Subnautica was an indie hit, selling over 5 million copies and receiving splendid reviews from critics. After all was said and done, many fans were left wanting more undersea adventure, and now that time has finally come. Unknown Worlds is currently working on the second release in the franchise, Below Zero. It’s currently in Steam Early Access, but Below Zero will be fully released on May 14th for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X | S and Nintendo Switch. Here are 13 exciting new features we’ll be seeing in Below Zero.
1. New Area & Biomes
Say goodbye to the Aurora and the crater edge, and hello to the icy wonderland that is Sector Zero. This version of the survival/crafting game takes place on the same planet, but in a completely different area that is significantly colder than its predecessor.
It features a ton of new content, including state-of-the-art underwater biomes like the imposing thermal spires, the mysterious twisty bridges and the towering lily pads. These new biomes are beautiful, but for those who have grown familiar with Subnautica’s style, there will undoubtedly be creatures that would love nothing more than to chow down on you.
While the first map does have 2 small islands to explore, that’s practically the extent of the land gameplay we see. In Below Zero, there are more opportunities to stretch your sea legs. A big part of the map is on ice in an area called the Glacial Basin which is brimming with ressources and fragments. It’s a rewarding area to explore if you’re brave enough to face the predators that dwell there.
The Seatruck is ideal for those who believe that the Seamoth isn’t useful enough, but the Cyclops is too clunky. This new hybrid combines the nimble nature and the practicality of the two and becomes one sweet submersible.
The Seatruck is crafted in different parts, each one adding a new functionality to the submarine. The parts can be found in fragments in different areas of the map, the better ones typically residing in the more hazardous parts of the map. Sadly, there is no module for insta-killing Leviathans but there are modules for crafting, storage and docking the fan-favourite PRAWN suit.
3. Sub Zero Climate
Aside from starvation, dehydration and facefuls of aggressive alien fauna, now you can also meet your untimely demise by freezing to death. If you’re not careful roaming around Sector Zero, you can easily go from an explorer to an icicle in a matter of minutes. Not only a figurative icicle, but due to a new creature called the Brinewing, a literal one. This fascinating little creature will charge you and immediately turn you into a block of ice if it hits you. Thanks, “game logic”.
Fortunately, the developers have added in some useful gear such as a cold suit and heating gel to help you keep those digital buns warm and cozy.
4. Large Bases
Base building has always been a key component in the series. Whether you’re storing creature eggs or grinding fish into a pulp to charge up your batteries, they were always there to keep you safe when surrounded by an ocean of uncertainty. Now, in this frosty expansion, there are substantially bigger rooms at your disposal, giving you new options when planning out your base.
These rooms can have multiple reactors in them rather than one in the center, and they can be split up by craftable dividers. The larger area allows you to store and decorate with more freedom and ease than in the first Subnautica.
5. Weather System
Subnautica received criticism for its lack of weather patterns in the world and had even planned to implement rain before the idea was scrapped as a consequence of technical issues with the skybox. However, weather doesn’t have much of an effect considering most of the gameplay takes place underwater and the only noticeable weather change is the day/night cycle.
Below Zero has expanded upon the previous game to include a large, expansive land portion of the map instead of just 2 small islands. With those islands comes weather events that have a much more significant impact. These have important effects on gameplay and provide the following new weather dynamics to the game: hail, lightning storms and even meteor showers. If you’re not careful during one of these storms, in the words of Thumper from South Park: “you’re gonna have a bad time”.
6. Oxygen Tank Booster
The Oxygen tank booster is exactly what it sounds like. This nifty gadget allows you to consume oxygen in your tank to propel yourself forward. It’s useful when trying to cross long distances quickly to grab some materials or to escape the jaws of a terrifying alien monster.
However, it’s a risk-reward situation when using the booster far below the surface as you can accidentally use up all of the O2 you need to breathe. From a firsthand account, I can confirm that using all your breathable oxygen and suffocating just to farm a few extra materials is a terrible way to go.
7. Sea Monkeys
There are dozens of new fun and interesting creatures in Below Zero, yet some are terrifying and dangerous, including one animal, the Sea Monkey, that foregoes size and strength for some clever tactics. Forget about the leviathans, these little rascals are the bona fide terror of the sea.
