Subnautica for Xbox One review: An underwater adventure packed with detail and wonder

Subnautica is here, and a deep dive of exploration, terror, and mystery awaits those who sink into its depths.

Throughout the last year, survival exploration game Subnautica has taken the PC gaming community by storm. Despite some Early Access growing pains in years prior, the finished version of Subnautica has been universally praised as one of the best titles of 2018. Now, the game has released officially on Xbox One, and while it suffers from some glitches and bugs, it's still a fantastic experience that makes dealing with the issues worth it.

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Explore a nautical world

Subnautica

Subnautica (Image credit: Unknown Worlds Entertainment)

The premise of Subnautica is that you're an astronaut who is launched away from your spaceship in an escape pod as it's burning up. You crash land on an alien planet, directly in the middle of an endless, vast ocean. As the main ship comes down shortly after, your goal is to investigate the wreckage, learn what you can, and attempt to send out a distress signal for help — all while foraging for food, drinkable water, and resources in this new oceanic environment.

The depths of Subnautica's oceans are gorgeous, mystifying, and frightening all at once. The water teems with aquatic flora and fauna, both predatory and timid, and you'll need to learn how to interact with all of it as you search the ocean for materials to craft new tools and repair damaged systems. For protection, you only have access to a knife. While you'll be able to tackle smaller lifeforms, there's always a bigger fish. And those bigger fish have teeth that make your weapon look like a child's toy.

This is where stealth comes into play. There's a delicate and nuanced flow to Subnautica: as you observe and document the life you come across, you'll need to figure out who you can approach, and who you should stick clear of. When you do come across a predator, your ability to stay undetected means life or death. Learning how to master all of these systems is a treat, especially since you can eventually create submersible vehicles and other gadgets that allow you to explore even further.

Gorgeous, but a little glitchy

Visually, the world of Subnautica is fantastic. The underwater landscapes are colorful, vibrant, and overall have a pleasant stylized aesthetic, which really helps sell the idea that you're in an ocean filled with life forms of all shapes and sizes. The sound design is on point as well, as each type of plant and animal you come across makes its own unique sound. Overall, the presentation factor is excellent.

However, a notable problem with Subnautica as it stands now is the performance. It would appear the transition from PC to Xbox hasn't been completely smooth sailing, as busy areas of the ocean tend to cause some annoying framerate drops that take away from the experience. There's also a particularly frustrating bug that prevents inputs from working on the main menu on occasion, effectively preventing you from playing. These problems aren't frequent, but they're common enough that they do harm the finished package.

Should you buy Subnautica?

Despite the performance issues, Subnautica is definitely a title that you shouldn't sleep on. The open world exploration and survival mechanics are on point, and the world is massive, deep, and rich in detail; it's just a shame that it's being held back a little bit by problems with how it runs.

Pros:

  • Excellent gameplay.
  • Gorgeous, yet terrifying open world to explore.
  • Satisfying, beautiful presentation.

Cons:

  • Framerate drops.
  • Annoying main menu bug.

Subnautica is out now on Xbox One for $34.99.

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Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

1 Comment
  • Well, I'pretty sure you did not play long. As the menu bug is the worst you seem to have encountered. In reality, SubNautica on xbox (and on PS4) is riddled with bugs, lots of minor and just as many major ones. It was really bad in the preview game and now on full release (v 1.0.0.30) it is maybe even worse, as old ones did not get fixed properly and new ones arose. Take a look on their fora or on Reddit. Or a Google search for Subnautica + bugs will give you plenty results. Clipping, pop-in, draw-in, falling through the floor, stuttering, crash on saving.. it's all there. But all those bugs do not take away that Subnautica in it's whole is a fabulous game. A one of a kind. But the bugs kill it.