Why You Should Play … Subnautica

So, before I get started on today’s post, I have something to say regarding WordPress, the company that I pay to provide hosting and my site’s toolset for writing.

The new block editor is not good. No, it’s worse than that. No intelligent company should have forced this on their users. Block editor follows the “recent” trend of “take functional tools for a user and destroy them in favor of the one user who thinks they’re too complicated or not pretty enough.” Then they hand you something colored in pretty colors and designed for someone who wants to take pictures for instagram rather than use it.

It’s not a good alternative. It’s slower to load, lacks basic functionality, and is all around terrible. Oh, and as a cherry on top, when I accidentally contacted customer support to complain about being unable to go back to the old version as a default, they shoved some “trademarked” level canned responses at me and then closed the channel.

And to top it all off, you can set the old editor as a default with a plugin that has—already—over 5 million downloads. However, you can’t use this plugin unless you pay WordPress for the exclusive ability to use plugins. Which is $300 a year. EDIT: And just clicking the button to see what that premium thing was added it to my cart and put me one click away from accidentally billing myself. That’d be alike any Amazon product adding itself to your cart because you looked at it. Not cool.

Which seems like a case of deliberately hobbling the product people are already paying you for in order to try and “coerce” them into giving up more money.

I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising to me that several of these new “blocks” in the block editor are dedicated to money.

Anyway, sorry to interrupt what would have started off as simply a post on Subnautica, but upon loading my site today, I discovered that I no longer had a choice between the functional “classic” editor and this new garbage the company is determined to shove down everyone’s throats because why would any of their customers know what they wanted or needed to do? They’re just semi-ambulatory money sources, right? It’s not like they use the tools or anything? Right?

Look, I get that there may have been improvements on the backend or new tools that someone wanted to introduce, but right now, in order to do something that used to be a single click of the mouse, I have to click a “block ediotr” (or whatever it’s called) open, then do a seach, an actual text-based search, for the same thing, find it in the search results, and then click it. That’s four steps instead of the old one step.

Or as people with intelligence call it: steps back.

Now, my rant on this new editor will now be put on hold until the next post, at which point I shall mock and ridicule WordPress once more (because this is seriously bad). Because I want to talk about Subnautica, and why you should play it.

So, let’s talk about Subnautica, a Sci-Fi survival game that, if you’re a gamer, should definitely be on your list.

Let’s start with the simple basics. Such as “What is it?” Pretty straightforward, actually. especially if you’re familiar with the terms “survival game.” Subnautica tasks you, the player, with surviving on an alien world. As in, gathering food, building shelter, etc.

Wait, don’t duck away! I know those are a dime a dozen, but Subnautica is different. Very different. For one, there’s actually a narrative. That’s right, there’s a story here, one that brilliantly dances the line between the freedom to make your own story and guiding you forward. To the degree that most of what you do will be creating your own story and adventure along the way, but in doing so you’ll gradually find yourself immersed in the overall narrative, and—

You know, I’m explaining this poorly, let me start over with a better explanation of the narrative-interwoven free elements.

You, the player, fill the environment suit of one Ryley Robinson, a menial worker of sorts aboard a massive space cruiser called the Aurora. Except when the game opens, the Aurora is going down. The opening scene is Ryley making it to an escape pod as some unknown calamity rips the Aurora apart and ejecting into space. Of course, you’re too close to an atmosphere already, you get bounced around inside the pod and knocked out … and when you wake up, the pod has gone into “lifeboat mode,” floating in the middle of an alien ocean (see the image above) with the wreck of the Aurora on the horizon.

At which point the lifeboat’s limited computer informs you that you should check yourself for a concussion (you were unconscious after all), treat it with an onboard medkit, and then worry about food and water until you can be picked up.

After that? It almost entirely stops holding your hand. It gives advice from time to time, like “you should acquire anything that helps you survive” but outside of that? You’re kind of left on your own.

Now, this game is Sci-Fi. You have one very important tool in your lifeboat to survive: A fabricator. Feed it materials, from copper to fish life, and it’ll reassemble them into things you can use. As you explore the ocean around you, you’ll discover pieces of the Aurora with useable data (or items you can scan) to access more blueprints, like a larger oxygen tank, flippers, or even a mini-sub.

Did I mention the swimming? This is an alien ocean. If there is dry land, you are a long ways from it. Which means if you have thalassophobia, or a fear of the ocean, this game will be a nightmare for you.

Sands, this game scared me and I don’t have thalassophobia. Because here’s the thing. While your lifeboat brought you to a relatively safe, shallow reef … Oceans are dangerous places. And as you work to survive and find other lifeboats, or a way to contact a rescue team (both long-term goals), you’re going to need to move out and explore that ocean.

