Wot I Think: Subnautica

subnautica-1b

The best survival games are about conquering fear. Last year, when I first splashed about in Subnautica’s alien ocean, I was wary of leaving the shallow reef in which you first crash land. I eyed the hazy green water of the nearby kelp forests with fear, knowing it was full of Stalkers, an aggressive fish whose body is mostly one long croc-like jaw. Today, I swim among these beasts, collecting vines and seed pods as they impotently pursue me through the weeds. I’ve become a proficient scavenger, making the journey from trouserless idiot to Tom Hanks in Castaway’s third act. But even now there are places I do not like to go.

For those yet to dip their toes, Subnautica’s survival is familiar. You’ve got a food and water meter (although these can be turned off in an easier mode), an oxygen meter and a health bar. The environment and your lifepod contains everything you’ll need to stay alive. If you do croak it from drowning or from becoming fish fodder, you’ll respawn back in your lifepod having lost some of your items (although it’s somewhat random and inconsistent in this punishment). There’s also a radio in your pod which, once repaired, will get the game’s plot rolling.

It’s a light story that encircles everything you do, like a friendly dolphin reminding you to check out this part of the sea, or dive down to that crash site. It doesn’t interfere with your daily fishing, instead giving you a focus, some extra motivation to stay alive on this vast blue expanse.

subnautica-8

And expanse is definitely the right word. This is not a game for thalassophobes, but it might be the perfect game for those on the cusp of that phobia – those who don’t trust the sea but are nevertheless enchanted by it. You can spend hours comfortably splashing about in the bright shallows, then take a 90-second foray among the red fauna of the grassy plateaus, where angry sharks will kick up sand and bully you all the way back to your pod.

subnautica-4

Each biome has its own ecology of resources and risks – there may be diamonds in these subaquatic caves but something else lives here too, groaning loudly from the depths. There’s a crash site in that Deep Grand Reef, stuffed with equipment and goodies. But there is also something with tentacles. These are just a two examples of the variety in this huge ocean, and they aren’t even the most interesting. There are otherworldly “Blood Kelp” regions, caverns filled with giant glowing “jellyshrooms”, a richness of life, both hostile and harmless, that will keep the fearful-curious laughing nervously for weeks.

subnautica-9

On the survivalism scale, it is more gatherer than hunter. This is another rare strength. There are very few weapons. Upon landing in this unknown world, the most you’re given to defend yourself with is a knife. Even this you will use to cut materials more often than to gut aliens. Danger is best avoided, not confronted. Later you will get a propulsion gun and some vehicles with semi-offensive torpedoes but even these feel like rarely-used scare tactics more than actual weaponry. In my time as a deep sea dilettante, I used neither of them.

subnautica-10

This lack of weapons might be seen as a weakness of the player, but it isn’t a weakness of the game – it’s a virtue. In time, you become a part of the ecology around you. You’ll know which alien to salt and eat, and which alien wants to eat you. Approaching angry creatures with a scanner, rather than a harpoon, lets you build expertise, knowledge and confidence, so that the dark of those underwater caves, which once made you shudder, now just makes you shrug. By degrees, you are overcoming fear not by fighting, but by understanding, by learning. If Rust and its ilk are Darwinian games of survival by combat, Subnautica is Darwinian in a totally different sense, in that it is about discovery, science and nature. It’s no accident that one of the first rooms you can build in your underwater habitat is an observatory.

subnautica-6

Your habitat is another motivation to keep exploring, besides the occasional radio message prompting you to head out into the deep. I built my first home in the friendly shallows, and disliked the idea of sleeping beneath the waves so much that I constructed a separate bedchamber above water level, with wide windows to let in the planetlight. I always felt safe here. It became home. Later, when I found an environment that instinctively felt much more welcoming, I didn’t move my home base. Not just because it would mean shifting all my gear and rebuilding everything bit by bit, but because this stretch of clear blue water, as much as it unnerved me to sleep beneath it, felt like where I belonged. I’m aquatic now, or at least amphibious.

