Subnautica: Below Zero has launched onto PC Early Access and brings the much loved Subnautica formula to a wondrous new frozen world. Despite the name, this isn’t an expansion or DLC for the original release. This is a standalone experience that uses the engine and assets of Subnautica but creates a brand new narrative, creates new environments, and introduces new marine life to encounter.
Whilst Below Zero isn’t enough of a step forward to be considered a true sequel, it’s still very much worth playing. Especially for those, like myself, who absolutely loved the original release and want to recreate the wonder found in exploring the world for the first time. Returning players will see similarities that will help them navigate the chilly new ocean biome and survive, including tried and true fabrication formulas, base building, plant life, and the standard fish. Although the further you submerge yourself into this experience, the more new, intriguing, and horrifying discoveries will be made.
Below Zero really is more of a good thing. The two games may have their differences although the core experience remains the same. This may be slightly disappointing for those who wanted something completely new, although the reality is that was never going to happen in just a year of development. For me, Below Zero was exactly what I wanted. Subnautica was such a unique and engrossing game and this standalone expansion recaptures the feeling of glee, horror, and awe that I remember from the original.
The game still focuses and excels in the same areas. It combines narrative and survival flawlessly, it makes exploration rewarding, and it makes you feel like you’re a tiny entity in a much larger and mysterious world. You never quite feel at ease in Below Zero because narrative information is obscured, you don’t quite know who to trust, and you have no idea what alien creatures are watching or lurking in the depths below. It’s a very emotive game that can turn you from fearful to gleeful in a matter of minutes.
Subnautica: Below Zero is still an Early Access product. In fact the game will warn you before playing that the experience will be buggy and incomplete. Whether you decide to purchase and play the game at this point in its development is entirely up to you. I can say first hand that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Below Zero even in an unfinished state. There was missing voice over, some obvious glitches, and more unfinished content, although the core of the game exists and it remains as powerful and captivating as the original Subnautica. Some gamers will be patient and wait for the game’s full release, and in some ways that will likely be the best way to experience the game. Although for the rest of us who simply can’t wait, jumping in now seems unlikely to ruin the end product. Regardless, I have full faith in the team over at Unknown Worlds Entertainment because they have already proven they can do the Early Access process well.
It’s a deep and dark world out there, but one that’s absolutely worth diving into. Subnautica: Below Zero is available in Early Access on Mac and PC for both Steam and the Epic Game Store