|Developer(s)||Unknown Worlds Entertainment|
|Publisher(s)||Unknown Worlds Entertainment|
Subnautica is an open world survival adventure game developed and published by Unknown Worlds Entertainment. It allows the player to freely explore the ocean on an alien planet, known as planet 4546B, collecting unique resources to survive. Subnautica was first released in early access for Microsoft Windows in December 2014, Mac OS X in June 2015, and for Xbox One in May 2016. The full release out of early access was in January 2018, exclusively for PC on Steam, with versions for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 also planned for a Fall 2018 release date. Subnautica has a confirmed, yet unnamed standalone expansion, the planned early access and 1.0 release date most likely in 2019.[better source needed]
Subnautica is a survival, adventure game set in an open world environment and played from a first-person perspective. The player controls the lone survivor of a crashed space ship, called the Aurora, on the fictional ocean planet 4546B. The ship's wreckage explodes shortly after starting the game, from which point onward it can be explored. The main objective of the player is to explore the game's world and survive the dangers of the planet while at the same time following the story of the game. Subnautica allows the player to collect resources, construct tools, bases, and submersibles, and interact with the planet's wildlife. In the basic difficulty "Survival", the player will have to maintain nutrition, hydration, and oxygen. The game includes a day and night cycle which affects the gameplay and surroundings. The game includes three other modes: "Freedom mode", in which hunger and thirst are disabled; "Hardcore mode", which is the same as Survival, except that if the player dies, the player will no longer be able to respawn; and "Creative Mode", in which the hunger, thirst, health, and oxygen features are all disabled, all the crafting blueprints are acquired, where no resources are needed to craft and the submersibles do not need energy and cannot be damaged. The game is mainly set underwater, with two explorable islands.
HTC Vive Support is not yet fully built into the game. As a result, using SteamVR will not work with the Vive Controllers.
Subnautica takes place in the late 22nd century, when humanity begins to colonize planets in space. A vessel constructed by the trans-gov Alterra known as the "Aurora" has been sent to the outer reaches of controlled space on its maiden voyage with the main goal of constructing a form of high speed space travel structure known as a Phasegate. The Aurora also had a secondary mission which was to scan the Planet 4546B, which they would pass by on their journey, for signs of a ship that had gone missing around a decade prior, known as the "Degasi". The Aurora was chosen for this mission due to its new, advanced scanners. Upon coming close to the planet a strange signature is picked up by the scanner and the Aurora is struck by an energy pulse of unknown origin, and shortly after, crash lands onto the planet. While the player crashing is still part of the plot, the Aurora's nature has changed several times throughout the game's development. For a period of time, it was instead a terraforming ship sent to harvest resources from the planet when it got shot down, while in the launch version of the game, the Aurora has been built for the sole purpose of constructing a Phasegate in 4546B's system.
As time passes, a series of radio messages from other survivors begins to stream in, sending the player to other crashed escape pods containing information about some of the Aurora's passengers, but no people. A few signals appear to be sent by unknown creatures, which are planning on hunting down the survivors of the crash. Eventually, a passing trade ship called the "Sunbeam" picks up the Aurora's distress signal and comes to help. However, upon attempting landing to pick up the player, the Sunbeam is destroyed, along with its entire crew, by the Quarantine Enforcement Platform, a huge weapon system built into the side of a mountain island by an unknown alien race around one thousand years ago. Soon afterwards the Alterra Corporation - the Aurora's owner - manages to send through schematics of a rocket ship called the "Neptune Escape Rocket" that will allow the player to escape the planet. However, it will not be possible for the rocket to take off while the Quarantine Enforcement Platform is still active.
As the player discovers later in the game, 4546B was host to an ancient alien race around one thousand years ago. They are referred to only as the "Precursor Race". The Precursors were not natives of the planet, they were there searching for a cure to a highly infectious bacterium known as "Kharaa" that they had become infected with on an unknown planet, and in their time had killed over 143 billion of their kind. After many experiments were conducted on the native fauna species, the Precursors discovered one species known as the Sea Emperor Leviathan - the game's largest creature and the being that has been telepathically communicating with the player throughout the game, whose stomach enzyme known as "Enzyme 42" is capable of causing remission of Kharaa's symptoms.
A purpose built facility known as the "Primary Containment Facility" was constructed in a remote location at a depth of 1400 meters where the Sea Emperor, along with the eggs it was found with, were contained. Due to the Sea Emperor’s old age, around 1600 years, the potency of its Enzyme 42 had declined, meaning it was not capable of killing the Kharaa bacteria, only causing temporary remission. After discovering this the Precursors shifted their attention from the adult, to the eggs. Despite their best efforts the Precursors were unable to trigger the eggs to hatch and they were left in a state of indefinite stasis.
