What Lurks Below: Subnautica

Kathyrn Sandberg, Staff Editor

Fear of the unknown, a very human and natural fear to have. Whether it’s going into a dark hallway or an impending pop quiz, everyone has experienced it. However, nothing causes this type of fear quite like looking into the ocean. The dark, murky waters of the ocean instinctively make us panicked thinking of things that may lurk below us. Fortunately, or rather, unfortunately, a studio decided to make a game perfectly encapsulating this fear.

They called it Subnautica. It follows the lone survivor of a crash. Landing on an alien planet, the player must salvage parts of losing machinery and survive long enough to escape. It sounds like a normal survival game, however, the entire game takes place in the ocean. The irrational fear of the ocean’s depths is far from irrational in this game. While playing, I decided to see how far I had to go to reach the ocean’s bottom. I kept going deeper and deeper until it was pitch black. I made a mad dash to the surface, only to be grabbed and dragged down by a colossal monster.

Despite being a horror survival game, it is also one of the most beautiful games I have played. The game uses its aquatic setting to its advantage. Bioluminescence, something that occurs in marine life on Earth, is abundant on this alien planet lighting up the world at night. The creatures are charming and unique. They can vary from the calm reef back to the terrifying sea dragon.  

The studio who made the game is called Unknown Worlds. One of the most unique things about them is that they have never created a stand-alone game. This minuscule studio didn’t have a good chance of creating a profitable game as their resources were limited. However, they put their idea out to the world in the form of a bare-bones early access game. It didn’t have good graphics or gameplay; it was simply the skeleton of their idea: a survival horror game all underwater. People immediately took to the new idea by buying early access. With the growing fanbase, they started to get more reviews and critics. The studio took the fans’ praise and complaints and started to create their game around it. They listened to their fan base ideas and criticisms and were very open about their plans with the game.  This studio’s devotion to its fanbase knows no bounds. Many YouTubers are attributed to boosting Subnautica’s popularity using their platform. As thanks, they hid easter eggs around the map to these people as well as hiring a few to voice some characters. In fact, with the success of the original Subnautica, they are creating a new standalone expansion to the game called Subnautica Below Zero. While it still has very buggy gameplay, all their plans are outlined on a Favro page with dates of when things will be added. If all goes well they will release their new game on Halloween this year, and if I have any advice to give future players, just remember there’s always a bigger fish.