Ready to Break the Ice
As you may know, the soon-to-be-released sequel to the fan-favorite open-world underwater survival game of the same name, Subnautica: Below Zero, will be hitting physical shelves and e-retailers in under 48 hours. I’m not sure about you, but I’m excitedly zipping up my goose down parka and donning my very warmest long underwear in preparation for a long, chilly revisit to Planet 4546B. While the game has been in early access via Steam for around 2 years, May 14 marks the first day that anyone wanting to play on something other than a PC (i.e. me) will get the chance to fully explore the chilly depths of the Subnautica world for a second time. That being said, there are certainly plenty of things that have been announced or seen in gameplay footage of Subnautica: Below Zero that give us a lot to look forward to. Here’s just 10 things for us to look forward to with the release of the upcoming survival title.
10. More Chances to Explore Beyond The Water
One of the main, and very evident, changes that have been obvious since the announcement of the Subnautica sequel is the opportunity to explore more locations above sea level. While a lot of the first game’s atmosphere strongly relies on its underwater nature, the moments in the first game where you rise beyond the depths were certainly a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively) from the constant fear of what lurks below. Below Zero features an expansive, frozen landmass, a drastic change from the small, almost tropical islands of the first game.
9. A Protagonist With a Voice
As tends to be the case with almost too many games to count, the first game featured a protagonist that never uttered a single phrase – that is, of course, if you don’t count gurgles for air or grunts of agony as you’re bitten by a Stalker for the sixth time as you sift through the Kelp Forrest for precious materials. Subnautica: Below Zero plans to change this. Enter Robin, the new playable main character, on the hunt for her helplessly lost sister. It’s always great to have a character to gauge opinions against (or to come into agreement with) when playing a game and Robin certainly makes herself heard and has a presence in a way that Ryley, the protagonist of Subnautica, never did.
8. A Slightly Smaller Map
Now hear me out here. I know in the modern era of video games we typically are looking for mind-bending gigantic worlds that we will typically never explore the complete expanse of. Keeping that in mind, the absolute scale of Subnautica – while incredibly realistic for an open ocean exploration game – was a bit too grandiose for almost no reason. I know that when I personally played through that there were regions I never even came near, let alone trawled the waters of. Additionally, I know that some of the people I recommended the game to definitely became a little intimidated by the sheer amount of open ocean exploration they would have to undergo to complete their mission of escaping Planet 4546B. I think a slightly smaller map has given Unknown Worlds more of a chance to give some love and importance to each individual region in a way that will be undoubtedly exciting.
7. Dealing With The Elements
One scrapped feature of the original Subnautica that has made an appearance in the sequel is the addition of weather conditions. While the day/night sequence of the original was certainly a welcome part of the immersion (and my personal cue to head back to the Seabase), it was a bit strange that every day held the same cloudless, sunny weather as the last. Below Zero adds at least 9 different weather patterns to the mix with significant consequences to player progression. On top of this, the temperature system from the first game is back, but now players will have to manage not only how to deal with extreme heat, but extreme cold as well.
6. Gorgeous New Creatures to Cuddle and Fear
As was the case with the original game, Below Zero will feature a plethora of insane native fauna to take in. I personally fell in love with the difficult-to-locate Cuddlefish in the first game and can’t say I didn’t get a little choked up when I had to leave him behind as I climbed into my rocket and blasted off in my planetary escape by the end-game. It seems that we will once again be met with plenty of cuddly new passive creatures in the newest release as well as a variety of aggressive ones that will have to be differentiated from one another when blood is spilled for the first time. The Ice Worm leviathan from the original announcement trailer certainly seems like quite the bad-ass and the Squidsharks that have been seen in gameplay videos look the twisted cross of a Xenomorph and a shark pool floaty after a long and tumultuous night of fiery passion.
5. Teleportation (and Not Just Via Precursor Portals and Warpers)
If you’re like me you’re remarkably lazy, even in video games. I tend to use fast travel systems in just about every game I play, much to the chagrin of some in the gaming community. One thing that was immediately and overwhelmingly absent in the original Subnautica was a system of getting from one point to another instantly (well, besides the portals left behind by a certain unnamed alien race and the annoying side effect of getting too close to a Warper). The Subnautica sequel changes that whole system. Players will be able to build teleportation modules in not only their Seabase but in their Seatruck as well. A new tool called the Tether Tool will even allow players to teleport back to their Seatruck from a distance while swimming in the open ocean.
4. A Revamp to Player Vehicles
The vehicles of the first game didn’t come without their own unique quirks. The Cyclops was a real pain to navigate and was unbelievably vulnerable to the Bleeders that could be found at greater depths. The Seamoth, while versatile and fairly quick, always felt like it could have used a larger storage compartment and some better defensive capabilities. It will certainly be exciting to explore the new vehicles coming in Subnautica: Below Zero. The Snowfox will provide all a player could ask for in a vehicle to explore the newly-expanded land areas of the game and the Seatruck looks like the best of both worlds in terms of the previously mentioned Seamoth and Leviathan.
3. Trying Out The Newest Gadgets
Along with changes to the vehicles players will be using in the game, there will also be changes and additions to some of the previously familiar tools used to eke out an existence on the hostile Planet 4546B. For example, the Laser Cutter, a tool solely used in Subnautica to unlock sealed doors will, in the sequel, be gaining the additional use of melting ice to help players open frozen, underwater deposits of oxygen or melt through sealed ice pockets. A totally new and unbelievably helpful tool added to players’ utility belts in Below Zero will be the Mineral Detector which will point you in the direction of the always vital resources you’ll need to continue on your journey. No more floundering around the seafloor looking for that last piece of nickel ore or gold.
2. The Sounds of The Depths
It is apparent through watching gameplay videos that Unknown Worlds have taken great care in adding to their already immersive sound environment. The new sounds and ambient soundscapes that come with Below Zero seem like they will be a joy to take in. Beyond these simple additions, the care that has been placed on voice acting, scripting, and line delivery are definitely appreciated. The audio logs left behind in the first game provided a wistful, isolated atmosphere that I will never forget and it will be exciting to explore the new story with this same level of care placed upon the auditory portion of the experience. There will even be the chance to listen to some actual music in this release (see below)!
1. Updates to Your Underwater Clubhouse
One final and very welcome addition to the Subnautica sequel is the addition of various Seabase building modules and items. Your home (far) away from home will likely look a lot cozier with the addition of various home goods such as a jukebox (to play the previously mentioned music), a shower, an aromatherapy lamp, or even a snowman (how appropriate). You will also be able to add glass domes to your Seabase modules that allow you to get even closer to the beauty of the alien nature around you without actually having to deal with it. Partitions can now also be added to larger modules of your Seabase, allowing you to make the most of your space and create smaller, separated rooms within one module. All of these changes being very welcome enhancements to the already robust building system the first game introduced.
Subnautica: Below Zero Release Details
Subnautica: Below Zero will release May 14 for $29.99 to both physical retailers and digital marketplaces. It will be available for PC and Mac (via Steam and the Epic Games Store), Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.
Will you be diving back into Subnautica a second time? What feature are you most excited about in the upcoming release? Let us know in the comments below!