Below Zero starter tips for new and returning Subnautica players
Whether you’re diving into Subnautica: Below Zero fresh off the original game or you’re coming in hoping to shake off the rust, here are some tips to get you started in this new standalone adventure.
Some of these pointers will seem like no-brainers for experienced Subnautica players, but it’s good to have a refresher. To that end, I’ve also included some item-specific wiki links for further reading.
- Below Zero is a sequel to Subnautica, and it’s a standalone game, not an expansion. That said, you don’t need to have played the first game to enjoy it. Actually, I think some players might even prefer Below Zero if they found the (at times) very open-ended structure of Subnautica to be too overwhelming. The core gameplay is the same in both games, and most of the crafting materials, recipes, and tools are one-to-one, but Below Zero has a more tightly packed map and a generally clearer story progression.
- Another recurring question: how scary is it? Honestly, Below Zero isn’t nearly as intimidating as Subnautica. There are freaky beasts, don’t get me wrong, but they aren’t as unholy as some of the creatures in the last game. Reaper Leviathans are out.
- It’s important to pick the right mode. Different people will want different things from Below Zero, especially those of us who have limits with survival genre tropes. Survival mode might be more than you bargained for, while Creative mode could be too easy since it gives you full access to all the blueprints. For me, Freedom mode strikes a nice balance with temperature and oxygen constraints to keep the pressure on but no hunger or thirst mechanics. If you’re up for Hardcore mode, more power to you.
- A huge part of the Subnautica series’ appeal is mapping out your surroundings. There isn’t an in-game map or even a mini-map to rely on — aside from landmarks like your central Drop Pod, it’s all in your head. At a certain point, you may feel the need to consult a player-made map image, but I’d resist the temptation as long as you can.
- Every biome has its own resources for crafting and scannable parts for unlocking blueprints, although there is some overlap. As such, it pays to pay attention (and keep extras back at home for your future self). Below Zero has a new handheld tool called the Mineral Detector that’s really useful for visually busy areas like the cave systems.
- Don’t forget to take a Beacon with you before you head off into the deep unknown. This is less a tip for you, and more of a nagging reminder to myself. I need a checklist!
- In Below Zero, you can pin crafting recipes to your HUD so you don’t have to keep double-checking which materials you still need to get. On PC, you can hit Tab to open up your PDA, flip over to the Blueprints section, and then click on any recipes you want to pin. There’s also an “Unpin All” button located at the top of this Blueprints list.
- While you can get by without it, the Exterior Growbed is excellent for keeping certain plants “in stock.” I’d recommend growing the Ribbon Plant, Gel Sack, and Spiral Plant.
- Where the heck are the diamonds? This walkthrough from YouTuber ChemicalApes shows off a great (not too deep or dangerous) source in the Twisty Bridges biome.
- If your tool’s battery runs out, you can swap it out. On PC, just equip the tool with the corresponding number key, press the R key to look at your current on-hand batteries, and use the mouse wheel to swap in a fresh battery. You can also use this same method to unload batteries, which will be useful once your base has a Battery Charger.
- I wasn’t convinced I needed the Air Bladder, but it’s super helpful. Compared to Subnautica‘s sprawling and uncomfortably deep ocean, Below Zero‘s icy waters are more… compressed. In the early game, when the Seaglide is your best transportation option, the Air Bladder can do a lot of heavy lifting as a panic button when you’re low on oxygen. It lets you dive just deep enough to make some out-of-reach discoveries.
- The Cyclops submarine isn’t in Below Zero, but the Prawn Suit returns, and in place of the little Seamoth, there’s a new modular Seatruck vessel. The sooner you can get the Mobile Vehicle Bay to craft the Seatruck, the better. While I had a lot of uses for the exosuit in Subnautica, I have to say, I never felt like I needed the Prawn Suit in Below Zero.
- For ground-based traversal, there’s also a new hoverbike called the Snowfox. It’s kind of hit-or-miss, and I constantly found myself repairing it, but it is crucial later on.
- Your body temperature is a concern when you’re on land, but don’t stress too much. You can regain some heat by eating a Fevered Pepper, escaping the elements in a cave for a moment, standing near a Steam Vent or Thermal Lily, or jumping back into the ocean. Plenty of options! Come to think of it, I never ended up needing the Cold Suit.
- Watch out for Sea Monkeys — they’ll nab your tool. You can steal it back, but it’s easy to lose them in caves when you’re low on oxygen and looking for an escape route. Keep an eye out for their nests, too. They stockpile a wide range of scannable items.
- I generally found the story progression to be much less obtuse in Below Zero, but if you’re absolutely stumped with no leads to follow, skim this progress overview. Without spoiling anything in this article, the one thing I’ll say is that before you go to the deepest, deadliest zone in the game, you may want to look up certain specialized endgame crafting materials so you don’t have to make two trips. Don’t even click that link yet. Just keep it in the back of your mind until you feel like you’re near the end.
- Speaking of which, Below Zero has an ending. There’s even a “point of no return.” It took me roughly 15 hours to see the credits and earn all but one achievement.
Below Zero fully launched today — it’s no longer in Early Access — and there’s so much to discover.