subnautica-7

For all these reasons, and some spoilery ones, Subnautica is at the top of my mental list of the greatest survival games. It is more polished than Empyrion and 7 Days to Die, many times less stressful than Ark: Survival Evolved or its older cousin Rust. It’s less intense than The Forest and more focused than Astroneer. Basically, it swishes around these competitors like fluid, offering a balance between tranquility and terror that few survival games have managed since Minecraft first asked you to brutalise an innocent oak tree.

subnautica-5

It doesn’t only blend peacefulness and fear, but lets you determine your own ratio between the two. There is a hardcore permadeath mode, in which you get single life. But I like my foraging and floundering to be 50:50, so I play in vanilla Survival mode. This way I can peer out at the coral from my safe HQ between cautious trips into the deep. I suspect many are the same, because it’s designed with this alternating rhythm in mind. Yet you can also play like Pip did, turning off the thirst and hunger meters altogether and becoming an underwater botanist. Or you can just doss about in the invincible ‘creative mode’ and build detailed underwater habitats. There’s no multiplayer mode, and no plans to add one, which many will find a great loss. But to anyone who feels like they need a friend to explore with, I’d encourage you to just cannonball into the water regardless. This is a waterworld you can paddle through at your own pace.

*singing* Wouldn't it be ice if this was frosty / then we wouldn't have to live so looong

There are many specifics I could get into – the way your modular base-building works, the materials you’ll need, the creatures and plants that will make up your rations and resources, not to mention the places you’ll go (oh, the places you’ll go). But so much of this world is best experienced via first-hand discovery. You might have to look some things up in the Wiki, as I did a few times, should you hit a point where it’s unclear how to unlock a certain tool or where to find a valuable material that never falls out of the rocks you crack open, like so many bad eggs. But I can forgive an occasional lack of direction in a game with this amount of depth and space.

We’ve talked about it in a podcast, describing it as a horror game. And we were half right, there are moments of tension that rival any first-person jumpscarer. I may have overcome my apprehension of the saw-toothed Stalkers in the kelp forest, among other alien animals. But there are caves I haven’t faced yet, depths I haven’t so much plumbed as prodded. The pressure of the ocean – its abyssal darkness – is something that ought to make you feel uneasy. The reason Subnautica is one of the best survival games is because it will get me to conquer that fear. Not by conquering nature, but by simply going and looking at it.

Subnautica leaves Early Access today todaym and is available for Windows and Mac via Steam and the Humble Store for £19.49.

84 Comments

  1. TychoCelchuuu says:

    Just installed this and looking forward to playing it for the first time. I’ve been a fan of UWE since before they were a company, since before Natural Selection was released… it’s been a pretty crazy ride. I’m so glad to see how popular Subnautica has gotten and I’m excited to see what’s next for them. They made the best Half-Life mod (Natural Selection), a sudoku game I know nothing about (Zen of Sudoku), an amazing RTS/FPS (Natural Selection 2), and now, I guess, one of the best survival games ever. Not a bad pedigree!

  2. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    How is the VR experience? I’ve put off playing this with the expectation that I’d eventually be getting a rift or vive, but maybe I should just go ahead and take the plunge?

    Dive right in?

    Immerse myself?

    • JiminyJickers says:

      The VR experience will leave you breathless!!

      I only tried it briefly with a controller and thought it was pretty awesome.

      But you may want to wait for the next generation of VR before plunging in, the screen door effect of the current ones is the thing that puts me off. Apart from that, it is mindblowing.

      • cpy says:

        VR made me naseous.

        • fish99 says:

          You should stick with it, the nausea should improve, and once you’re past it you should be OK with any 6DOF vehicle game, or any game with locomotion. I had it pretty bad too the first time in the Seamoth, but now I barely get any.

          • Blacksilver65 says:

            I had to turn off this game and Adrift both within 5 minutes of launching them in my Vive. Other games don’t bother me, but the 6DoF messed me up.

      • Vandelay says:

        Has it been updated in the last 4 or 5 months?

        It was one of the first games I tried in VR and it really was mind blowing to swim this alien sea in VR. But the game itself was not that great to play. I can put up with having to play with a pad, but the UI was positioned badly, making it almost impossible to see your water and air meters. Text also required you to squint at in order to read.

