The overarching theme of my first play-through has been: Frustration. [Below Zero]

MeadesJeffMeadesJeff Canada Join Date: 2019-01-01 Member: 247730Members
Before I delve in to why my first play-through was frustration-inducing I wanted to say I think this game is beautiful. I played Subnautica for the 3rd time in preparation for the Below Zero release, and Below Zero brings that same wonder and terror that I've come to love in Subnautica. I also want to commend UWE for not being afraid to try new things. As much as I would have loved "Subnautica that looks different with new features", the expanded dialogue, on-land adventures, new vehicles and character development are all refreshing ideas that I thoroughly enjoy. I quickly found myself invested in Robin's story, I wanted to uncover what happened to Sam and learn all there is to know about Sector Zero and what Alterra was doing there. To me, that was my primary goal when I landed on 4546B. To find out what happened to my sister.

And therein lies the beginning of my problem, and I want to be clear: I am not without blame in how my play-through happened.

It's hard to remember the exact order of events that led to some serious missteps by me, but I think my first mistake was accidentally discovering Outpost Zero within the first 30 minutes of playing. I found it long before I got the signal that is intended to lead you to it. But when I found it, it reinforced this notion to me that my primary goal was to discover what happened to Sam. As I continued playing, gathering materials and exploring I had multiple new beacon signals appear. And this is when I made the biggest mistake of my entire play-through. I decide to go to Delta Island before investigating the Architect Sanctuary. I can't tell you exactly why, maybe I thought my equipment wasn't advanced enough to get as deep as the beacon appeared to be, or maybe I was just more interested in whatever might be on the island. Whatever the reason or circumstances, I found myself exploring delta island before the architect sanctuary.

This lead to a cascading effect of chasing leads that I assumed were the main story, and inevitably a lot of frustration. I had my first encounter with Margeurit there, giving me a new beacon signal, and I found the Alterra Facilities map. What proceeded after this was hours of having fun exploring, base-building, trying to find Margeurit and track down these Alterra bases which I assume will progress the main story. That little signal in the twisty bridges, admittedly, got pushed to the back of my mind. Out of eagerness, excitement to explore more, trying to find and build the seatruck, whatever it be; I simply forgot about it and assumed I explored it. I played for several more hours like this until I started to hit a brick wall. I had built the Seatruck which allowed me to discover the Omega Lab by using the map, and find the Mercury II pieces. But I hadn't found the mining base, Phi Robotics or Margeurit's base yet. I believe the PDA's I had collected completely out of order at this point mentioned Phi Robotics, so I was more focused on finding how to get there than the mining base.

The brick wall was this: Using the map to find Phi robotics lead me to the Eye Jelly area, where there appeared to be cave systems that went too deep for me without diamonds to upgrade my depth module or get the Ultra High Capacity tank. So I tried looking for ways on land, but only found areas that appeared to need the Snowfox to jump over. I completely missed the small dock in the corner that gets you right up. Again, my own mistakes and assumptions. From finding the Mercury II and needing a laser cutter, I assumed the next step for progressing at this point was to find diamonds.

I'm going to be honest with you: I'd love to say that after looking in every deep-area I possibly could with the 150m depth sea-truck and high capacity tank without finding diamonds for 2 hours, I had an epiphany that I should try harder to find the mining site. But I didn't. I googled it out of frustration, and learned that there's a cache of diamonds on Delta Island that is accessible using the Spy Pengling. The Spy Pengling which fragments can be found at Phi Robotics. But keep in mind, this entire time I've been trying to find the bases using the Alterra Facilities map in my PDA. Finally, after reading what I googled, I was determined I had missed a way to get to Phi Robotics. Sure enough I had. Eventually I found the little dock, discovered the land area and Phi Robotics, and got the blueprint for the Spy Pengling. I went and got the cache of diamonds on Delta Island, upgraded my Seatruck Depth module, built a modification station, and equipped myself with a laser cutter.

This allowed me to fully explore the Mercury II, mining site and finally find Margeurit's base. I of course immediately went and installed the module in the communications tower, because I thought this was the way to progress the main story. Margeurit called me, and for the first time 12 hours in to the game, I thought I was on the right track to actually advancing the storyline. So you can imagine my confusion after the greenhouse leads me to somewhere I've already been and Margeurit stops calling.

At this point I'm just lost. I can now explore deeper, and I certainly have a lot of new area to explore on land, but something feels very wrong. In Subnautica the story is by no means forced upon you, but there is clear direction from radio messages, "Codes & Clues" and voice logs. You can follow the bread crumbs, or wander aimlessly and both are amazing and rewarding experiences. This is when I realized I have missed something crucial. All of these alien artifacts that seem to serve no purpose, the alien facilities that don't have any clear way to get inside. Surely this isn't the way UWE intended their game to be experienced.

After 14 hours of play time I finally realized I never actually discovered what the Alien Sanctuary beacon lead to, and that's when I found Al-An.

Everything made sense after that. Al-an leads you to all the key areas, in the "proper" order. Al-an is the Subnautica equivalent of the radio. I'm a big fan of all of the dialogue between him and Robin. It's an intriguing story ark, and I was upset at the prospect of missing a lot of it. I had to go back to several artifacts I had already discovered that Al-An didn't mark in order to trigger his clue for the final body part location.

Which brings me to the point of this suggestion post.

Despite all the mistakes and misguided assumptions I made as the player, I don't think it should be possible to accidentally skip such a fundamental part of the game. I think that's a large oversight that needs to be addressed. Although it didn't irreversibly break the sequence of the game, it surely affected the entire experience negatively. Compare Al-an to the radio in Subnautica, and any player would have to try extremely hard to ignore the Radio and the new message indicators. I had the misfortune of getting side-tracked in side-story which I presumed was main-story. So please consider adding much more emphasis on finding Al-an. Finding Al-an should be as intriguing an event as the Sunbeam landing, the occasion that really jump-starts the story.

Thanks for reading. If anyone wants a crash course on how NOT to play Below Zero, my DMs are open.


  • rcf31415rcf31415 Join Date: 2021-05-19 Member: 270340Members
    I had a Similar experience. was not interested in the Mystery signal for a good while but I did find a ton of diamonds early and robotics lab so not as rough as a time. Not sure how to best address this though as the game does give us plenty of prompts. Only thing I can think of is to not put it so deep or have Sam go down there and leave a message somewhere saying such.
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