|Developer(s)||Unknown Worlds Entertainment|
|Publisher(s)||Unknown Worlds Entertainment|
Subnautica is an open world survival action-adventure video game developed and published by Unknown Worlds Entertainment. In it, players are free to explore the ocean on an alien planet, known as planet 4546B, after their spaceship, the Aurora, crashes on the planet's surface. The player must collect resources and face creatures to survive.
Subnautica was released in early access for Microsoft Windows in December 2014, Mac OS X in June 2015, and for Xbox One in May 2016. It was released out of early access in January 2018 for Microsoft Windows and macOS, with versions for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in December 2018. By January 2020, Subnautica had sold more than five million copies.
Subnautica is a survival action-adventure game set in an open world environment and played from a first-person perspective. The player controls the lone survivor of a waylaid spacecraft called the Aurora, stranded on a remote ocean planet named "4546B".
The main objective is to explore the ocean and survive its dangers, while also completing tasks to advance the plot. Players can collect resources, construct tools, bases, and submersibles, and interact with the planet's wildlife.
The majority of the game is set underwater, with two explorable islands, and a simulated day-and-night cycle that affects visibility. Upon beginning a new game, players must select a difficulty mode from the following four:
Subnautica takes place in the late 22nd century, when humanity begins to colonize other star systems. The Aurora, a deep-space vessel constructed by the Alterra Corporation, has been sent to a system at the outer reaches of known space on its maiden voyage, specifically an area called the Ariadne Arm. Its primary mission is to build a section of high-speed space travel infrastructure known as a Phasegate in the Ariadne Arm. However, its secondary mission, unknown to most of the crew, is to search for and, possibly, rescue the crew of a ship called the Degasi, which crashed on planet 4546B ten years prior. After the Aurora enters orbit of 4546B, it is physically waylaid by a mysterious force and crash-lands on the planet. Several crew members climb into lifepods and jettison from the Aurora during the descent, one of whom is the player character. The other lifepods' inhabitants perish through various means, leaving the player as the lone survivor. The player finds records of the Degasi crew stating that only three survived the initial crash, but later two out of the three are confirmed dead and one is presumed dead.
The player also learns of the existence of the Precursors, an ancient, advanced alien species that came to planet 4546B approximately one thousand years ago in search of a cure for a highly infectious disease, known as the Kharaa Bacterium. The Precursors discovered the Kharaa during the exploration of an unknown planet, and the disease spread due to a failure in quarantine procedures, killing over 100 billion individuals. The disease was released into the ecosystem of 4546B in a catastrophic accident, where a Sea Dragon Leviathan attacked the Disease Research Facility where the bacteria sample was being researched in an attempt to retrieve its stolen egg, causing the Precursors to initiate planetary quarantine. They did this by activating the automated Quarantine Enforcement Platform, a massive alien weapon system, that shoots down ships that attempt to land or leave, in order to stop the bacterium from spreading to other worlds. The Aurora crashed because it appeared to be landing on the planet. The player witnesses another ship, the Sunbeam, get shot down after it had detected the Aurora distress signal and attempted to rescue any survivors. The Sunbeam also directs the player to a mysterious island that has an alien building on it, and a large gun at the top. Sometime before the Sunbeam arrives, the Aurora's nueclear reactor begins melting down, and the player's PDA warns them. Once it explodes, a massive portion of the front shell of the ship is destroyed, leaving the player to enter and repair the reactor. When the player attempts to deactivate the weapon on the island, it fails due to the player being "infected". In order to leave the planet, the player must locate the Precursors' Primary Containment Facility deep underground to find a gigantic creature known as the Sea Emperor Leviathan.