        It was so close to being right too, which made it more frustrating. They really just needed to spend another few hours to make it a playable experience, but I can’t see evidence that they have done that since I played.

        • rochrist says:

          It had a major update in the middle of December. Before that was the middle of September. They’ve pretty much been updating it continuously on that sort of time scale.
          Absolutely one of the best EA titles I’ve gotten.

          • Vandelay says:

            I mean an update to the VR implementation. Doesn’t look like there was anything in the December one in the update log on the wiki.

    • fish99 says:

      Just been playing it, it’s amazing in VR.

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      Interesting to hear others love VR mode. I personally found it to be a curiously detached, sterile experience, with a lack of immersion (odd as that sounds, given the context).

      But the last time I tried it was just over a year ago and it’s quite possibly changed since then.

    • Ooops says:

      The game has a very positive rating on Steam (even overwhelmingly positive if only recent reviews are taken into account). Virtually every negative review are from those who wanted to play the game on VR, complaining of a half-baked experience: no touch controls, menus that don’t appear at the right distance from your head…

      I wouldn’t buy this game if you’re only interested in its VR aspects.

      • fish99 says:

        I just had a look and of the 20 negative reviews on the first page of results, only about 5 mention VR. That also doesn’t tell you how many people found it a positive experience in VR since those reviews are in the positive 96%.

        A fairer set of results would be on the Oculus store where the game is at around 3.9/5.0, which is pretty good considering very few games are over 4 stars on there, and the Oculus version is behind the Steam VR version and there’s many old reviews from when the VR version was way more buggy. Also you get the normal version too (at least on Steam, not sure about Oculus store), so there’s no risk buying the game for VR.

        The game has it’s flaws in VR, poor performance, no touch support, initial nausea etc, but that’s not enough to stop it being probably the best VR experience I’ve had. The scale of everything and the sense of immersion is just breathtaking. It’s absolutely intimidating going anywhere near the huge crashed ship or heading down into the deep knowing you might run out of air or get eaten by some horrible thing.

    • Abacus says:

      I don’t really like playing VR games with a controller, I’m still waiting for them to add controller support. The VR HUD has some problems with small text.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      I’m also really curious to see how this’ll go in VR. There was a prototype underwater explore-em-up back in the Rift DK2 days, I think, and I eventually became comfortable and pleased with it until I went toward a vent or trench or somesuch, and there was a humongous roar followed by the game exiting to the desktop or title screen. I may have noped out of the headset before it even finished exiting…

      It wasn’t theblue or however that one’s styled, though I did enjoy that one, too.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Mikemcn says:

    It’s realllll good. I’ve lost hours to it… i’ve also lost hours to it because the saving is quite restrictive and i’ve had the game crash on me once or twice after an hour of building a cool base.

    Still I come back.

  4. KDR_11k says:

    I believe the death penalty is losing everything you picked up since you last left a base or Cyclops.

    • Archonsod says:

      I think it just randomly selects some of the stuff you’re carrying (found out when I cooked myself trying to set up a thermal generator, made getting it back slightly tricky. Naturally since it was just outside my base I hadn’t picked anything up on the way there).
      It’s not too punishing. Well, apart from the ‘do I really want to risk bumping in to that Ghost Leviathan again or should I just replace and rebuild?’ question.

  5. KDR_11k says:

    I have to say the vast ocean starts feeling pretty small once you’re looking for specific blueprints and traveling around to find those wrecks that might contain them. You keep hitting the edge of the map (the map is about 2 km across). It’s also the reason I don’t like going exploring in the walker suit, the edge is a vertical drop to infinity but also hard to tell apart from a regular cliff so there’s always a risk of accidentally going over the edge which is of course a big problem in a suit that can’t swim.

    • Premium User Badge

      DuncUK says:

      I’d agree with that… the world started to feel much bigger for me once I discovered the deep underground areas and realized the map was much more vertical that it seemed… but I still wish they’d five something better at the map edges. The sharp drop off to infinity is very immersion breaking and video gamey.

