[Semi-Spoilers] In-depth critique/review of Subnautica: Below Zero

Having released after two years or so of development, Subnautica: Below Zero has launched, and with it- a new slew of thalassaphobia-piqued players. Having roughly 350 hours in the first i've put a couple playthroughs into the sequel as well (side note: I love the steam banner because it makes Robin looke bald and that just tickles me for some reason.) How does it fare however?

The Good:

Many of the wildlife and plantlife has more variation, animations, and environs to flesh it out. Sound design is very well, and for how much I don't really care for her, Robin is a good protagonist for what she's worth. There are other people, now, in Subnautica! Actual people, and not an angry housewife or just angry fish!

Really Good:

ALAN overall is probably the best choice 'upgrade' the series could have had. While stereotypically, he mostly just deposits lore and is the machine that learns the "human feeling of love" he plays off of Robin well. To boot, dispensing lore about arguably the most interesting thing (the precursors) Subnautica had is great. Many tools have been reworked (I'm looking at you seaglide map) or made better, and player features are a god send (UI scale+item outlining as my vision is very poor.) Mineral deposits now having titanium always and a possible other resource is imo a godsend as well.



Possibly due to either trying to attempt at the same size as Subnautica's world size or my own incompetence (why did i have to make a base near the first precursor landmark spot WHY) the game world feels empty despite being filled with more things, and biomes (while in my opinion, are much prettier and visually appealing than many of the firsts') are lackluster. Above ground segments honestly don't hold up. You could argue it's to justify the setting, but besides a change of environs, a couple of critters, and an under-utilized game feature (temperature) it doesn't have much use from a gameplay standpoint.

The sea truck attempts to meld together the seamoth and cyclops from the first game, unfortunately, along with cramped space and little room to make something truly yours, it's just kinda slow and plodding.

The Bad:

The mineral detector is possibly the worst piece of equipment I've ever had in a game (sound is output to ambient noise and the tool has to be looked at and is affected by UI scale whyyyy.) Robin is held up by ALAN but only in the most basic of terms. Sam (Robins' sister) is both the goal and golden standpoint for most of the game, she's referenced to be a wonderful friend, person , scientist, geneticist, and lover by those who know her. Robin, in perhaps turning away from science and her sister is highly accomplished in giving vague humanistic speeches to ALAN about the human prerogative.

Finally, the largest flaw in my eyes. Subnautica was fresh, it literally took the ground from your feet and forced you to dive into the deep unknown (I still remember being deathly afraid of the kelp forests and running any time i heard a stalker cry.) However, Below Zero does this again. This trick is unfortunately old hat and coupled with there being only roughly 3-4 things to really spook you (new monster screeches) and a emptier-feeling game world, renders it somewhat disappointing.

It's not all bad however, there are quite a few gems in this sack of jewels, and I still absolutely adore ALAN.


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