A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Subnautica is an adventure game. After crash-landing on a planet, you're tasked with exploring (mostly) underwater areas, finding items you can use (such as crafting into things you need for survival), staying alive around threatening creatures, and uncovering more of the story. There's some fantasy violence, such as using your knife to attack fish-like creatures, and there are some scary moments, too, for parents to be aware of. There are also some instances of "damn" and "hell" in dialogue.
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What's it about?
SUBNAUTICA follows an explorer who crash-lands on an uncharted world and must carefully navigate a wide array of ocean biomes in search of food, water, and resources. Players also have to try to stay alive, exploring huge underwater areas (from sun-drenched coral reefs to deep-sea trenches filled with caves and volcanoes) and looking for answers as to why they crashed and what's happening with the wildlife on this planet. Playing from a first-person perspective, you'll pilot various watercraft (and venture out on your own), and must not only fight off deadly creatures, but also scavenge and craft items to help you push forward in your quest for survival. In fact, you'll ultimately need to build a custom underwater base with everything you need to live, observe, and fight the deeper and deeper you go.
Is it any good?
This is a breathtakingly beautiful, challenging, and immersive open-world adventure that grabs you from the start and doesn't let go. Subnautica -- which took more than five years to create -- is highly recommended, especially for those who love marine exploration, crafting items, and puzzle-solving, and a solid story to tie everything together. Also, for fans of horror movies and games, Subnautica does have some terrifying moments. There are some minor technical issues -- such as images that suddenly pop up, and long-ish load times. Plus, those who prefer twitchy action might not appreciate the slower-paced scavenger hunt nature of the game, but Subnautica is really, really good. Also, you can choose to play how you like: Creative mode allows you to explore underwater worlds and build bases without having to worry about health upkeep or resource costs; Survival mode is more difficult, as you must manage health, hunger, and hydration; and the aptly named Hardcore mode only gives you one life and no O2 alerts, to truly test your survival skills.
Once you're in the first of a few different vessels, you'll quickly get the hang of navigation and control, so you can focus on the core gameplay element -- survival -- as you follow waypoints to complete various goals, and choose flight or fight based on the threats that await you (some can't be killed, so you'll need to think of alternative approaches). One of the first memorable moments is discovering and investigating the huge spaceship that brought you to this alien world to begin with. The game is a real stunner, with high-resolution graphics, impressive lighting, and amazing special effects (including very realistic-looking water). Couple that with excellent sound effects -- like hearing the moans of predatory creatures swimming near you -- and professional voice acting and music, and you'll get a sense of the production values here. All in all, despite the few technical issues, Subnautica is an extraordinarily fun game worthy of your time and money.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Does it matter that you can choose to attack or avoid combat with creatures, or is the fact that Subnautica is a struggle for survival a problem because it forces players to inevitably resort to violence?
Talk about exploration. What kinds of places do you like to explore? Would you like to travel to distant lands? What about distant worlds?
- Platforms: Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $24.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
- Release date: February 9, 2018
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Ocean Creatures, Science and Nature, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
- Last updated: February 22, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.