      • dbsmith says:

        Its a pretty difficult design problem though. There’s very few “good” options to force players to stay within the world confines.
        All the others I can think of would be way worse, e.g. forcefield/giant walls, invincible enemy that eats you, giant “turn back or die” warning signs…

    • StevieW says:

      When you say “hitting the edge of the map” is it a physical barrier, or the content just ends? I played EA probably a good year ago now, and remember there being no barrier and I wasn’t really sure where the map ended – is it more defined now?

      This vertical drop, is it clear it’s a vertical drop to nothing, or will stupid people like me think ooooh more content and keep diving till they die?

      • Premium User Badge

        Neurotic says:

        To be fair, it is quite apparent that you’re a) approaching an absolutely vast, open, empty-looking area of bottomless sea, and that b), this is most likely the limit of explorable game space. The first time I found it, I did swim down to the limit of my submarine’s hull, but again, it becomes very obvious that I was in the game’s ‘no-where zone’.

        As DuncUK said, there is a lot more verticality than you might expect, and as KDR said, the map does start to feel a bit small after a while. But it’s a long while; your ability to safely and efficiently explore it at anything like a reasonable speed is metered out very progressively. There’s no XP in this game — instead, your ability to get around the world is the thing by which you can measure your progress, all the way from enhanced flippers right up to gigantic submarines!

        Definitely give it a try, you won’t be disappointed. :)

      • Archonsod says:

        Once you leave the edge the game will spawn in a Ghost Leviathan every 30 seconds or so which makes for a pretty good incentive to turn back (the PDA also warns you these days when you’re approaching the edge).
        Unless it’s been changed sometime in the past week one fun thing to do is build a base on the edge, particularly if you put an observatory out into the abyss.

  6. LewdPenguin says:

    I wonder how everyone else is finding performance now? Personally whilst there has definitely been improvement over just a months or so ago I find it’s still a little too likely to encounter very noticable pop-in of scenery, oft accompanied by stuttering as the game frantically tries to load everything it needs. Of course having 6 degrees of freedom in movement makes this extra noticable as you can approach the entire scene directly from above meaning it’s not just a few distant objects suffering pop-in, but the entirety of what you can see, and sadly they don’t seem to have done anything special to work around that problem.

    That’s not to say I think it’s a bad looking game, in fact the opposite is true, it wears the appearance of a rather pretty AAA title well much of the time, but that only serves to make it more noticable when you’re faced with a low res blurry mess or the game stuttering for a second or two until it catchs up.

    Other than the slight technical failings I largely agee with the article, whilst at times frustrating in not giving you much in the way of tools to counter the more aggresive wildlife you encounter, especially early on, the decision to ignore the typical stabby and shooty gameplay solutions gives Subnautica a whole different feel to most other survival games. Even though you can’t go shooting your way through everything overall you’re trusted with a huge amount of freedom right from the start, indeed so much so that you can miss very basic and useful tech if you don’t spend enough time carefully scouring the initial shallows before wandering off to explore the darker depths/the Aurora. Yes there’s areas that are somewhat gated by the tech you have, but rather than making them simply inaccesable the game lets you go there if you make the effort, not having the ‘proper’ upgrades simply means you aren’t optimally equipped so will likely have little time in an area, but can still make dashes in if you so wish.

    • satan says:

      ‘I wonder how everyone else is finding performance now?’

      I’d also like to know.

      • Premium User Badge

        DuncUK says:

        Performance is much better but the game still suffers from bad pop in. Occasionally on some transition or other the game will be caught with its pants down and you’ll briefly be confronted with a barren wasteland which quickly populates with the appropriate flora and fauna. I hope there’s a patch to rectify this soon, but it is a problem that’s played the game from the start. I haven’t experienced much stuttering though and generally the frame rate is very high. Plus the game looks much better than it did a year ago…

    • Zanchito says:

      Depends on when you tried it. I first tried 2 years ago and it was terrible. 6 months ago was quite decent. Yesterday it was even faster with the same graphic options. Turn down world reflections and a couple other things and performance skyrockets without any visible loss of quality.

      Numbers:
      50 FPS AVG. with all setting on max except reflections down one notch. 3440x1440p , GTX 1070, i7 7700K, 32GB ram

      • KingFunk says:

        Just a modest rig then…

      • LewdPenguin says:

        Oh yeah compared to a little over a year ago which is I think roughly when I previously had a look it’s vastly improved, although in part that’s probably also partly down to me having had a significant upgrade on the hardware side.