Sea Monkeys like to hang around creepvine areas, an essential farming spot for rubber and lubricant. They look adorable and friendly, but if they get close to you, they’ll steal the item you have in your hand. Scanner, knife, Seaglide; you name it. If it’s in your hand, the monkeys will steal it. Best to try and steer clear of these masters of mayhem, unless you’re looking for a headache.
As the easiest mode of transportation above sea level, the hoverbike will have you feeling like an imperial scout in no time. This new swift compact vehicle allows you to fly just above water and ice quickly and efficiently, and it’s perfect for finding all the secrets that the glacial basin, as well as the rest of the surface world, has to offer.
The bike even has a similar characteristic to the Seaglide. You can have it in your inventory and it can be deployed and packed up at will. However, the hoverbike doesn’t just bring sunshine and rainbows. It also seems to create a lot of noise, and is particularly appetizing to some of the new fauna that dwells under the ice of the glacial basin. You have been warned.
That’s right, you can teleport. A module can be built for the seatruck that will allow players to teleport to it from anywhere on the map. It comes in handy when unfortunate events happen, such as being eaten by a Leviathan while exploring the bottom of the map with the Seatruck. Instead of having to swim all the way, now you can teleport.
Teleportation isn’t new to Subnautica. The first edition had the alien arches, which were built by the precursors and powered by ion cubes to quickly traverse the map. However, Alterra seems to have translated the technology into their own handheld version. Since Below Zero takes place 1 year after the events of Subnautica, it is a clever way to build upon the linear story of the two games, in addition to being a cool new toy for us players.
10. Mineral Detector, A Handheld Scanner Room
The Mineral Detector is perfect for all those pesky little materials that are hard to find, but is much cheaper than the bulky Scanner Room. It’s like swimming around with a metal detector that can find everything from titanium to interesting new fragments. It will ping when you are close, and will indicate a general direction that the item is in.
Gone are the days of cluelessly wandering the ocean floor looking for pieces of the Seamoth, or meandering through cave systems hoping to stumble across the last piece of magnetite you need for that depth module.
11. Voiced Protagonist
Part of the original Subnautica’s charm was the feeling of isolation brought on by the complete lack of other characters to interact with. The main character did not have any dialogue, in fact you barely heard him unless he was gasping for air or screaming from pain. But that was so 2018 Subnautica.
Below Zero throws the old isolation model out and has added personality for the protagonist Robin, as well as many other in-game characters that will not be spoiled here.
By including more voices to the game than just voice logs and a telepathic sea emperor, Unknown Worlds has certainly added a new fresh layer of frosting onto the Subnautica cake. Players now have all the more reason to revisit the game in its new glacial form.
12. Revamped Crafting System
Colour coding, pinning recipes and cleaner UI are all new features that have been added to Below Zero. They’re a part of the fresh and easy-to-use system that’s incredibly important for survival craft-em-ups, and while the original was clean, the second edition has improved upon it and evolved it from a Squirtle to a Wartortle.
In the crafting menu, sections are now highlighted green when you have the materials to build an item in that tab, while the items themselves are highlighted blue.
Reopening the menu to remember what materials you needed for an item was an all too common occurrence in Subnautica. However, with the new pinning system, which you might have seen in Rust, you can see exactly what you need and what you have without having to open the PDA more than once.
If there’s anything that’ll attract the monsters of the sea, it’s definitely a base that’s booming with some jukebox oldies. The brand new jukebox is a module that can be built once found and scanned, allowing you to play music in any of your bases.
The songs that are played on the jukebox can be inserted into the files of the game on PC, but the system only supports .mp3, .ogg, .wav and flac formats. Aside from being able to upload your own music, you can also find discs hidden throughout the game that can be played. There are even craftable speakers that, when paired with the new large rooms, allow you to turn them into a groovy home away from home in Below Zero.
From vehicles to creatures, biomes to weather systems, and music to voice actors, Subnautica: Below Zero offers a variety of new features that give the die hard fan as well as the newcomer an enticing adventure to explore. Below Zero is set to be released on May 14th, and will hopefully live up to the expectations of fans of its predecessor.
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