As the person responsible for the creative direction of Subnautica: Below Zero, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand what makes the highly esteemed original, Subnautica, tick. Below Zero has been built on top of a game that many know and love, but we’re not looking to play the same exact song each time. Below Zero must reflect the values that made Subnautica great, while also giving players something new and different.
Subnautica is many things to many people. If I had to describe it in a sentence, I might say it’s an open world, underwater, sci-fi, base building, survival-adventure game with a hint of primal terror. That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue…
So, what’s different about Subnautica? What sets it apart from other survival games, and how do we approach design and development to make something special and unique?
For me, at its core, Subnautica is a game about exploration and discovery. Our philosophy is that the experience is at its best when we trust players to discover this vast alien world – and its many secrets and surprises – on their own.
It’s our belief that the thrill of discovery, encountering a strange lifeform at the bottom of the ocean, awakening an ancient alien intelligence, wandering into a brilliant and unexpected underwater cavern, is so much richer when players are driving the experience forward themselves.
This filters into how we approach design. Our philosophy is to always try to suggest direction, rather than offer it up explicitly. One of the first things players notice is that Subnautica doesn’t have missions or objectives. We don’t tell you that you’re 47% (or 110%) through the game. You can find a map of the world, but we don’t show you your position, or even your orientation (until you build a compass) And what good is a 2D map underwater, anyway?
It’s up to you to find your way through the world, finding new ways to survive and explore as you get deeper and further into this planet alone… or so you might think.
In Below Zero, you play as xenobiologist Robin Ayou, who arrives on 4546B at great personal risk to try and find answers about her sister, who died under mysterious circumstances during a previous mission in Sector Zero.
Naturally, this quest for understanding doesn’t go quite the way you might think and encounters with other lifeforms will take you in many unexpected directions. We’ve taken great pains to design a narrative for players to discover. We give some early hints to get the ball rolling, but then you’re left to your own devices, searching for clues scattered throughout this vast world’s deep underwater biomes and the far reaches of its icy tundra.
In Below Zero, it’s up to you to follow the dramatic threads and because of that, players can explore at their own pace. Perhaps you just want to build an underwater palace down in the Deep Lily Pads, where you can reflect on all the alien beauty while customizing your Seatruck. You can do so, without stress, in Creative Mode. Or, if you really want to raise the stakes, Hardcore Mode will ensure you don’t get too casual whilst swimming among the alien fishes.
Subnautica: Below Zero will be available on May 14 for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. The original Subnautica is also available as an Optimized for Xbox Series X|S title alongside the release of Below Zero, and owners of the original (digital or physical) can upgrade the enhanced version for free thanks to Smart Delivery.
Subnautica: Below Zero
Unknown Worlds Entertainment, Inc.
Below Zero is an underwater adventure game set on an alien ocean world. It is a new chapter in the Subnautica universe, and is developed by Unknown Worlds.
Return to Planet 4546B
Submerge yourself in an all-new, sub-zero expedition in an arctic region of Planet 4546B. Arriving with little more than your wits and some survival equipment, you set out to investigate what happened to your sister…
Uncover the Truth
Alterra left in a hurry after a mysterious incident. Abandoned research stations dot the region. What happened to the scientists who lived and worked here? Logs, items, and databanks scattered among the debris paint a new picture of the incident. With limited resources, you must improvise to survive on your own.
Discover Uncharted Biomes
Swim beneath the blue-lit, arching expanses of Twisty Bridges. Become mesmerized by the glittering, mammoth crystals of the Crystal Caverns. Clamber up snow covered peaks and venture into the icy caves of Glacial Basin. Maneuver between erupting Thermal Vents to discover ancient alien artifacts. Below Zero presents entirely new environments for you to survive, study, and explore.
Construct Habitats and Vehicles
Survive the harsh climate by constructing extensive habitats, scavenging for resources, and crafting equipment. Blast across the snowy tundra on a Snowfox hoverbike. Cruise through enchanting and perilous biomes in your modular Seatruck.
Research Alien Lifeforms
Something undiscovered lurks around every corner. Swim through the giant Titan Holefish, encounter the haunting Shadow Leviathan, and visit the adorable Pengwings. Keep your wits about you. Not all creatures in this strange world are friendly.
Survive the Chilly Temperatures
Jump in, the water’s warm. The below zero temperatures of this arctic region pose a new threat. New weather conditions blanket above-ground habitats. Craft a toasty cold suit, sip on piping hot coffee, and warm up next to Thermal Lilies to stave off the chill.
An Ocean of Intrigue
What really happened to your sister? Who were the aliens who came here before? Why were they on this planet? Can we find solace from grief in truth? Below Zero extends the story of the Subnautica universe, diving deep into the mystery introduced in the original game.