        That said earlier I paid a bit of attention and the signs are worrying that the cause of scenery pop-in and occasional stuttering as the game catchs up comes from somewhere pretty deep in their engine. Quite simply it’s failing to make much use of the hardware available, generally stable at 60fps with everything on max I was seeing ~50% GPU utilization and at most 5GB of vRAM used, much of the time more like 4GB. CPU wise I’ve not noticed any spikes close to max loading either so I doubt I’m being choked there in the moments it runs into trouble, which leaves running out of RAM an even less likely concern with 12GB to play with. If there’s still problems with so much room left over on the hardware side sadly I guess they made some assumptions very early on that have left them a teeny bit boxed into a corner with what they can do performance wise, because other than running it off an SSD to help the game out when it falls behind I’m not sure what else I can do to find performance.

        Definitely a tad disapointing for a modern game (older stuff I can understand not being coded to take advantage of the features found on newer cards) to have issues running consistantly smoothly when presented with a 1080ti, thankfully unlike earlier during the EA phase it’s not as jarring, or severe enough to make crashing vehicles a major risk like it uesd to be, just going to be an ongoing little frustration.

    • causticnl says:

      Last time I played was in december, and back then there were still pop-in problems. They were most noticable in the mushroom forrest. Most of these pop-in problems only occur when you’re using an Seamoth or Cyclops because you’re speed is too high for your pc to create details around you, then it becomes as bad as move a few meters, wait for the world around you to pop-in, and then move again.

      I will try today if its still a problem.

  7. wcq says:

    Subnautica is great. I’m already pretty much done with the content they have now though, having spent dozens of hours playing it since I got it late last year.

    A piece of advice for new players: don’t start off in hardcore mode. The game is much like real diving, in that you’re much more likely to die due to your own stupid failure to follow proper safety procedures than in a manly battle with a giant seahorse or something. And that feels… very frustrating.

    • Zanchito says:

      This!

      I’ve had only two deaths so far, both because of my own bravado / carelessness. You have a ton of agency in this game, if something bad happens, it’s exclusively due to your own actions.

      • wcq says:

        At least when the game kills you for a reason, you feel like you learned something.

        Yes, I’ve learned not to try stabbing crashfish. I’ve also learned not to try checking my prawn suit storage box while submerged in a pool of brine.

  8. kincajou says:

    I heard that they updated the game settings option with the possibility of controlling the FOV, Can someone confirm this? as i’m one of those people who can’t touch first person games with a ten foot pole or be sick that may be really helpful to me…

    • Daymare says:

      You can set it from 60 to 90 degrees. As someone who generally prefers about 85-90 in their FPS, for some reason 65-70 feels best to me in Subnautica. There also seems to be a sorta ‘fisheye effect’ noticeable at the highest degrees, but I just tried it for a minute and maybe I’m too used to the lower cone of vision. Never felt restrictive or nauseating before, unlike some other games

    • FrenchTart says:

      I suffer really badly from nausea in 3D games but Subnautica hasn’t ever bothered me (with wider FOV settings). I find I can even watch other people play for a limited period of time without feeling like I’m going to throw up – which is almost unheard of for me.

  9. Towerxvi says:

    So, I think this is more a flaw with me than anything, but this is one of the games I’ve developed an aversion to trying just because of how enthusiatic the praise tends to be. Like, I’d be more likely to feel comfortable with the recommendations if they were trying to tell me the game was simply great, rather than that it was flawless. I guess I trust a reviewer who can find places for improvement even in things they adore, because it displays a level of detachment and perspective that makes it easier to trust?

    But I didn’t open this by saying “this is more a flaw with me” completely out of bullshit fake humility. I can still recognize that this game is probably still fantastic, but I still have this aversion to trying it because of the above, and any way you slice it that’s irrational.

    I guess this is a plea for someone who loves the game to come and tell me why it’s not actually perfect, or not for everyone, paradoxically to help me believe it’s actually as excellent as the RPS staff keep telling me.

