subnautica will support PlayStation VR for the time being, despite supporting the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Unknown Worlds attributes this to the difficulty of getting Subnautica to run at the high frame-rates that VR requires. The team is already struggling to achieve a smooth 30 FPS on consoles, and VR would require at least 60 FPS. So for now don’t get your hopes up for a PSVR release, but never say never. There’s always the chance that Unknown Worlds will revisit the possibility in the future.

When can you play it?

After a long waiting period where Subnatutica was only available on Steam and Xbox Game Preview, PlayStation 4 owners can finally enjoy what lies below the sea.

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Updated February 2019: The trailer for Subnautica: Below Zero is out and we have added the latest developer comments on its PS4 release.

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