The Steam Summer Sale is in full swing, ending in just a few short days. I’ve made a few purchases this year that I’m really happy with. I posted a review yesterday about the game “Never Alone” which is a short side scroll puzzle game that focused on the cultural identities of Alaska Native Peoples. If you’re interested, check it out here.

As a self-proclaimed mermaid and lover of all things Ocean, I decided to test out Subnautica today. The game is currently in Early Release and is on sale in the Steam Summer Sale. It is a First-person open world sandbox game much like Minecraft, or Ark: Survival Evolved. Only this one is largely underwater, and starts you off with more futuristic crafting options than punching trees.

Here’s your only warning…SPOILERS AHEAD!


The game starts with you in an escape pod, fire is flashing through the only window: an escape hatch, and pieces of the pod are flying around. During my play through, I was screaming “Oh no, don’t hit me!” to the giant sheet of metal slinging about in the pod, and sure enough, just as I was begging it not to hit me, it knocks me out. When you wake up, you’ve crash landed on an alien planet, your pod is on fire and there are no instructions to show you how to deal with this crisis. Fortunately, one of the pieces of debris flying around inside the pod was a fire extinguisher. I’ve played a good many first person survival games before so I had a decent understanding of what to do to get my character to move about an interact with things.
-Pick up fire extinguisher
-Put out fire
-Explore pod and take inventory of the pod and menu options.

The menu and inventory system is pretty standard for an open world survival sandbox, and most of the items work pretty much the same. You have to harvest resources to create items to survive. The thing they dont tell you is how to find food or water. It very quickly becomes a priority to find the resources you need to make potable water and food. There is an option for making bleach to purify water but you’ve gotta hunt pretty hard to find the right materials to make it.  Fortunately, the escape pod came pre-equipped with a fully functional fabricator (which thankfully wasn’t destroyed in the “landing”) that functions about like the crafting stations in most other sandbox games. You select the item you want to make, and if you have the resources in your inventory it makes the item for you in a fancy laser 3-d printer animated sci-fi kind of way.

After an hour or so of gameplay and a few deaths from starvation and dehydration, I discovered a tool called a Scanner in the tools menu of the fabricator. It scans items, and tells you if they are edible, craftable resources, harmless decoration creatures, or carnivorous death seadogs that will eat you. Through this magical tool I was able to find a fish that provided filtered water, and others that were edible to keep me alive. Once you’ve scanned them, the option to collect them appears and you can then take them back to the fabricator to make life juice.

The other cool item they added is a “Habitat Fabricator Gun”. This handy thing opens up a secondary crafting menu specifically for crafting new habitat items, like pods, air pumps, foundations, windows, etc. You don’t have to carry around the crafted items in your inventory like you do in other sandbox games, this handy thing just crafts them all for you; provided you have the resources required in your inventory.

Which brings me to my one and only complaint. Inventory space. Like most games, your inventory fills up quick, and you end up having to dump a lot of useful items in the middle of the ocean in order to collect more waterfish or food. While that’s usually a minor irritation, in this game items do not stack. Every single time you pick up a fish, a rock, or a tool you’re filling another inventory slot. Some items take up more than one slot. This makes carrying enough food and water on scavenging missions and returning with enough materials to do anything useful seem a bit frustrating and daunting.

This game is GORGEOUS. The landscape of this vast alien underwater world is filled with bioluminescent creatures and plant life that glow in the dark, alien looking fish and sea creatures, and dual moons that grace the sky with a satisfying sci-fi nightlight.

I’ve only played for a few hours but I can already tell that I love this game. When I unlock new blueprints and am able to explore the crashed ship (right now there is too much radiation to go into the area without a HAZMAT suit) I’ll be able to tell if the inventory management ever gets better, but for now I’m saying it’s worth the money.

(UPDATE: After playing the game for a while longer and getting full use of the habitat builder, I was able to build storage lockers inside my new base. The inventory management has gotten a bit better, but it would still be a boon to have stacking items, as several pieces of necessary equipment take up over half of your inventory. Upon further exploration, you can unlock vehicles like the Seamoth, a small bubble ship that allows you to explore deeper regions of ocean, which can be upgraded with storage space to help you keep your personal inventory cleared. Once unlocked, the Cyclops Submarine becomes like a mobile base with the ability to build lockers and fabricators inside.)

If you’re interested in watching a replay of my first playthrough, I streamed it on my Twitch channel here: Subnautica Early Release gameplay by SarahWadeArt

Thanks for reading!

~Sarah Wade

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