    • Daymare says:

      Well, I adore this game, but if it helps, here’s some personal criticisms:

      – pop-in has been much improved, but is still very noticeable.

      – food/water meters drop too fast for my liking. It’s fine to have them (and you can play a mode that disables them!), but for me (who plays hardcore mode) they detract a bit too much from the rest of the game. Can be remedied by bringing food rations, but it still annoys me.

      – you might hit obstacles in your progression and have to go to the wiki. Like starting a new game I couldn’t remember where to find Mercury Ore so had to look that up. No clue how frequent these visits would be for someone who was less experienced or patient.

      Hope that helps!

    • ogopogo says:

      It’s not perfect. Amazing it’s as good as it is considering that budget-wise it modestly weighs in as a *maybe* a AA title when soaking wet (ha!)

      Some legit gripes:

      -If you travel too fast there are ridiculous pop-up issues.
      -The proper way to balance food/water is to play on Survival, eat by the rules & cheat in as much water (and, for that matter, salt) as you want. Food is fine to manage is this game, water is silly tedium.
      -One of the coolest vehicles you can make in the game is a ridiculous resource hog & you might just want to download a mod to make it invincible. Last I checked they sort of fixed the more bizarre cyclops-monster aggro, mostly. Except for when it’s parked and turned off, then thing were still pretty weird.

      People love this ridiculous looking game because it is stupid fun to play despite the flaws. I get an exploration thrill from it that’s competitive with the old Ultima Underworld games I played as a kid, and it works for me far better as a horror game than the recent ALIENS title did. Subnautica can skew Jack London as much as it does Jacques Cousteau, especially when finding out what happened to a handful of early space-prospectors that beat you out here to the frontier and dove too deep

      Also you should watch “The Wire” — it’s really good.

    • Premium User Badge

      DuncUK says:

      It’s absolutely not a perfect game. Here are a few issues that spring to mind from my recent restart with the launch version:

      – Firstly it still has issues with pop-in… these don’t really detract from the game that much but they are annoying and are a constant reminder you’re playing a video game.

      – Resource gathering can be a pain. There are particular elements you need a lot of – especially silver (for ‘wiring kits’) – that are frustratingly rare and are hidden inside limestone/sandstone deposits, which more often than not contain something you have plenty of. You spend a lot of your time hunting for these resources which you will quickly exhaust in areas close to your base forcing you to move further and further away.

      – Alot of your devices need power in the form of batteries or the larger power cells. When you craft these they are fully powered but can only be recharged via their respective chargers. Power cell chargers in particular are locked off by the game progression and require blueprints and materials that are not so easy to find. Early on you find yourself wasting precious resources creating batteries and cells you won’t ultimately need once you’ve got chargers. That said eliminating this issue becomes the focus (for me) and achieving a working recharge system is rewarding.

      – The eating and drinking mechanic isn’t all that much fun. Early game it’s a constant time sink and mid game onwards you’ll have an aquarium or garden that generates endless food and a water purifier generating water that render it moot. However again, getting to that state is very satisfying.

      So why do I like the game? I was put off it for a long time as I just didn’t think I’d enjoy a game based underwater. I was quite wrong, the sea is rich and diverse and the underlying story (which I won’t spoil) is sufficiently compelling and well woven into the progression system of the game. Progression is largely about achieving self-sufficiency and then building and enhancing vehicles to allow you to go deeper and deeper into the ocean. I didn’t realise I had a fear of the deep until I played this game. It can evoke feelings of relaxed tranquility when splashing around in the shallows and yet genuine terror at the roar of a nearby leviathan. If you like survival games set in a hostile environment with a story and well crafted environment to explore, you can’t really do much better than Subnautica. Just keep the wiki handy to keep those frustrating times to a minimum.

      • Archonsod says:

        IIRC none of the blueprints are gated as such, but they are randommly distributed between the wreck locations. Which is kind of another flaw; it’s quite possible to have a complete Cyclops before you find the blueprints for the Seamoth, or spend six hours wreck diving for that one last moonpool part and so on.

