Subnautica: Below Zero

Subnautica: Below Zero is an open world survival action-adventure video game developed and published by Unknown Worlds Entertainment. It is the sequel to the 2018 game Subnautica.

Subnautica: Below Zero
Subnautica Below Zero cover art.jpg
Developer(s)Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Publisher(s)Unknown Worlds Entertainment[a]
  • Charlie Cleveland
  • David Kalina
Artist(s)Cory Strader
  • Jill Murray
  • Brittney Morris
  • Zaire Lanier
  • Tom Jubert
Composer(s)Ben Prunty
ReleaseMay 14, 2021
Genre(s)Action-adventure, survival

Introduced in early access via Steam and the Epic Games Store in January 2019, Subnautica: Below Zero was released for the Microsoft Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch on May 14, 2021. The physical versions of the game are published by Bandai Namco Entertainment.


Subnautica: Below Zero is a survival adventure game set in an open world environment and played from a first-person perspective. The player controls a scientist who arrives to planet 4546B to search for clues about the research team that vanished there.[1] Like its predecessor, the player's goal is to explore the environments and survive in the alien environment while also completing objectives to advance the game's plot. Players collect resources, construct tools, build bases and submersibles, and can interact with the planet's wildlife.[2]

The game primarily takes place underwater, but unlike its predecessor, there are significant land-based areas to explore in the north of the game's world. There are more explorable structures to find both above ground and underwater which serve both as key locations for the story, but also for blueprints that the player can find for crafting. There is a day-night cycle which affects visibility and dynamic weather which further affects visibility, such as wind, snow, fog, and hail. In addition, the game introduces new gadgets like the Flashlight Helmet, the Mineral Detector, and the Booster Tank.[3]

Alongside returning mechanics such as health, hunger, and thirst, players now have a temperature gauge which activates when they are on land. If the player is exposed to harsh weather, they will begin to develop hypothermia.[4] This can be prevented by finding shelter in caves or buildings, utilizing plants or tools which can warm the player up, and by crafting appropriate survival gear which allows the player to stay outside in harsh weather for longer periods of time.

Upon beginning a new game, players must select a difficulty mode from the following four:

  • Survival — The player must manage health, hunger, thirst, oxygen and temperature. Upon death, they respawn, but certain items are lost from their inventory.
  • Freedom Mode — Just like survival, but with hunger and thirst disabled.
  • Hardcore Mode — Just like survival, but if the player dies, the player will no longer be able to respawn and the save file is permanently deleted.
  • Creative Mode — Health, hunger, thirst, oxygen and temperature are disabled, all the crafting blueprints are acquired, and no resources are required to craft. Additionally, the submersibles, a Seaglide, a mobile vehicle bay, a knife, a flashlight, a habitat builder, a scanner and a propulsion cannon are provided. They do not need an energy source and cannot be damaged (unless the player damages them intentionally).


Two years after the events of the original game, scientist Robin Ayou smuggles herself onto planet 4546B in order to investigate the circumstances of her sister Samantha's death, which Alterra claims was a result of "employee negligence". During the past year, Alterra had built a number of research bases on the planet but had recently withdrawn all of its personnel, giving Robin an opportunity to land on the planet.

Shortly after landing, Robin picks up a distress signal and goes to investigate it, discovering an alien sanctuary containing the digitized consciousness of a living precursor. The alien introduces itself as Al-An and forcibly downloads itself into Robin's brain just as the sanctuary's power runs out. Angry at Al-An for intruding into her mind, Robin agrees to help it construct a new body for it to transfer into. In order to carry this out, Robin combs the planet for alien installations and artifacts to find the necessary components and materials. Al-An also explains that it didn't try to contact Alterra because it believed Alterra's motivations didn't align with its own, and it didn't want to risk them finding a way to its homeworld. During their search, Al-An admits that it was one of the lead scientists researching a cure for the Kharaa bacterium and it disobeyed orders by trying to hatch Sea Dragon eggs, leading to the initial outbreak of Kharaa on 4546B.

