Wednesday 12 December 2018

Subnautica review: Deep exploration of sea monsters

Subnautica XO/PC ★★★★★ 12+

Subnautica
Subnautica
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

So beautiful, and yet so dangerous. Subnautica's gorgeous underwater world resembles something out of David Attenborough's Planet Earth, but with added monsters.

A survival experience with more than a hint of horror, it deftly propels you through a surprisingly deep storyline about crash-landing on a watery planet and learning to stay alive. The landing site seems benign enough, a sunlit paradise of shallow water teeming with fish, coral and recyclable debris to collect. The burning radioactive hulk of your former spaceship seems the only threat.

The game quickly teaches you to hunt out useful fragments on the seabed that can be synthesised back in your escape pod into objects such as oxygen tanks or swimming fins. Little else is explicitly explained but it doesn't take much to intuit that Subnautica is guiding you into a rewarding loop of exploring, gathering and crafting. Each new tool or object nudges you to travel further from base, away from the shallows into the gloomy deep where mysterious beacons beckon.

But the darkness hides unknown terrors. Ones big enough to eat you. Horrifying creatures that stalk you. Attenborough would be fascinated, but you'll want to stay as far away as possible.

Fortunately, death merely returns you to your pod, with only the loss of the items you had just been gathering. And then you venture out again, a little wiser and more cautious, but much more curious about what secret Subnautica will reveal to you next.

The Fall Part 2: Unbound

(XO/PS4/Switch) ★★★ Age: 12+

Maybe it was a sheltered upbringing but controlling a sexbot has never featured on my list of experiences. Now's your chance in this second of a trilogy about a sentient AI trying to make sense of a sci-fi world.

If, like me, you've never played the opening chapter, Unbound will struggle to make an impact, weighed down by complicated plotting and a fairly abstruse set of puzzles that waste little time in throwing you into the deep end. After some early exploration involving shootouts with rival AI, Unbound changes gear to enable you take control of three host robots, including a butler, a combat drone and a sexbot.

Each must be broken out of their set routines to uncover new information - but logic is in short supply here and defaulting to clicking on every object seems like a poor substitute. Mercifully, the sexbot's job is left to the imagination but even her loop seems pretty mundane if slightly confusing.

Unbound had a lot of potential for mucking about with chronologies but something like The Sexy Brutale nailed the idea much better.

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