The Sea Emperor is the last of its kind, and will telepathically communicate with the player throughout the game, encouraging them to locate it and to let it help the player. It has been keeping the life in the area alive by using small fish-like creatures known as "Peepers" to distribute small amounts of a degraded form of the cure, Enzyme 42, which is produced by the Sea Emperor itself, through tubes from it's containment to the safe shallows. This keeps the planet's flora and fauna alive but it is insufficient to eradicate the plague, due to the Sea Emperor's age of over one thousand years, and thus deteriorating health. The Precursors recognised Enzyme 42 as a possible cure, but since the enzyme produced by the Sea Emperor was insufficient, they turned their focus on its eggs, as they believed the Sea Emperor's young offspring would produce the cure in a purer form. They attempted to artificially hatch the eggs, but were unsuccessful, and eventually abandoned the program. Once found, the Sea Emperor will give the player the recipe for the Hatching Enzymes, which are made from various flora, and upon using will trigger a hatching response in the eggs. The player crafts the Hatching Enzymes, and the Sea Emperor's young hatch. They produce the Enzyme 42 and the player is cured of the infection. The young offspring then leave the base, spreading the enzyme and curing the rest of the planet. The player is then free to disable the Quarantine Enforcement Platform.
After (or before) being cured the player must retrieve the blueprints for the Neptune Escape Rocket, a vehicle that was specifically designed to be constructed out of locally available materials and to get the player off the planet. After constructing the Escape Rocket, since the Quarantine Enforcement Platform is no longer targeting nearby ships, the player can launch the rocket and leave the planet. During the last moments, the Sea Emperor Leviathan makes one final telepathic appearance, telling the player through a poem that they are different, but go together. After this, the game ends.
Subnautica was announced by Unknown Worlds Entertainment on December 17, 2013, with Charlie Cleveland as the game director and lead gameplay programmer, and Hugh Jeremy as the producer. The game is composed by Simon Chylinski.
The development team opted to use the Unity engine rather than Spark, the engine used for the company's previous game, Natural Selection 2. Subnautica producer Hugh Jeremy justified this decision because of the different demands that the game places on the engine, and "because [the team] does not include people working on Spark, it's not appropriate for Subnautica to use Spark. By using Unity for Subnautica, Spark can continue to develop in certain directions, while Subnautica develops in others. To use Spark for Subnautica would be like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole."
The development team opted against the inclusion of firearms in the game. Charlie Cleveland, the game's director, described Subnautica as "one vote towards a world with less guns", and had felt inspired by real life gun violence, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, to encourage players to think about "non-violent and more creative solutions to solve our problems".
Early access versions of Subnautica were released on Steam Early Access on December 16, 2014 and on Xbox One Preview on May 17, 2016. The full version of the game was released on January 23, 2018 for personal computers and for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on December 4, 2018.
Subnautica received positive pre-release reception. Ian Birnbaum of PC Gamer described Subnautica as an "underwater Minecraft", remarking that "with an experienced developer at the helm and a limitless variety of the oceans to play with, it's going to take a lot for Subnautica to go badly wrong. As the toolbox gets deeper and the shape of the end-game gets set, Subnautica will be a unique example of the ways survival can be tense, rewarding, and fun." Marsh Davies of Rock, Paper, Shotgun praised the rewarding nature of exploring the world of Subnautica, but criticized the "arbitrariness" and lack of intuition in some of the in-game recipes.
At launch, the game received "generally positive reviews" on all platforms according to review aggregator Metacritic.Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw on The Escapist's Zero Punctuation series gave it a generally positive review, stating, "Underwater exploration is an inherently appealing concept: this whole new world rolling away before you, made all the more beautiful by its utter hostility." He did criticize the game as "a little unintuitive and not a little buggy". Croshaw would later go on to list Subnautica as his second favourite game of 2018.
By January 2020, the game had sold more than 5.23 million copies across all platforms, not including free copies given as part of promotions.
|2018||Golden Joystick Awards||Best Visual Design||Nominated|||
|Best Audio Design||Nominated|
|Breakthrough Award (Unknown Worlds)||Won|
|PC Game of the Year||Won|
|Ultimate Game of the Year||Nominated|
|Gamers' Choice Awards||Fan Favorite Indie Game||Won|||
|2019||D.I.C.E. Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Game Design||Nominated|||
|National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards||Game of the Year||Nominated|||
|15th British Academy Games Awards||Original Property||Nominated|||