        • wcq says:

          I think this is one of the major problems of the game, because on some of my playthroughs it’s been stupidly hard to find a basic tech like the battery charger. Also, most of the useful interior modules you might find can only be installed in a multifunction room (the big round one), which might take you a while to find on your first playthrough depending on your style of play.

          I think one way to fix this would be to make the data terminal in the Aurora’s laboratory fill in the missing basic tech into your database, if you manage to make it there. I mean, I originally thought that was exactly what it did, considering the voiceover line that plays.

          • Premium User Badge

            DuncUK says:

            I think this has been fixed with the release version… if anything I’ve been finding blueprints for stuff well in advance of wanting to build it. The one exception so far is the power cell charger but then I’ve barely even started wreck diving, having focussed on building out the things I have.

          • Daymare says:

            Well, it did take me 1h+ to find a Cyclops Thermal Reactor Mod blueprint. Or rather, the wreck that had it, as noted by the wiki. So even with the wiki it sucked.

            Could’ve farmed enough Power Cells to never worry about running out of fuel in that time.

      • blainestereo says:

        Power cell chargers in particular are locked off by the game progression and require blueprints and materials that are not so easy to find.

        The trick here is to realize your subs are recharged while docked in a moonpool which is a much easier blueprint to find. You only really need power cell chargers to recharge your cyclops which is an extremely late game thing to do anyway.

    • fish99 says:

      I’ve only played 23 hours, but some of the flaws I’ve come across are the engine has quite bad pop-in and doesn’t perform that great at times, especially in VR where you’re aiming for 90 fps. Also I’d say the game is a lot better when you’re underwater rather than on foot.

      The building system is occasionally obtuse too. If you partially build an attachment you can end up confused as to why you can’t deconstruct a building. The game could use a quick tutorial on base building.

    • Towerxvi says:

      Alright, thanks guys. It seems really dumb, but I actually had a way easier time picking this up, and I’m looking forward to trying it when I get home tonight.

    • Oasx says:

      In addition to what other people have mentioned:

      1. Bugs. Get ready to have fish swim through walls and sharks float in the air.

      2. The game has several vehicles and most of them are fun and make the game more enjoyable, the Cyclops is a submarine that doubles as a mobile base, the Cyclops sucks. It is clumsy and hard to use, drains power like crazy and is just all-round a pain, unfortunately it is needed to access certain parts of the game related to the story.

      3. The game is often not great at directing people, it has a tendency to hide items needed during the mid to late game. So an upgrade to a vehicle will sometimes only become known to you after finding a certain mineral for the first time, so unless you check the game wiki you may not be aware that you are missing important items.
      That aspect has improved, but it is still not exactly newbie friendly.

  10. Snowy007 says:

    “you’ll respawn back in your lifepod having lost some of your items (although it’s somewhat random and inconsistent in this punishment)”

    I’m not sure, i might be wrong so don’t quote me on this. But i thought that your inventory gets saved every time you leave your base/sub/pod. If you die, you lose everything since you left. Except for certain items that are marked as ‘important’ or something. Like, i don’t think you’ll lose any ‘keys’ that you find. This could make it look inconsistent.

  11. zigguratvertigo says:

    Surely wot I sink?

  12. caff says:

    Bought in EA but held off playing until the full release.

    I bounced off it pretty hard. Literally 5 minutes in I was having to Google how to remove junk from my inventory…. and there seems to be a lot of junk. No sign pointers to what I’m supposed to be collecting. Maybe that’s part of the appeal to some? But not to me.

    Oh and 4K performance is crap. Not a major issue as it looks good at 1080p and resolution isn’t everything, but might be worth knowing if you care.

    • draglikepull says:

      I think the game subtly but cleverly points you to what to collect. When you first start, there are broken electronics in your pod, and it tells you they can be fixed with a repair tool. So you go to the crafting station and see that you need three resources to build it. If you go swimming in the water near the base, you can find all three resources fairly easily.

      While doing this, you’ll notice that you run out of oxygen pretty quickly, but you notice that there’s an oxygen tank in the crafting menu, and the materials are probably ones you’ve seen by now, so you craft an oxygen tank.

