Subterrain sets you off on a quest for survival as Dr. West, a research scientist in a colony on Mars. After an accident in your lab kills someone, you are sentenced to prison, which may have become a saving grace. During an evacuation of the prison, you end up trapped in your cell, and once you escape from there, it appears everyone else in the colony has either died or been zombified. This is where your tale of survival within the colony on Mars begins.
Let me begin this by saying that Subterrain is not designed to be an easy game. It’s not an overly difficult game, but besides the initial tutorial explanations, there is not much guidance. Personally, I didn’t see this as a negative thing. You have to explore the colony and find your own way to survive. Initially, you will spend a significant amount of time just rummaging through various rooms and learning things like how to power various areas of the colony and utilize what’s available to you.
Besides eating, drinking and sleeping, you have to worry about a wide variety of other elements. You have to use the bathroom (which Dr. West will kindly inform you by saying “I gotta take a dump”), keep your blood contamination down, make sure you have oxygen and temperature control wherever you go, monitor the main power source, etc. There is a lot going on, and if you don’t keep it all under control, you won’t survive very long.
Personally, I really like everything going on in Subterrain. I learned very early on to be careful about how much I was eating and drinking, because sustenance was not as readily available as I expected. I also learned that if you accidentally use two decontamination pills (for blood contamination) back to back, you probably won’t survive very long. It took me a few new games to really understand everything going on, but I didn’t mind it. There isn’t an easy way out of any task in Subterrain, but it forces you to play this game in its entirety instead of skimming through the things you don’t feel like doing.
There are a lot of things you’ll be forced to learn, including mining, growing food, researching technologies and using a 3D printer to create items you need. Subterrain encourages exploration while forcing you to do it with a sense of urgency. Take too long in a newly discovered area and you’ll likely run out of oxygen or your blood will become overly contaminated. I liked the pressure Subterrain put on you to be efficient with your time, because while the game isn’t innately scary from the monsters or environment, there is always a sense of impending doom.
There is one major issue with Subterrain, and it is with how the various panels and popups display. Most of what appears on the screen besides the regular gameplay is virtually unreadable. Generally, if I wanted to read anything that popped up, I had to walk up to my TV to read any text. Particularly in the early stages, when I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t know what I was picking up, this became incredibly aggravating.
The complete achievement list in Subterrain contains a lot of variety, from exploration to killing certain number of mobs. The achievement list follows a lot of what needs to be done in the game, such as manufacturing a certain number of items with the 3D printer, which you’ll have to do if you plan on surviving for an extended period of time (which you will need to do if you want to get the achievement for surviving 120 hours). Also, there is an achievement for pooping ten times in one playthrough, which I know I always look for when I scan an achievement list prior to playing a game, and finally, I found it.
I found Subterrain to be an incredibly challenging and engaging game. Yes, there is a fairly steep learning curve initially, but once you understand the wide variety of components in the game and learn how to do them efficiently, the game takes on a life of its own. Every time I died (and trust me, there was no shortage of that), I found myself wanting to go back and survive longer. The pressure of this game created a sometimes nerve-racking environment that kept me exploring and attempting to survive just a bit longer.
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for this review
Xbox One: https://www.microsoft.com/en-US/store/p/Subterrain/BQT43569VWF2