Subnautica's Nautical Adventure or how I lost 46 hours in 3 days
I've never been one to be gripped by survival base building games, but somewhere in the mixup, this game captured me in a death roll that ended up with me playing 46 hours within 3 days.
The game starts where your character is traveling in a leviathan-sized space ship which is reminiscent of a mega cruise. You're currently flying towards an unknown location while being struck down by something on your way there. The first 30 seconds are your character being blasted out of the ship inside of a rescue pod. You plummet through the atmosphere for a few moments and you land on what appears to be a vast and limitless ocean next to your burning spaceship.
I'd say right here at this moment is where my fascination started with this game. For all the types of geography available to us fiction & non, my favorite must have to be anything ocean and water related. What gets me going is the concept that everything inside that body of water has evolved to live inside of it and that rings my spinal cord in a way that just gets me giddy.
I thought, well hells bells I better go swim to the ship and get some additional supplies for my first task to get me back up on my feet. So I started swimming for what felt like an eternity, and the pristine light blue water turned to a gorgeous dark royal blue. I was excited about 400 ft away or so, the massive ship getting larger and I felt like I got this move right, when all of a sudden the royal blue turned to a bleached dust storm. A warning for radioactivity played on the overhead, and I said shoot. I must be missing something, and then I turned around to swim back to the life pod to re-evaluate my choices and what I could do. That's when my admiration started and the game gripped me in its jaws. A low roar could be heard, but I thought it was yet another ocean sound that was for later or perhaps world-building. I guess I was technically right as if not 2 - 3 seconds later I was stuck in the jaws of a reaper who was pushing me deeper into the ocean while devouring me. The game got me good, I was so spooked that I jumped up and let out a frightened shriek! Not too manly when I'm thinking about it post-mortem, but I'm pretty weak to jump scares. This scare wasn't just a jump scare though, it was fair. It adhered to all of the rules of justifying a jump scare.
Jump scares are like a magic trick by a magician, they have a few simple rules that they have to adhere to. The magician must present an item or a concept to the audience. The magician must then make the item or concept disappear. Then there's a discovery phase where the audience must say "Well it was just there where did it go?". Once the audience has gone through that mental process then the magician must perform the real magic, he must make it re-appear and add a twist. That twist is typically an element of horror. Then and only then have you created a fair jump scare that the audience doesn't feel is cheap or at their expense.
So then, I respawned. I mean, after all, it's a game although I will admit the 10 seconds I stared at the black screen, I felt like I was just devoured and was trying to recoup! I had additional parameters now besides overcoming the initial radiation, now I had to watch out for whatever the hell that creature was and not get crunched up. I hopped back into the water to collect supplies, and I swam down picking things up in my limited inventory. Bit by bit I brought items back up. Then night fell, and once again the sounds of the ocean started getting more intense. I got spooked and stayed in the starting lifepod for the first night while trying to get acclimated to the survivor aspect of the game. Managing hunger and thirst, fluid intake, and calorie intake are something I'd not had much experience with in games. The third strike for this game was giving me so many unique experiences that from that second hour, I was hooked.
Needless to say, I've finished the game, scanned every creature including the reaper that ate me initially, charted every bit of the existing ocean, got all 17 Steam achievements, and found all the easter eggs in the game. I simply fell in love with this game and couldn't loosen my grip from the hyper fixation that I had with it. After everything, I'll say this. Subnautica is an absolute love letter to survivor, base building, and exploring games. It scratched every itch I never knew I had. The absolute beauty of the ocean biomes, the biodiversity, the overarching story it feels like it's been here since the beginning of time and wasn't hand crafted but evolution brought it here. It makes sense why this game took 7 years of development from Unknown Worlds Entertainment to get their MVP to this polished juggernaut that dwarfs any other similar game. Nothing I've ever played has ever come close to it, and I only regret that I can't play it again without knowing everything that I already know.