Note: this post has very minor spoilers to the game “Subnautica”.
Last week I spent a lot of time playing “Subnautica”, a game that has been on my radar for a long time. I loved it! (although I could have spent my time with it better — more about it later).
Subnautica is an exploration game – you crashland into a vast alien ocean planet, and you have to explore, research and build your way out of it. The game consists of learning more about the place where you are, and gathering resources to improve your ability to explore. There is no in-game map — creating your own sense of direction is a key challenge of the game. The game is also very 3D — there are openings to underwater caves almost everywhere, and some of them are hard to spot – I would often find new caves in area that I thought I had thoroughly explored before.
This game is wonderful in many ways — first of all, the game is gorgeous. All the different underwater scenes are very beautiful, and so are the fauna and flora. Also the feeling of exploration and learning permeates the game in a great way. Base building hits a nice spot between being useful and being aesthetically pleasing. One thing that I really liked in this game is that violence is very optional: it is usually easier and faster to flee or scare away predators, and you have to go out of your way to kill large animals (you do eat a LOT of small fish, though). You are a scientist, not a soldier.
In total, I put 50 hours total in the game, start to finish — that’s two solid weekends and much of the weekday nights in the past week as well.
I started out trying to play this game as unspoiled as I could. In my first few hours, I died many times trying to explore a local cave, which by the end of the game I would just zip through, because I didn’t know how to build bigger tanks of O2 (which you can do quite early in the game!)
After a while, I started to slowly check the wiki to better understand how this piece or that piece of equipment worked… The first really self-spoiling came when I couldn’t find the entrance to the spaceship wreck above — decided to look for a image to find the door, and ended up reading up almost everything about the wreck…
After that I spent quite some time without checking spoilers again, but the seal was broken… when I couldn’t find one specific location that I knew existed, I went back to the wiki and then I would do that again and again if I couldn’t find something or another after looking for it for a few hours.
This felt a lot like my experience with “Breath of the Wild” — one spoiler here, one spoiler there, and pretty soon I was charting my path through the wiki. I know that in the end I would enjoy these games better if I kept myself away from spoilers, so what happens?
Part of it is impatience, I guess. I set myself some goal, and when I fail to achieve it, I feel uncertain if I was close, or going the complete wrong way, and I feel like I need to check that on the wiki. This is something that could be solved if I had people who I could talk about these games. In the case of Subnautica, I found out too late that one of my friends was another big fan of the game.
Also part of it is fear of using my time inefficiently. If I have only one or two hours to play at night, it feels kinda bad to spend it trying to understand how one piece of equipment works, or gathering resources to build something that I won’t actually end up using. Although this feels like an invalid concern.
I remember when I was a kid, how I figured out Ultima 3 from start to finish without the internet, just writing maps on pen and paper. I guess this would be the proper way to really enjoy this game.
That said, I still enjoyed a lot my time on Subnautica, and I can try to do it the proper way on the sequel, “Below Zero”.
That will have to wait for my next break, though!