Meanwhile, Robin also continues her investigation into Samantha's death. She searches all of the abandoned Alterra research facilities, and finds out that Alterra discovered the corpse of a leviathan frozen in ice that was still infected by Kharaa. However, instead of destroying the Kharaa, Alterra decided to start researching the bacterium for useful applications. Fearing another outbreak and concerned Alterra will use Kharaa to develop bioweapons, Samantha decided to sabotage the project by using explosives to collapse the cave holding the leviathan, while her friend, Degasi survivor Marguerit Maida destroyed the lab holding Alterra's Kharaa samples. However, Samantha was inadvertently caught in the blast and killed by falling rubble. Unable to determine the cause of the cave in, Alterra wrote off Samantha's death as a result of negligence. In order to prevent Alterra returning to the planet to restart their research, Robin recovers a cache of antibacterial agent Samantha had made earlier and uses it to neutralize the Kharaa infecting the frozen leviathan.

Eventually, Robin is able to recover all of the components necessary to build a new body and fabricates it. Al-An transfers itself to the new body and decides to return to the precursor homeworld in order to see for itself what had happened to the other Architects, as well as to atone for its past mistakes. Al-An activates an Architect phase gate and Robin travels with Al-An to the precursor homeworld, uncertain of what they will find there.


Subnautica: Below Zero was initially envisioned as a downloadable content (DLC) pack for the original Subnautica (2018), though its scope eventually expanded significantly, prompting Unknown Worlds to release Below Zero as a standalone product. Despite this, it was not considered to be a full sequel to Subnautica.[5] Announced in August 2018,[6] the game was released into early access for Windows and MacOS on January 30, 2019.[7] The full game was released for these platforms, along with versions for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, on May 14, 2021.[8] The game has a larger emphasis on storytelling when compared with the original.[1]


Subnautica: Below Zero received "generally favorable reviews" according to Metacritic.[20]


  1. ^ Physical versions published by Bandai Namco Entertainment


  1. ^ a b Avard, Alex (February 3, 2021). "Subnautica: Below Zero empowers the player with more gadgets and narrative momentum, but still makes you feel like a drop in ocean". GamesRadar. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  2. ^ Warr, Phillppa (February 4, 2019). "Subnautica: Below Zero is already a tantalising new twist on the original game". PC Gamer. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  3. ^ Devore, Jordan (July 17, 2019). "Subnautica: Below Zero has a new mining site to explore". Destructoid. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  4. ^ Hafer, Leana (February 6, 2021). "Subnautica: Below Zero Looks to Be More of What We Love". IGN. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  5. ^ Bailey, Dustin (February 2, 2021). "Subnautica devs want to make a full sequel – and they'll "rethink" multiplayer". PCGamesN. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  6. ^ Hall, Charlie (August 30, 2018). "Subnautica developers announce stand-alone expansion Below Zero". Polygon. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  7. ^ Tarason, Dominic (January 25, 2019). "Subnautica: Below Zero dives into early access next week". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  8. ^ Romano, Sal. "Subnautica: Below Zero launches May 14 for PS5, Xbox Series, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC". Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  9. ^ "Subnautica: Below Zero for Xbox Series X Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  10. ^ "Subnautica: Below Zero for Playstation 5 Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  11. ^ "Subnautica: Below Zero for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  12. ^ "Subnautica: Below Zero for Nintendo Switch Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  13. ^ "Test Subnautica : Below Zero - Simple extension ou vrai nouvel épisode ?". Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  14. ^ "Review: Subnautica: Below Zero". Game Informer. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  15. ^ "Subnautica: Below Zero Review". IGN. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  16. ^ "Mini Review: Subnautica: Below Zero - A Rather Cool Sequel". Nintendo Life. May 11, 2021. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  17. ^ "Subnautica: Below Zero (Switch) Review". Nintendo World Report. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  18. ^ "Review: Subnautica: Below Zero". Destructoid. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  19. ^ "SUBNAUTICA: BELOW ZERO REVIEW". PC Gamer. May 12, 2021. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  20. ^ "Subnautica: Below Zero". Metacritic. Retrieved May 14, 2021.

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