The depths are treacherous. You don’t know which monster is lurking in the blackened waters, but you can hear its terrifying roar grow louder as you dive deeper. You know you are approaching your goal, but you feel the monster is even closer. Subnautica: Below Zero offers a continuing sense of wonder and dread in its beautifully designed underwater exploration. Each dive is an enriching experience of discovery and self-preservation. When you come back for the fresh air, you feel like you’ve accomplished something, uncovered a new mystery, and maybe found what you needed to make your next dive even more rewarding.
Below Zero is what every sequel should be, building on the cleverly laid out basic formula to make new content just as exciting and unpredictable. True to the first game, the main attraction is once again a sprawling alien sea that dazzles with its unusual aquatic life, but the survival gameplay impresses a lot more now that it’s been streamlined to the point that it’s rarely stressful or stressful. disturbing. Even though I had to periodically fry a fish to quench my hunger and / or thirst, the majority of my time was spent doing what I wanted at my comfortable pace and in the order that made the most sense.
A beautifully written sci-fi story connects with the element of discovery, often overlapping in ways that impact your position in the world and what you are capable of. Unknown Worlds does a fantastic job of guiding the player to points of interest without clearly labeling them. Both audio and visual signals are used efficiently, which often leaves you wondering what something is or where it could go.
I don’t want to spoil what the finds are, but many are grandiose in their design, stretching both the narrative and the gameplay in directions that make the experience even more thrilling. While I was still on the hunt for the next big thing, the instant collection of crafting materials is immensely satisfying and better balanced than the original game. Some finds have many layers. Take the example of the Sea Monkey with the funny name. You learn early on that this curious beast loves your gadgets and will steal them if you get too close. Later in the game (and after developing a more meaningful connection with the world through a big storytelling twist), Sea Monkey becomes your friend and goes looking for supplies for you. The gameplay sometimes evolves with the story, and this is yet another way of Below Zero that truly impresses with its unexpected depth.
I also liked how stress free most of the crafts are. In the first game, you were immediately tasked with fixing a bunch of broken systems in your ship. Below zero, everything works as it should from the start. Rather, the goal is for you to explore on your own and build exactly what you want. This type of liberation approach is applied to most of the game, even to reduce frustration when exploring. Yes, it’s a sprawling sea, but each area is subtly different in design, making it easy to know exactly where you are and what materials can be found there (especially when you can scan them). Another cool touch is that if you die with a beacon on you, you can find your way back. The air bladder is also much more efficient this time around.
Not all discoveries happen underwater. After a crash on planet 4546B, xenologist (and protagonist) Robin Ayou gives us immediate insight into one of the sequel’s most effective surprises: true exploration on foot. Every once in a while you’ll get on dry land and see what surprises await you, and they can be just as meaningful and unexpected as anything you’ll find in the sea. The gameplay on foot is as basic as it gets (walk and interact ), but these sequences give a more complete snapshot of this wild alien world and help change the flow of play.
As you explore this planet you will develop the ability to build your own habitats, customize them however you like (with posters and items you find), and ultimately become a master of the sea. able to watch a beast that would spin Jaws’ tail and walk away in fear. Just be aware that these creatures almost always attack when you least expect them, giving Below Zero some of the best jump scares and they’re not even scripted.
Some of these howl-worthy encounters don’t turn out exactly the way Unknown Worlds intended, and can get unexpectedly comedic when a beast clearly forgets how to accurately navigate a space, bumping into walls and sprawling chaotically. . Some breakouts are also upset with a pop graphic that causes a giant iceberg to materialize out of thin air right in front of you. Below zero it’s a bit rough around the edges, but most of my playing was nice and smooth.
I cannot stress how fun every dive can be and how rewarding the discoveries are. Below Zero is one of the best survival games I’ve ever played, showing just how impactful gamer freedom can be in a world you’ll want to explore every square inch of.
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