Subnautica made an impressive impression on PC. The survival and crafting game from developer Unknown Worlds had a long time in development, including some time in early access, before a successful full launch earlier this year. The final version of Subnautica is now available for consoles, however, and it has come to the PS4 for the first time.
Although the battle royale genre popularized by the likes of Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is dominating at the moment, that's forgetting how much survival sims served as their origin and resonated with audiences not too long ago - so soon Minecraft and DayZ are forgotten. This is the place where Subnautica comes from: a genre of steadily decreasing hunger bars and the gathering of supplies.
The rigidity of the mechanics within these games has led to a fair amount of fatigue, with We Happy Few just one example of what could have been a fantastic title being held back by a reliance on item crafting and flower picking. However, Subnautica manages to circumvent this to an extent. Although its main gameplay is still reliant on an Ouroboros of gathering and crafting, its world is engaging enough to warrant this distraction.
Indeed, the best examples of the survival game are those that provide players with an intriguing world to explore. The Forest's early access mode threw a vicious tribe and underground abominations at the player, while the mood and art style of Don't Starve gave it a unique feel. For Subnautica, its aquatic setting is perhaps a more effective part of the experience as the gameplay itself.
In its own way, Subnautica is extremely relaxing to play. Reminiscent of Diver's Dream or Endless Ocean, it's a game that begs players to investigate, and to see what oddities can be found on its sea bed. Subnautica is set on an alien world, and the flora and fauna of its ocean proves extremely useful in both crafting essentials for survival and attempting to reach the endgame of getting back home.
Things do get a little more tense the further Subnautica goes on, though. There are dangerous creatures in the depths, and this can lead to some scary and potentially frustrating moments. This, perhaps, is where the game struggles, and the game's odd performance issue is at its most infuriating when trying to avoid disturbing some of the underwater predators that inhabit the world.
As well as this, occasionally the sheen of the game's setting will fade from view, leaving players with the realization that they are following a similar kind of formula that they have seen before. After all, Subnautica is all about gathering and building, and there's only so much that its unique location and the ability to build underwater bases can provide. As such, gamers could get a little bit worn out in long doses, and need to take some time before plunging into the depths once more.
All in all, though, Subnautica is definitely one of the more interesting survival games on the market. Its setting puts it heads and shoulders above even some established intellectual properties, and although its main gameplay may stick a little close to the genre norms, it's still engaging enough to be enjoyable. Subnautica is a title for those who love to explore.
Subnautica is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided with a PS4 download code for the purposes of this review.