My Thoughts on Subnautica: Below Zero (So Far)

uh82cituh82cit U.S.AMembers Join Date: 2019-12-15 Member: 256414Posts: 5 Fully active user
The following are my thoughts on what Subnautica: Below Zero brings to the table, what I like, what I do not like. I am not trying to say my ideas represent a majority of players opinions, these ideas are mine and mine alone. Feel free to disagree with me and tell me why you disagree with me.

I am not going to do a pros/cons list. Instead, I will arrange my collective thoughts around specific gameplay elements that I want to discuss. Both the negative and the positive will be present in each section, as well as ideas I have. So without further ado, let's begin.

Atmosphere & World Building:

Bravo. You guys at Unknown Worlds really know what it takes to breath life into a new planet. Each plant, each fish, each leviathan feels like it hits its niche perfectly. There are some exceptions, which I talk about below, but the I can overlook them easily with how built and real the world currently feels. I love watching the predators catch and eat their prey, while simultaneously hoping to not be found by their own predators. I love how they are not scared of humans, as they have no idea what we are or if we pose a threat to them or not. All the organisms on 4546B feel so connected to each other, and to their respective biomes/environments. You get a real sense that this planet does have thousands if not millions of years behind it to foster the kind of life we see in our time on the planet.
One thing I notice about the world, however, is for the first 1/2 hours, you feel very cramped. Considering your lifepod is dropped only maybe 100 meters or so in front of an ice wall makes you feel like you are stuck up against a wall instead of feeling free like in the previous game. Maybe that is the point, trying to make the game more linear. The presence of the story compared to last game certainly makes it seem that way, but I still prefer the openness that the ocean promises. You can only dive maybe 20 meters on average in the starting biome, and you cannot travel very far back. Your only direction is forward, no backwards or sideways. This is only a minor point for me, however.

Creature Design:

In terms of physical aesthetic and design, this game is a knockout like its predecessor. I have not made it far enough in the game to see any leviathans other than the Chelicerate, but WOW. They are terrifying, awesome, perfectly scaled, and mean business. I particularly like that many of the larger species of carnivore in this game all have a similar torpedo shape to them, hinting at common lineage/similar structures necessary to succeed in their environment. Fantastic attention to detail, as in real life many animals exhibit similar characteristics based on their shared community.
When it comes to sound design for a few creatures, I think there should be some tweaking. For example, the Pinnicarid is a cute little predator that means the player no harm. We can feed them, even ride them, and they seem to remember you if you gave them food in the past. The issue is that their ambient sounds make them sound much larger and more menacing than they really are. When you listen to the sounds they make with their eyes closed, you picture something with teeth, and perhaps a bit larger than it is. When you look at the Pinnicarid, and hear what it sounds like, it does not seem to fit right to me. Maybe the idea was to have players not feel safe by having scary sounds in a safe environment? But I think if your gonna scare players with scary animal noises, at least put some bite behind the bark. Maybe add something truly reminiscent of the stalker to these arctic kelp forests to make the distressing noises, so that the player does not have to fear seeing a Pinnicarid. Another example in my opinion is the Chelicerate. The Chelicerate looks unique, but does not sound it. When you think back to Subnautica, if I say to you imagine the sound of the Reaper, Sea Dragon, or Sea Treader, you can instantly remember the sounds those leviathans make. When I tell someone to imagine the sound of the Chelicerate, I cannot for the life of me think of what it sounds like. It sounds too much like other 'large scary' creatures roaming 4546B. My opinion, is that the sound that the Cryptosuchus (love that name btw) makes should be the one for the Chelicerate. The leviathans in previous games, all of the leviathans could be heard before being seen. Not so with this one. I have my base right on the edge of its spawn point, and I almost never hear it before I see it. It does not make a roaring sound, or anything that would alert me to its presence and dominance over the ecosystem in terms of sound. I am only aware of its presence if I go looking for it, because then I will see it. The Cryptosuchus on the other hand, has such a deep, reptilian terror to it, and it can always be heard before being seen. I frequently look over my should to see if one is following me, because the sounds it makes echo around you and in your mind. It is a much more horrifying sound than what the Chelicerate currently makes.

Story/Characters:

Here I really only want to talk about the characters, since at the present the story is beginning to change from what it was in previous iterations of the game.

Sam is a fine character in this new storyline we seem to be getting. She is capable at her job for which she is very concerned, and she cares for her sister. I like the dynamic between what her sister is seeing on the ground, versus what she hears in the Vesper. It adds tension, since we know Robin is lying to her about some things, and it will hopefully lead to a good climax at some point.

