Subnautica was one in every of my favourite open world survival video games of the final decade, and on the floor of its frigid ocean, Below Zero may virtually be mistaken for an enormous enlargement. As I dive deeper, although, what I’ve discovered is a full-fledged sequel that does not repair what wasn’t damaged concerning the first game whereas bettering in little however significant methods in quite a lot of areas. I have not totally plumbed the depths of the present Early Access model, which now contains everything of the fully-voiced predominant story. But what I’ve seen makes me desirous to go deeper.

Right as I take my first plunge, it is instantly noticeable how significantly better the tech is that this time round. One of my solely main frustrations with the unique Subnautica was how mood-ruining it could possibly be to see textures and objects pop in as I used to be zipping across the in any other case superbly immersive underwater environments in my submersible. Those jarring eyesores are utterly gone, permitting me to discover eerie reefs and foreboding geothermal vents the best way they should be seen. The general constancy hasn’t taken an enormous step ahead, and I can acknowledge quite a lot of re-used and recolored fashions, but it surely’s a terrific instance of how far a little bit optimization can go.

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Below Zero additionally places its story front-and-center way more than its predecessor. Your character has a reputation (Robin), a backstory, present relationships, and built-in motivations for pursuing the mysteries of this watery world. A collection of non-public logs that unlock as you hit sure milestones provide you with a glimpse into her ideas and emotions. I’m not fairly positive but if I like that higher than the clean slate protagonist of the unique, however the voice performing and writing have been spectacular to this point. And with out spoiling an excessive amount of, I feel it is price mentioning that you simply won’t be the one residing human within the ocean this time…

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Most of the fundamental gameplay of exploration, crafting, and fleeing from sea monsters appears fairly unchanged, but it surely’s the little issues that make a distinction. There’s a brand new radar gadget to craft that allows you to discover particular minerals and different assets quicker. I nonetheless have flashbacks of hours spent looking for lithium within the first Subnautica, so this was a welcome addition. The Seatruck is the substitute for the previous Seamoth, which may tow helpful modules like a crafting station or additional storage like an underwater large rig. Being in a position to deliver a mini-base with you early within the game, lengthy earlier than the Cyclops turns into accessible, is an effective way to chop down on hours spent going forwards and backwards between your habitat and the following goal.

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The different large divergence is that extra of Below Zero takes place on land, although the builders estimated it is round ten % of the content material and wished to emphasize that the oceanic gameplay continues to be the primary focus. These floor expeditions are sophisticated by harsh climate and a temperature system, which may lead you to freeze to dying should you’re uncovered for too lengthy within the Arctic chill. With hypothermia above the water and the specter of drowning under the water, you are solely ever really protected inside player-made autos and enclosures. That enhances the sense of hazard successfully.

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Add in a small handful of latest creatures with fascinating designs and ecological niches, and a narrative that appears to be constructing as much as some sort of reckoning with the heartless Alterra company, and Below Zero is shaping as much as be a worthy follow-up to its stellar precursor. The remaining model shall be out later this 12 months, however you possibly can try the Early Access construct (the exact same one I acquired to play), which incorporates the complete story, proper now.

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Leana Hafer is a contributor to IGN. Talk Subnautica along with her on Twitter at @AsaTJ.

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