Now I’ve spent a lot of time talking about some of the older games out there from my childhood that shaped my interests. What about what that played off my fears? The next game to make the cut, is Subnautica.
Now I stumbled into this game completely randomly. I knew nothing about it at all. I saw a trailer for it on facebook I believe. So I booted up steam and the price was right, so I picked it up. I like games that aren’t from AAA companies sometimes because they generally care about their games in a different way from just making boatloads of cash selling the same game over and over. Plus the premise of a mostly underwater game sounded very intriguing.
It is worth mentioning however that I have a fear of open water. I don’t mind the beach, but the moment it drops, GET ME OUT. I don’t like the thought of it, I don’t like the fact the ocean hides things, I don’t like that if you go deep enough things get really strange. So when I picked up this game and all I knew was it was about water, I thought to myself, “Hey, this may help me with that fear a little. Give me a safe way to test myself out.”
So when you boot up the game you’re treated to this opening cinematic that looks pretty nice, and the game feels pretty grounded. But I’ll admit, I paid the story only as much attention as is required. I found the mystery cool, but didn’t like all the dead ends it left me with.
You start the game out in shallow waters where its mostly harmless fish that you must gather for resources. The crafting system is actually very nice. Its simple yet just enough challenge to keep you engaged. You find resources scattered around from your big ship that crashed, and your ultimate goal is to get off the planet you crashed on. Not too bad, but there is a catch. You get no weapons. You get stuff that KINDA acts like weapons, but ultimately, unless its a fish you harvest for food, you don’t want to mess with things that hurt you. This added an element of, “Oh crap.” when you encountered something new. There was no way to know if it was gonna hurt you or not.
Raise that anxiety level just a bit. Suddenly you’re realizing just how deep that water can go. Suddenly I’m sitting in front of my monitor, mouth open, trying to navigate in the dark, harvesting things I need, and I start hearing things in the deep… I’m getting more and more terrified with every meter I dive. As you can imagine, the deeper you go from the surface, with you limited gear and batteries, it gets absolutely terrifying. Every fear I had of the ocean was now staring me in the face. I have my headphones on, lights dimmed, exploring caves and shafts where anything can happen.
Get this, if it wasn’t scary enough, sometimes you can be minding your own damn business, and SOMETHING GRABS YOU in a cutscene like fashion, and shakes the crap out of you. At one point I was so mentally engaged in this game that when that happened that I primal screamed, threw my headphones and ran away from the computer. So then, every time I heard a similar sound that reminded me of the thing that got me, I would feel my anxiety skyrocket, and self preservation mode kicked in. This game, it’s good. Its not perfect, and theres a lot I don’t like about it. But as far as capturing the feeling of terror in the ocean, they nailed it.