As of today, Subnautica: Below Zero is finally out on PC in Early Access. The standalone expansion to the underwater survival horror game, Subnautica (opens in new tab), features an entirely new aquatic open world to explore, set to another sci-fi story that takes place exactly one year after the events of the first. This time around, you won’t be falling from the sky in a barely functional escape pod, but starting your adventure at a research post in a snow caked region of the same oceanic planet as before, 4546B.
Unfortunately, Deep Zero sees you character stranded from their HQ within the first five minutes of the game’s opening, thus initiating Subnautica’s familiar rhythms of exploration, crafting, and survival, albeit set to a very different backdrop than before. It’s worth mentioning that Below Zero is very much in the early stages of development, with limited content available and a range of technical and visual bugs, but I’ve already invested a good amount of time into this current build to bring you highlights of the experience so far. Here’s 9 cool new things I’ve already discovered in Subnautica: Below Zero.
Everybody shut up right now because we have to talk about Subnautica’s Pengwings. Striking that perfect combination of deadly and cute, Planet 4546B’s arctic avians are the ideal companions for one-sided conversation after a long day under the sea.
The little guys will slip and slide about on the ice caps above the water, while the even tinier babies will repeatedly fall flat on their faces for added slapstick humour. Oh, and when they open their beaks to squawk, you can check out every single edge in their layers of sharp, serrated teeth. Adorable.
2. This giant doughnut fish… thing
Technically called the Titan Holefish (but colloquially referred to by me and my new Pengwing buddies as doughnut fish), this large, harmless specimen is a real sight to behold in Below Zero. They seem to gather together in schools, and the view of dozens of Titan Holefish gormlessly hovering across your field of vision is about as surreal as it gets.
The good news is that you can suck oxygen out of each fish’s inner hole (stop giggling) when interacting with them up close, allowing you to stay underwater for longer without having to come up for air. A bit gross, sure, but needs must and all that.
3. Brute Sharks
Pro tip for playing Below Zero: Don’t go near the Brute Shark. True to their name, they are an utter nightmare that will attack you viciously on sight. I don’t know what I was expecting, truth be told.
Almost everything in Subnautica wants to eat me for dinner, so this was the price I paid for unearned optimism. I just wanted to pat him on the head and ask for directions. He ended up killing me, and probably ate the baby Pengwing that was sitting in my pocket too. Bastard.
4. Glow Whales
Everyone remembers stumbling across their first Reefback in Subnautica. One of the few Leviathans that isn’t interested in killing you – it’s majestic beauty is in stark contrast to the horrors it shares the waters with.
The same can be said of Below Zero’s Glow Whales, which are much smaller in size but no less impressive in their awe-inspiring resplendence. You’ll find them playing together in herds, gracefully bobbing up and down at the water’s surface like loveable, gilled elephants. And yes, they do glow in the dark.
5. An abandoned island outpost
Below Zero teases you in its early moments by starting your character off with a fully equipped research centre, complete with everything you’d been building towards in the original game. It’s not long before an ice storm blocks you from your beloved HQ, however, and you’re back stuck in another dinky little pod situated in the middle of the sea.
You can imagine my relief, then, when I came across this unused base perched at the top of a snowy mountain island, which came equipped with a bed, fabricator, storage lockers, and even an observation tower. Nearby was a rocket that was apparently out of use, too. I’m sure that’ll be coming in handy later on in Below Zero’s unfinished story…
6. I’m, uh… I’m really not sure what this is
Bonesharks aren’t new to Subnautica, but I’ve certainly never seen them behave like this before. I found two of them sat with their entire bodies perched vertically, heads above the surface and pointing at the sky, and the only time they returned to the water being was to chase me off with a few nasty snaps at the leg.
Is this one of the Early Access bugs that needs to be brought to the attention of Unknown Worlds? Some sort of Boneshark mating ritual? Are they praying to the Boneshark Gods? Catching snowflakes on their tongue? WHAT IS GOING ON.
7. Giant lily pad trees
The flora is often just as weird and wonderful as the fauna in Subnautica, and Deep Zero is no exception. It wasn’t long before I found myself swimming through a murky forest of these strange, towering plants.
They appeared to sprout from large, floating rocks and bloom at the water’s surface into these incredible lily pads. Unfortunately, Stalkers seem to enjoy the area as a feeding ground, so I couldn’t stick around for too long.
Maybe I missed them, but there weren’t too many arthropodic oddities roaming around in Subnautica’s watery expanse, somewhat stunting the diversity part of its own biodiversity.
Deep Zero, however, features an absolute unit of a crustacean with the Rock Puncher; a quadrupedal who, as a forewarning, is very happy to come at you with those pincers if you get too close. Sadly, I haven’t actually seen them punching any rocks so far, but I’ll keep observing from afar.
9. The return of the Sea Emperor
If you’ve beaten Subnautica, then you know how important the Sea Emperor leviathan is to the story of the Aurora and Planet 4546B, so to see one roaming freely in the oceans of Deep Zero is unexpectedly cathartic.
This one was a little photo shy, swimming so fast that I couldn’t grab a decent picture of him for my scrapbook but, for once, I was happy to just take in the sight before he glided off into the distance for good.
For more crafting-exploration action, check out all the other best survival games (opens in new tab) you can download and play on PC right now.