Unknown Worlds did a fantastic job when they made Subnautica Below Zero. I don’t say this lightly because I have a pretty high bar, especially when it comes to contemporary video games. I don’t care too much about graphics because I adore playing old games with a retro look and feel.
Subnautica Below Zero really stands out and is a very lovely game, beautifully capturing the deep sea exploration on alien worlds I loved from Subnautica. There will be some major spoilers in this review, so if you don’t want to risk it, I’d give Subnautica Below Zero an 8/10. Go, get it, play it! Enjoy!
With the exception of multiplayer, Below Zero contains everything you could want from an underwater experience on an alien world. If the Subnautica Series had multiplayer I don’t think I’d play anything else with my friends except Space Station 13. Enjoy the teaser featuring one of my favourite characters.
Some have criticised Subnautica Below Zero for its plot, but I honestly think Unknown Worlds did a fantastic job creating the game’s universe, everything seems beautifully put together and the mysteries that aren’t answered are definitely kept mysteries on purpose. I adored Below Zero so much that I would typically get mired in glossing over how incredible it is. Instead, I’ll begin by listing two aspects of the game that I absolutely detested. (Shock! Horror!)
First off, even while I think it’s a fantastic idea and makes a lot of sense that Robin holds the data from AL-AN the Alien Presence, I didn’t enjoy how the story ended and how the characters left the planet. I’d have much rather she found her own way off world without… No spoilers but Oh my GOD!!! Did they have to end it like that!?!
Second, while I really, really enjoyed Marguerite Maida’s encounters with the Torgal family in the first game. I was not a fan of her in Below Zero for the most part, though she did make sense from a narrative perspective. She was better as an echo, rather than in the flesh.
It only proves that anything good can be ruined by too much exposure. It had the same kind of impact on me as River Song did in Doctor Who. After she was introduced, in which she was brilliant, I had definitely had enough River and didn’t want any more, but she was still there – again, and again… And… Again. Marguerite Maida is a great character, but we got too much, and she took away the lonely aspect of the game. (I know, weird considering I want it multiplayer.)
What I REALLY liked about Subnautica Below Zero was the history of what happened on the planet, and in particular, the way they handled sexuality within the game. They took some serious risks, and I really think they added to the plot and made it much more interesting!
The environments and artwork were, as with the first game, stunningly beautiful, and I was very impressed by what Unknown Worlds achieved there. According to their website’s careers section, Unknown Worlds Entertainment supports a number of groups that work to promote social justice and equality, and I think their entire team performs an outstanding job in this regard. In order to achieve this, they introduced some quite daring ideas in Below Zero that I never could have imagined – whereas many games concentrate on what have come to be known as LGBT characters. They are typically incredibly one-dimensional and have little to no personality other than their sexuality. Unknown Worlds however has a true understanding of people and chooses to go beyond making every character a super powerful and characterless Mary Sue. Instead, it treats sexuality as just… Part of a character, which is really what it should be, rather than the whole thing. Two relationships in particular stood out in this regard:
The first and most visible is the bond between Samantha Ayou and Danielle Valenti. The start of the relationship is flirtatious, engaging, and fun. Later, it is evident that Danielle was trying to control Samantha by telling her she loved her and treating her badly. This is very toxic, and Samantha expresses apologies in a communication to her sister afterwards. This was really unfortunate, but it was great to see sexuality being used to manipulate someone else in a game. It felt very real, and very lonely, and really made me connect with Samantha, who we never actually meet in the story.
Second, Emmanuel Desjardins is involved in an extraterrestrial romance with a man by the name of Davide. Emmanuel, or Manu as he prefers to be called seems to be tiring of his long-distance relationship and is looking for some action. As evidenced by his flirtatious behaviour with Fred LaChance, who finds the whole thing very uncomfortable, Manu doesn’t seem closed off to dating someone else on the side. Emmanuel is revealed to be cunning, untrustworthy, and manipulative. He also seems to have a narcissistic streak.
Unknown Worlds made a daring decision to have two of the primary antagonists in the backdrop of the tale be queer, cunning, and flawed. This decision was expertly executed in only a few brief conversation pieces, and this is what makes these characters so brilliant. For once we see real, beautifully written characters being human. I cannot rate this kind of interaction highly enough because it’s so gosh darned RARE!
Nowadays, so many video games and television shows feature characters who are “Gay” – this is their entire personality, they are wonderful, perfect, overpowered, and poorly written.
Usually, the writers of these characters in video games and movies seem to be ‘for social justice,’ but they rarely seem to have any interaction or relationship with LGBT people. Out of fear of criticism, they stick to the rules and create characters that cannot be interpreted as potentially objectionable. They get isolated from the other “flawed” characters in the plot, and “flawed characters” are typically what make a story interesting. I often find it to be disheartening and overall offensive, because I don’t understand why someone who identifies as gay or transgender shouldn’t have the right to have a good character.
In Below Zero, the characters are written more cleverly by Unknown Worlds. They seem to follow this logic path: “This is a person, this is their life, they just happen to be gay.” I couldn’t think of a more honourable or intelligent way to bring people together. By showing them as fundamentally human, with sexual orientation, race and religion simply being some of many features they can possess. This is inclusive storytelling that does not alienate anyone. Unknown Worlds executes it so wonderfully, and this is what integration should be all about!
Being the game’s closest approach to a Mary Sue, Samantha Ayou is an amazing character who goes on to become friends with Marguerite and discover a virus cure. Even so, she doesn’t make it out alive, and it’s up to you to figure out what happened. Even though Samantha would typically be regarded as an overpowered Mary Sue, it’s fantastic that she dies. She struggles, suffers, is manipulated, has regrets, and ultimately succeeds in most but not all of her aspirations, which makes her a hero we can cheer for!
I’ve experienced some of the most beautifully human individuals in Below Zero during my voyage under the icy seas. These two characters are just two of the incredible ones in Subnautica Below Zero. How could anyone not fall in love with Parvan, the brilliantly shattered man who lives a life of regret in a job he doesn’t like. Fred LaChance is my all-time favourite sub-zero hero. The man we saw in the trailer is Fred; he is an amazing legend who often risks his life while operating his sea truck. He risks losing his job to assist his pals with their personal errands, and he also sports a plush moustache and a grooming kit that you may locate and steal in the game. Because of the way Fred interacts in the voice recordings, he is without a doubt one of the best video game characters I have liked in a very long time. I particularly enjoyed listening to Emmanuel hit on him as he was being reprimanded.
The crew of the Mercury II which had previously crash-landed on the planet is the next group. I could go on and on about how much I loved the crew’s dialogue. Their aspirations and goals lying completely dashed at the bottom of a hostile alien ocean. Beautifully written and painful.
Overall, I was highly impressed by Unknown Worlds’ Subnautica and Below Zero games. When Subnautica was still in early beta, I bought it. Sadly at the time my computer couldn’t handle it. After playing Subnautica and Below Zero, all I can say is that they are two masterpieces that I thoroughly loved, which is more than I can say for most things. I hope Unknown Worlds continues to create amazing games for many years to come since their efforts to bring people closer together around the world are truly admirable. All I can say is that I REALLY WISH that these games had multiplayer. You hearing me Unknown Worlds team?