Unbeknownst to the Precursors. who for reasons unknown were unable to hear the Sea Emperor's telepathic voice, the Sea Emperor Leviathan was trying to tell them that the only way to hatch the eggs was to place them in their natural conditions, where enzymes produced by local flora would trigger full maturity and the hatching process to begin. After several attempts they took two of the seven Emperor eggs that had been collected and placed one in a laboratory dedicated to the research of eggs, and dissected the other. The egg dissection was a failure as the embryo was incapable of producing potent Enzmye 42. Desperate, the Precursors stole an egg from another native species, the "Sea Dragon Leviathan", a species related to the Sea Emperor Leviathan species that shares many features with it, albeit smaller and far less intelligent. These eggs were taken to research the hatching conditions of the Sea Emperor, as the Emperor's eggs were too precious to lose more of. The Precursors underestimated the Sea Dragon Leviathan, and it pursued them to another of their bases, the "Disease Research Facility". One of the two Dragon eggs had been contained here and the Sea Dragon Leviathan launched an assault on the base, ending with it ramming headfirst into one of the support cables keeping the facility suspended above the ground, a feat that - according to the player's PDA - would have required a ramming force of three hundred tons, and resulted in the death of the creature due to massive head trauma. The cable was ripped from the cave wall and the facility dropped, causing other cables to detach also and the facility to fall to the cave floor. This facility was the site in which Kharaa's effects were tested on the local fauna, and its destruction caused Kharaa to break out into the ecosystem. Upon outbreak, several automated quarantine procedures were put into place:
- The Quarantine Enforcement Platform, a huge atmospheric weapon system was activated. The system prevents any unauthorised spacecraft from entering or leaving the planet. Clearance to leave can only be acquired by entering and having a blood sample taken by an automated device. If Kharaa, active or not, was present in the bloodstream, leaving would be made impossible as the spacecraft would be destroyed upon reaching a sufficient height. Despite only one such platform existing on the planet, it seems to have a scanning range covering the entire planet and the energy pulse fired by it can bend around the planet's gravitational field, allowing coverage over the entire planet.
- The remaining Precursors were automatically evacuated to small, hidden bases known as sanctuaries. Here, their corporeal bodies were destroyed and their minds digitally stored, awaiting retrieval.
- Bio-mechanical constructs referred to as "Self-Warping Quarantine Enforcer Units", or "Warpers" were activated. Their sole purpose is to track and destroy any infected organism, a purpose for which they are aptly equipped. Warpers were constructed from the body parts and DNA of dozens of different organisms, the vast majority of which are completely alien; taken from other planets. In place of a digestive system they have an internal battery that is wirelessly charged by means unknown. They have no pulmonary system and a digitally augmented brain and nervous system; a radio device was implanted into the brain, allowing contact with other units, and miniaturised "phase technology" was implanted beneath the skin which allows them to teleport themselves and others when triggered by the central nervous system.
In the story, the player must locate and explore four bases constructed on the planet by the Precursors. These are the Quarantine Enforcement Platform, the Disease Research Facility, the Alien Thermal Plant (a huge thermal power generator that supplies energy to all of the Precursor technology on the planet), and the Primary Containment Facility, where the now 2600 year old Sea Emperor Leviathan still resides with its eggs. The Sea Emperor Leviathan explains to the player that forcing the babies out of their eggs as the Precursors tried to will kill them, that they need a hatching enzyme to wake them from the eggs.
The player then gathers local flora to make the Hatching Enzyme and hatches the eggs. After brief contact with its children, the ancient Sea Emperor's strength finally fails, one of its arm on which it was supported giving out, leaving it crumpled and breathing heavily. After hatching the Sea Emperor's eggs the player can leave the Primary Containment Facility's aquarium through a "Warp Gate" through which the Sea Emperor's babies also traveled into the shallow waters.
The player can now disable the Quarantine Enforcement Platform. Once this is accomplished, they can launch the Neptune Escape Rocket to leave the planet. After leaving the atmosphere the rocket enters warp speed, made possible by the addition of Precursor technology to the engine. During this sequence the Sea Emperor Leviathan, a deeply philosophical being, makes telepathic contact one last time, saying "What is a wave without the ocean? A beginning without an end? They are different, but they go together. Now you go among the stars, and I fall among the sand. We are different, but we go together". After which the credits will play.
In a scene after the credits the computer confirms you have arrived back in Alterra space, but permission to land will only be granted after you pay your outstanding balance of one trillion credits, for the value of the planet's natural resources used by the player during the game. It reads: Welcome home to Alterra. Permission to land will be granted once you have settled your outstanding balance of one trillion credits.
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 lethal weapons 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 shooting, to encourage players to think about "non-violent and more creative solutions to solve our problems."
The complete version of Subnautica was released on January 23, 2018 for Steam.
The game received a 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.
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