Subnautica: Below Zero
By Marc Saltzman,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Stellar adventure sequel has fantastic hero in aquatic tale.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Gameplay is all about exploring a mysterious planet, cataloging creatures, crafting tools, building habitats, staying alive. Involves discovering what happened to your sister, investigating the cover-up behind her mysterious disappearance.
Positive Role Models
Gamers play as daring Black female explorer Robin Ayou, who crash-lands on planet 4546B. She's determined to find clues that may lead to answers tied to her sister's death (carried over from original Subnautica game), as well as explore the planet's underwater life, craft tools, build habitats, etc. Not many video games star a Black female character.
Ease of Play
Gameplay is easy to learn and control.
Violence & Scariness
Some creatures may attack players if provoked -- like penguin-like birds on land or biting deep-sea fish -- and protagonist Robin may cry out in pain. Robin can use a knife to attack a creature. Aliens will sometimes emit splatters of yellow liquid, which implies blood. No graphic violence.
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Some mild profanity heard in dialogue sequences, including words like "damn" and "hell," or if player is engaged with a deadly creature and cries out in pain.
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Products & Purchases
This is the sequel to 2018's Subnautica.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Subnautica: Below Zero is an adventure game for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC. It stars a Black female explorer who crash-lands on an alien world. She must survive among the wildlife, collect species and materials, craft items, and more. There are occasional scenes of violence, if the creatures are provoked: They might slash or bite our hero. A yellowish liquid may be seen emanating out of a creature (to imply alien blood). The game has some mild profanity here and there, including words like "damn" and "hell."
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Subnautica: Below Zero
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What’s It About?
A sequel to 2018's Subnautica, SUBNAUTICA: BELOW ZERO is a multi-platform open-world adventure game set on an alien oceanic planet known as 4546B. You play as Robin Ayou, a brave female explorer who returns to this mysterious place to find some answers about the death of her sister, Sam, a roboticist who worked for the Alterra Corporation. Your goal is to investigate what happened to the scientists who worked on 4546B and why the company left in a hurry, and review the logs, items, and data banks scattered across the planet. You'll collect alien species and resources native to the planet, craft items, log your findings, and explore underwater and above-ground areas, including icy caves and snowy tundra, while trying not to intimidate the wildlife. New to this sequel is the ability to ride in vehicles, including the Snowfox hoverbike (perfect for gliding across arctic terrain) and a modular submarine-like Seatruck for underwater use (it has various modules that can be attached for additional functions). Also new to Subnautica: Below Zero, along with a fresh story and lead protagonist, are some role-playing game (RPG) elements, varying land types, and new tech to craft using found items. A new radar-like tracking device can help you find minerals, too.
Is It Any Good?
This is an extraordinarily fun open-ended, story-based adventure worthy of your time and money (especially as it's less than half the cost of most other new games). While it may be shorter than its three-year-old predecessor, the new story, additional game mechanics, and biomes of Subnautica: Below Zero make it a great buy for fans of the original game, too. The first 30 minutes or so will help you familiarize yourself with the controls and the tasks at hand -- beginning with collecting species and chipping away at minerals to analyze. But once you get to the Delta Station, one of the first story-based, on-land areas, the fun really kicks in by giving you a clearer purpose to your work. While you don't see her often as it's played from a first-person view, Robin, a Black female protagonist, is a great role model. More of the story elements are uncovered shortly into the game, including Robin's personal connection to this planet, and, without giving too much away, she realizes she may not be alone on 4546B. For much of the game, though, it's a survival/exploration simulation, where you need to take note of your oxygen levels, body temperature (if outside), and power of your underwater craft, and avoid some of the bigger creatures who don't want you messing around them.
Collecting and crafting remains a core gameplay mechanic, along with finding and using items, such as a headlamp and rebreather mask, to aid in your quest. The lack of a map can be a little challenging in an open-world game, so you should have a good sense of direction to navigate this world, on land and under water, in order to succeed. Graphics are a little better than in the original, but not by much. At least objects don't seem to "pop" into view as much as in the first game, which hurt its suspension of disbelief. The voice acting is strong, as is the music and sound effects. Whether you've played the original or not, this fantasy trip to Planet 4546B is a highly memorable one.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Subnautica: Below Zero affected by the fact that fights are frequently due to creatures being startled or trying to protect themselves? Would the impact be intensified if there was a focus on hunting or destroying these creatures from the start of the game?
Why do video games need more strong female characters like Robin Ayou, who is also a person of color? Do these Subnautica games feature positive Black female role models?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Bandai Namco
- Release date: May 16, 2021
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Ocean Creatures, Robots, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: May 26, 2021
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