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Subnautica Enters Earliest Access, Offers Prototypes

Under the sea, under the sea, we'll all die horribly, take it from me.

Much like the above "screenshot" the first of Subnautica's released builds are not going to be representative. The second project from Natural Selection devs Unknown Worlds will enter what they're calling "Earliest Access" on October 31st. It's called that because they feel the game "isn't ready" for Early Access - far too much unfinished and in flux. They're leaving it up to you whether you're desperate enough for underwater survivalising to support development. Those who go for it will also be given code for a few of the team's prototype builds, released over the next few days. More details below.

While it's not being sold on the Steam store, come October 31st the builds will be distributed via Valve's service. Unknown Worlds are aiming for regular weekly updates and daily ones for those who want them, when they can do it. There's something enticing about that. I'm generally down on paying for unfinished games, the inevitability of disappointment clear. This is different, something new and interesting every day or week, likely broken, but enough entertainment for short bursts. Eventually - eventually - that will stop, and there'll be a larger thing that I've watched grow.

The game itself is a cool concept too. Survival may feel played out, but this is doing more than a find and replace on "zombies" with "dinosaurs," "cannibals," "bears," or "knights." The watery depths of an alien world isn't somewhere I'm regularly transported in games and the fear of deep sea drowning is a new one for the genre. It's a different sort of dread to being hunted by assorted nasties: the constant knowledge that your environment is immediately lethal and you are kept alive only by the presence of (failing) technology.

It's $35 at this stage, available through the Subnautica website. The FAQ at the bottom indicates they're aiming for a full release in mid-2015. Hmm, we'll see about that, but as Unknown Worlds point out they've got a decent track record when it comes to finishing their development plate. Here's the trailer from last month:

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