      Having repaired the radio, you start getting messages that point you to other parts of the map to explore. Sometimes you can get to them, but sometimes you can’t, so you start working on crafting more tools (and eventually vehicles) to help you explore further from home.

      The game is constantly prodding you in this way, letting you know that there’s something new and interesting just a bit out of reach, and that if you keep exploring bit-by-bit you’ll find the tools that you need.

      • DodgyG33za says:

        My first play through I didn’t realise that you could catch fish with your hands. It is SOOOO much easier than trying to chase and kill them with a knife.

    • zind says:

      FWIW I almost had the exact same experience. My biggest gripe about the game is that I wish it spent the first 10-15 minutes doing some severe handholding on the level of “punch this rock” and “pick this seed”.

      10 minutes in I had filled my inventory with stuff that wasn’t useful but didn’t want to drop it and when none of it let me make a single thing at the fabricator I just kinda quit. I talked with the friends who had recommended it to me and they convinced me to go back in. It STILL took like 90 minutes of fumbling around figuring out what to keep and trying not to die of hunger and thirst before I had made a couple basic tools and discovered one of the basic mechanics of the game and THEN suddenly I could see how the game was supposed to be fun.

      15 minutes of “look at this blueprint, pick up this metal, grab this resource, make this tool” that ended with me having scanned my first fragment would’ve short circuited that whole experience and made a much better first impression on me.

    • funky_mollusk says:

      I bought it today, and when I hover the cursor over an inventory item, a helpful popup appears telling me how to discard items.

      I’m not saying that I’m not googling stuff. Just not that.

  13. thatfuzzybastard says:

    Oooh, did you say “plot”? Now I’m interested! My big turn-off on survival games has been the lack of plot, in terrible contrast to my beloved LOST IN BLUE/SURVIVAL KIDS, which expertly used spatial exploration to drive plot development. But if this has a proper story, it becomes a way more interesting single-player experience!

  14. KingFunk says:

    Despite all of the praise, I’d always ignored this on the basis that it was ‘another early access survival game’. However I am pleasantly surprised to realise it’s actually a single-player-only game. Sounds a bit like Abzu but less abstract and with a bit of tension.

    Can anyone who played Miasmata say if it triggers some of the same vibes? I bloody loved that game…

    • Buuurr says:

      The only tension is if you are a’feared of water. I dive so this game has been a major let down. Outside of the initial trepidation there is a lot of dead space in this game.

      • Daymare says:

        On a scale of 0 (boring) to 1 (meh) how would you rate this game?

        • Buuurr says:

          Bore-fest. Once you lose the fins and are in ships this game is basically a not fully realized ocean sandbox that can not be fully interacted with.

      • KingFunk says:

        Oh, I was kinda hoping it would involve a bit of that ‘How far do I push it to explore without returning to base before screwing myself?’ that Miasmata conjured so wonderfully. That feeling of ‘Oh shit, it’s got dark again, how the hell do I get back? Oops, there’s a steep slope, oh god, ow, dammit I’ve dropped my precious nepenthes, ohmygodwhereisthebloodything?!’

        • Buuurr says:

          It does have that. It has it at the very start. Once you have a little base and are smart enough to use it as a dive bell the game and it’s creatures offer no resistance/tension whatsoever.

  15. funky_mollusk says:

    I bought it today. I’m totally hooked. 😀

  16. Shinard says:

    Oooh, I am curious.

    Side note, did you just forget the Long Dark when listing best survival games? I guess it is a bit different to others in the genre, being ironically more about survival than most others, but still. It’s really good.

  17. Durgendorf says:

    This might be my favorite write up on this site yet. Beautifully done.

  18. Marclev says:

    Has the story got a proper end (even if you can keep playing afterwards)? I’m a bit worried about how much focus the praise is putting on the “experience” (which brings memories of No Man’s Sky to me). Is there a defined (no matter how long drawn out and subtle) start, middle, and end, or is it one of these games where you just run out of things to do after a while and get bored?

    • Daymare says:

      It does have a story, with a beginning, middle and end. Though it’s not really in the way of you doing your survival. It’s more about giving you incentive to go out and explore.

      There’s also side stories told via logs and audio messages you find.

Comment on this story

HTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>