Which, by the way, has a wide range of alien life to examine, study, and not be eaten by.

I said not be eaten by, but lets face it, the first time you find what your computer classifies as a “leviathan-class life form” you’re very quickly going to notice that you’re certainly small enough by comparison to become a quick snack. And it may look hungry.

So why recommend it? Well, there is a story here that you’ll discover while making your own. Which I don’t want to spoil in the slightest because it’s absolutely one that should not be spoiled. Suffice it to say that you’ll get swept up in it in the course of making your own adventure and story surviving to get off of this planet. After a few hours, you’ll have figured out what fish are good to fish for to eat, and what the best way to collect fresh water is (though you can turn these features off if you so desire). But being a person, that’s not going to be a satisfying stopping point (especially if you want to reach some of those other lifeboats). And so you’ll start branching out, finding new resources your fabricator needs to make better, bigger things. Like a minisub. Or an underwater base with a bed.

Along this journey of finding and discovering things, you’ll come across the threads of the main plot, which if investigated tell a Sci-Fi story of their own, one which I won’t spoil, but at the end successfully got me to sit up and say “No way!” aloud as it completely caught me by surprise (and yet in retrospect, made total sense).

But I “discovered” that story all while pursuing my own adventure along the way. There was the time I got separated from my air source 300 meters down and frantically swam around a reef looking for it, near predators, finding it with less than 15 seconds of oxygen left. There was a time I accidentally took my brand new shiny [redacted] into a section of the ocean hunted by several massive predators, all who took issue with my loud, noisy [redacted], leading to me making a panicked, pell-mell sprint away with alarms blaring.

Sands, there was the time I lost my first seamoth (something very nice you get) and sadly made a new one. Later, poking around the area where I’d lost the first one, I discovered that the thing which had taken it had spit it out, and I carefully snuck through its precarious territory to recover what I had once owned.

This is the Subnautica experience. Now, it’s not perfect. The game chugs pretty hard, and I actually played through it on medium settings. Underwater environments are heavy on GPU requirements. There are a few steps in the “resource to product” chain that are a little nebulous if you miss just one thing, and twice in the game I had the experience of exploding up the “tech tree” because I was missing just one thing and finally found it. While the game never holds your hand (at all, even waypoints are placed in person, on location, by the player with a beacon you have to build), sometimes this goes a little too far and you can end up feeling a bit lost. And this is a game you should not spoil by looking things up.

That said, once I found the next step, I was like a kid in a candy shop. Upon finally discovering a much-needed item to progress my tech tree to a new blueprint I desperately needed, I strip mined an entire underwater cave, watching for predators the whole time, terrified that I would run out of air or be found by a predator while mining this very important resource.

However, at the same time the map is not random. It’s hand-crafted. And massive. Several kilometers in all directions doesn’t seem like much … until you consider that this is an ocean, and things go down. At which point when you’re 600 meters down, in an alien deepwater environment, with the lights off hoping you don’t attract the attention of a nearby predator … It’s a very big world, and you’re very small.

Again, it’s not perfect. Optimization is rough. There are some odd oversights. For example, I assumed that once I’d added a radio to my newly constructed base, it would emit a homing signal to make finding my way home that much easier.

Nope. It’s a radio, but doesn’t emit signals. Just pick them up. Meaning I had to build a buoy beacon and deploy it above my base. Weird.

But despite these minor quibbles, I spent almost fifty hours in Subnautica‘s world in just two weeks. exploring its depths, having my adventures, and then getting sucked into the overarching story of what happened (after all, the game opens with the massive ship you were on crashing).

If any of the above sound interesting, then I’d recommend checking Subnautica out. This link will take you to the Steam page, but you can also find it on Xbox One and Playstation.

Subnautica is a fantastic Sci-Fi Robinson Crusoe that puts you in Crusoe’s shoes, or rather, Ryley‘s flippers. I absolutely recommend that if you’re going to pick up a controller and play something, you give it a shot.

Note: This post was written with no coercion or request from the folks that made Subnautica. I’m not getting any sort of reward or gain from anyone checking the game out based on my words. I have no connection to the devs or anyone who made the title. I just really, really liked it.

3 thoughts on “Why You Should Play … Subnautica

  1. it’s also available for Oculus Rift/Rift S, same retail price, for an ‘immersive’ experience… (hah!)

    Oculus review says “Comfort: Intense” so it will probably make you want to barf (VR sickness) until you get used to it. Supported controllers are Gamepad, Keyboard & Mouse so forget about using the Touch controllers.

    I don’t normally go for these sorts of games, but I may give it a whirl anyway, to see what I’m missing out on.

    Liked by 1 person

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