Robin, in my honest opinion, has been wounded with this new voice actor. I know I am not the first to voice my opinion on this, and I doubt anything will change this at this point but I still want to say a few things. The younger, more "bright eyed and bushy tailed" voice actor did a fantastic job in my opinion of capturing a relationship with a sister who is her 'superior' in vocation, and being stuck on a fascinating beautiful world of danger and mystique. Her enthusiasm reminded me of the late Steve Irwin, as she looked about at the new animals surrounding her, and even living her life long dream of speaking to another new sentient species! The new voice actor, the more mature, steady version, hurts the experience in my eyes. She is not overcome with joy like she once was at learning about this planet, she does not seem to be even remotely fazed by being mind-melded with another ancient advanced conscience, and she sounds bored. It is a huge disconnect for me as a player as I go about exploring this unique dazzling planet when an epic story point happens, in real life am going "Oh my gosh, what was that!? That was so cool! How am I going to get back to my base again!", but the character Robin may simply utter monotonously "Damn. Robin my path to the base has been blocked off." It really hurts my personal experience going through the story with such an emotionally shallow voice actor juxtaposed with my own abundance of emotion in the various scenes that take place in the story so far.

Al-An was better in the previous version I think. Supposedly he is a member of the ancient alien species of that Architects, that is supposed to be so vastly more complex than we are, that we should find it very hard as a human to interact with them. Instead, what we get is a sort of posh, socially awkward, sorta advanced alien melded with our lesser mind. Al-An in my opinion should not know what "Shutting up" means, or really any English/human lingo. He would have no concept of the meaning, being thousands of years old and probably not a member of a species versed in satire. There should be more of a disconnect between Robin and Al-An in that they should be more infuriated/confused with each others beliefs, and ways of interacting with reality. One way I can see that maybe I am wrong at least with the lingo aspect is that as Al-An was transferred into Robin's cerebral cortex, he was able to pick up human sayings from her brain. I just wish if that were the case there would be a dialogue line explaining it to be so.

Progression/Pacing:

The progression and pacing in the current story feels off in my opinion. In the previous Subnautica, each new blueprint you found felt earned. You went into the aurora without a laser cutter, realized you needed one, but didn't know where the heck to find diamonds at. Eventually, you found diamonds and you knew you could finish exploring the aurora to get more story and content. In Subnautica: Below Zero, this is not the case. Within my first 2 hours of playing, I was able to stay underwater almost indefinitely, craft ion batteries and power cells, but could not build a base. It is really frustrating to me that I could not build a base because I had to chance upon finding a builder tool when I already had all the materials necessary to build a base. The whole series of events finding these various story elements, without being able to really explore because I would drown too quickly felt way off. For example, having to dive down below 100 meters and trust your luck to find the correct data box with the re-breather in it hoping you could use the oxygen plants feels off. You should have earned the re-breather another way so that after you get it, you realize "Oh yea, now I can go check that Base down there." It is much more satisfying to receive these powerful items as a reward for your exploration and curiosity than it is to receive them as a plot device to move the story forward. A good example is the snow fox. Getting onto the glacier and not being able to move fast, yet still sort of being able to explore is nice. But then you find these cool fragments on the ground, and can create a snow fox right then and there! It was really fun discovering that, and then being able to explore the glacier much more efficiently. There are other examples of pacing I could go into, but for the sake of not writing for a century, I will leave it there.

Music:

Ben Prunty is a master, zero complaints here. He really gets the aesthetic of the music laid down from Subnautica, and puts his own spin on it that makes the whole game feel familiar, yet distantly so. There is enough instrumentation mixed with vocals that make it feel your exploration of the planet is being watched. It is reminiscent to me of Star Wars, in that it feels there are ancestors, or elders watching me swim about watching over me/judging me on this planet that is not my own. I cannot wait for this game to be fully released so I can download the whole soundtrack.

Conclusion:

I have to say, I absolutely LOVE these two games. Unknown Worlds have cemented their place in my heart forever after from the first Subnautica, and into Below Zero. Ever since I was in the 1st grade I have wanted to become a Marine Biologist, and I am currently making that lifelong dream a reality in college. This game gives me the joy of doing what I love every time I boot the game up, explore and learn. I am obsessed with Elasmobranchs (sharks), Cephalopods (squids, octopi, nautilus, etc.), and bioacoustics. This game takes my love for these things and injects a new life into them with these new fascinating creatures I so wish were real. My dream is to discover a new species one day and to be able to study its life cycle, and learn about how it is adapted to its environment. The scale of the leviathans, the beauty of the prey fish, and the imagination of the world is stunning from the first to the last. This game is so inspiring to me I have even written poetry for it, and I hate poetry. The poems have gone in my Time Capsules in the original, I hope maybe some of you have received them.

All of this to say I love this game to the ends of the earth. I love what the devs and everyone involved with this series has done, and hope to see them succeed with this new game. You guys have helped ignite imagination, and stoke passion for learning. If there were more companies like yours, the world would be a better place.

Signed, a dedicated fan.

Eserro_Sora_

Comments

  • KriilKriil Members Join Date: 2020-03-09 Member: 258634Posts: 3 Fully active user
    I agree with everything you said here, particularly about the progression and pacing. I didn't feel like I really earned the beginning gear the way I did in the first game. Hopefully the devs can channel their experiences from Subnautica and apply them here.
    Subnautica - Best game ever!
Sign In or Register to comment.