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Subnautica: Below Zero. Twice in the same waters

 


I can spend hours talking about my love for the original SubnauticaAbout how lively and beautiful the world is in it, how pleasant it is to explore the ocean and develop, how many bright and memorable moments it gives the player. I am sincerely fascinated by this game, so I greeted the news of the sequel - Subnautica: Below Zero - with delight. At least at first: after the release into Early Access, clouds began to gather over the project. At first, the authors pushed the release as much as a year, then the main scriptwriter suddenly left the team, which is why the plot of the game had to be rewritten from scratch. The list of canceled and unfulfilled ideas kept growing, and at the same time, fears multiplied.
But the script is finished, the release has taken place, the endless ocean of Subnautica is ready for the second dive. And this time it is better to take with you not only a mask and fins but also more warm clothes.
Subnautica: Below Zero.  Twice in the same waters

Cold lands, warm ocean

Several years have passed since the events of the original. Megacorporation "Alterra" continues research on the oceanic planet 4546B (the scene of the first part), creating new field laboratories in its waters. Below Zero's protagonist, zoologist Robin New arrives on 4546B to investigate the death of her sister, Samantha. As an Alterra scientist, she died under very mysterious circumstances, but all the details of the incident were carefully kept secret. Having decided to independently figure out what had happened, Robin boldly lands on the planet, not even suspecting what, in fact, she is getting involved: her sister's laboratory is lost in the middle of the ice, and scientific activities in this area were hastily turned off so that intelligent life cannot be found for many kilometers around. Below is an ocean full of dangers, and on the surface - endless icy wastelands.
The first dive here is as impressive as the original.
By analogy with the first part, Below Zero is a “survivalist” in a large and very saturated underwater world. The player will have to monitor the supply of oxygen, get food, explore many different biomes, build their own base, collect blueprints, improve equipment and try not to please some giant squid shark for lunch. And on sorties to land, which this time is paid much more attention, you have to worry about hypothermia.
I note right away that, despite the old-new setting, Below Zero is still not a full-fledged sequel. Of course, there is quite a lot of content for ordinary DLC, but the gameplay basis has migrated from the original completely untouched. And in terms of duration, the game is noticeably inferior to its predecessor: the plot can be completed in just 8-10 hours, and a detailed study of the world will take about the same. As a result, we have before us a rather massive, but not too independent add-on to the first Subnautica, with which it is best to start getting to know the series if you are still not.
The squid turned out to be even more evil and annoying than the stalkers from the original, but at least they do not swim in flocks
However, in terms of gameplay, as I said, they hardly differ from each other; Below Zero's most notable innovation is the icy land and cold system. If in the original Subnautica the islands on the surface always felt deserted, especially against the background of the ocean full of life, now the world on both sides of the water surface feels equally alive. Flocks of cute alien penguins and dangerous bear-crocodiles live on the glaciers tightly binding the water area. The dynamic change of weather noticeably adds variety to each ascent for fresh air: a blizzard gives way to a downpour, a downpour - real hail, and after a hail, the northern lights flicker in the sky. Of course, in terms of elaboration, the surface is still very far from the ocean, but even such small details work great for building the world. Is that the mechanics of temperature came out, frankly, primitive: hypothermia is exactly the same countdown timer as the need for oxygen underwater. But instead of surfacing, you have to, on the contrary, dive back to warm up (don't ask how it works - I don't know myself), or look for other sources of heat, which are abundant around.
Vigilant parent penguins get in the way of running and hugging penguins, but the result is worth the risk
The set of tools available for survival has also remained practically unchanged, but the transport has been significantly redesigned. In addition to a portable land motorcycle, about which there is really nothing to say, a modular submarine "Sailor" appeared in the game: it immediately replaces both the bathyscaphe and the submarine from the original. Moreover, the replacement came out very controversial. Although the "Sailor" can be modified using modules, their functions are divided among themselves rather strangely - one module gives access to a conditional workbench, but for some reason, another is responsible for the storage. And without each other, these upgrades are essentially useless. It's good that the deep-sea suit was not removed: now it has become even more useful because it is quite comfortable to work in it both in water and on land. This is where the major gameplay innovations, in general, end,
The Sailor with two modules already attached is controlled like a heavy log, and the developers want you to add as many as six

At the bottom of the thermometer

Despite this, there is no need to complain about the lack of content in Below Zero. After all, the most important thing here is a completely new world, which, in terms of the completeness of impressions, is in no way inferior to the previous one. Although the Arctic is much smaller in area, the density of events has only increased: the ocean depths once again feel unknown and full of secrets, as if hundreds of hours were never in the original game. Plus, the Below Zero ecosystem has its own quirks and quirks. For example, a giant unfriendly crab, if left alone, begins to dig orphan resources from the seabed. And a friendly-looking sea monkey can suddenly snatch an active instrument out of your hands - the animal is just playing, but such pampering may well cost you your life.
With little things like this, Subnautica: Below Zero delivers the same exploration joy that its predecessor was loved for. I want to examine or touch everything around me, each new biome generously gives vivid impressions and new discoveries. Although Below Zero is played in exactly the same way as the original, there is not even a trace of secondary feeling. At least until it comes to the plot.
Bad weather looks beautiful, but practically does not affect the gameplay
Subnautica's storyline lay smoothly on two key pillars of the gameplay: exploring the open world and surviving on an unfriendly planet. History did not interfere with doing their own thing but always set a clear goal for the player, which set the vector for development. Here's a mark on the map, but to get to it, you first need to get hold of a suitable vehicle and just improve your equipment - and the reward for your efforts will be a new biome, recipes for creating items, a little lore and the next goal for the future. If you don't want to read notes and all sorts of diaries, then no one forces: the plot will still move on, because it develops together with the player.
Below Zero puts much more emphasis on storytelling. There are full-fledged NPCs, several storylines, and dialogues, and the main character is fully voiced and has a much more detailed biography than the mute protagonist Subnautica. True, the quality of the script leaves much to be desired. The characters are either faceless or downright annoying. The inexpressive heroine manages to lose in charisma even to an unnamed diver, and to begin to empathize with her at least a little, you need to listen to a series of audio diaries, where the developers hastily outline the image of Samantha and her relationship with her sister. Well, there is nothing to say about numerous plot holes, unanswered questions, and a crumpled ending.
Subnautica: Below Zero.  Twice in the same waters
The storytelling Below Zero still does its job well - the story provides a reason to explore new locations and update tools. Sometimes the plot can surprise me, but the events are sorely lacking in involvement: the characters do not arouse sympathy at all, and therefore I do not want to follow the development of their arcs. And for this, it is doubly offensive, because in some places Below Zero sacrifices gameplay for the sake of narrative. The progression has become noticeably easier, the scope for creativity in the "sandbox" is much less - but in the end, the plot somehow did not work out, and the design decisions made for it do not look very good.
In addition, all the disadvantages of Subnautica, known for its capricious code, migrated to the sequel. Numerous bugs, the low resolution of some textures, broken collisions of many objects and creatures. These problems have plagued the series since the alpha version of the original game, although many years have passed since then.
However, the storyline and technical issues do not negate the great gameplay that Subnautica: Below Zero is almost as good as it was the first time around. The developers managed to realize the most important thing - once again to give us a living underwater world, which is incredibly interesting to explore. And while the sequel lacks the quality to become a full-fledged successor to the original, if you've been looking for a reason to return to planet 4546B, Below Zero is by no means worth missing out on.

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