Subnautica is a game where you explore and survive on a planet that is entirely made out of water. Let’s review Subnautica’s VR compatibility and go over how the experience differs over playing on a flat screen.
I use the HTC Vive for VR gaming and Subnautica is at the top of my list for my most enjoyable games in VR. Sure, there isn’t official controller support and it’s a little buggy but all in all, it makes Subnautica a lot more immersive and for me, turns it into a horror title.
With that, let’s get to the review.
Subnautica VR Gameplay
Subnautica in VR has the same exact controls as playing on a flat screen. It’s best to use a gamepad, I prefer the Xbox One controller for it.
The main difference is in looking around, you’re able to look around a full 360°. You could play standing, but I found it more comfortable to use a swivel chair and to simply spin around when wanting to turn like that.
While swimming around and exploring, odds are that you’ll forget that you’re even using a controller.
For example, if you go to stretch in real life you might stretch in a way where you avoid hitting a ladder or a wall… but they’re obviously virtual!
Graphically, nothing was really “dumbed down” to help with performance. My rig has an i7-7700k at base clock and a GTX 1070 for the GPU and I don’t get too many hiccups in performance, only slight drops in FPS when moving into a new area that’s being rendered.
Some people that have played it in VR have experienced a type of motion sickness which is understandable since there aren’t really any “comfort” options to use. You move around just as you would normally, either with the joystick or with WASD if you used a keyboard/mouse.
Personally, I’ve only gotten a slight headache when the game at times decides to lag a bit. When you’re playing in VR you need to have a high frame rate otherwise it almost isn’t playable. Since I’ve put in a lot of time in playing VR games I’ve been able to get used to smooth locomotion in VR.
So for those of you that need teleportation or dashing around to avoid motion sickness, you’re not going to find it here. It’s all smooth locomotion.
With that, the locomotion is on point here and you can tell some time went into the development of the VR portion. Subnautica has been compatible with VR headsets for quite some time now but since the full release they have squashed most of the bugs.
Subnautica VR Bugs
Although it is at a much better point than it was in the past, there are still a few bugs that can be annoying at times.
When you boot up the game in VR and you’re at the main menu it is sometimes hard to navigate. For some reason, the game will only interact with the menu when you’re looking at it at the right angle. Sometimes the menu will even be behind you, it seems like it’s dependent on where you’re looking when it boots up.
After being able to launch the game then you’re basically good to go. Some text is pretty hard to read which is mainly due to the resolution of a VR headset when it comes to smaller text but I’m sure something could also be done within the game to make it easier.
It seems that some things such as fire weren’t working as intended at the start, in VR you can’t see the fire at the start of the game. I’m not sure if it’s something with loading in while in VR or what but it’s worth bringing up. Thankfully, after playing for a while, this goes away.
If you uncheck the “enable controller” setting in the options then you’ll have to restart the game in flat screen mode, switch the setting and then go back into VR, at random times lag starts to happen when rendering in new areas which sometimes turns into more lag than you’d want but that could be with my specific PC and maybe has to do with running another program in the background, possibly something of that nature.
Otherwise everything else seems to work. There is more that works here than what doesn’t work and from reading about before the game had it’s full release, this wasn’t the case. I can confidently say that Subnautica is worth getting for VR alone but I hope that little bugs get polished out to make it even better!
Subnautica VR Experiences
Before sharing some of my experiences with Subnautica I’d like to note that I have a big fear of the deep blue sea, huge water creatures that are out to eat me and of dark caves…
Also I did not read up on any guides or wikis – I wanted to go into this game blindly. I believe that is the best way to do it with survival games like this.
When I crash landed on the planet I was too scared to jump right into the water. I found myself always looking around, I assumed everything that was swimming around was out to kill me.
After exploring and catching some fish I started getting comfortable. Started gathering resources, eventually made a scanner and was starting to get the hang of things!
When night time came I stayed inside of my escape pod. I took this time to see what else I’d need to craft, I’d read up on things that I scanned to see the value behind it and made sure I had enough food/water when day time came around.
After I had the essentials and played for a while I was able to make a radiation suit and figured it was time to go to my ship, there are probably a lot of supplies there…
I incorrectly calculated the distance between me and the ship. It took much longer to reach the ship than what I anticipated.
Slowly the water started changing to a brown color, the sounds of the sea was dark but I figured it was just the radiation, nothing bad would happen yet… right?
I found a few things of cargo that had first aid kits along with some other supplies and I made my way towards the back of the ship looking for an entrance.
All of a sudden I heard these deep sounds and looked out… There was a shadowy figure that wasn’t much bigger than another big creature I saw that seemed friendly… Then I squinted.
This thing was huge. I was far enough away to where I could only make out a shadow but I noped right out of there. I was lucky that I was so far away that I could hardly make out the shadow but that was enough for me.
I have a few guesses as to what I saw but I don’t think I’m ever going back to find out, at least not anytime soon. I made it back alive, saved my game and told myself I’ll start back up tomorrow.
This game is helping me with my fear of being in a huge, unknown body of water. That’s for certain. My heart beats like crazy when I get close to anything that remotely looks like it’d hurt. Even these little fish guys that rush towards you in caves that don’t do much damage gets my adrenaline going like crazy!
I’ve been playing a lot more recently and have actually started making my own base now. The feeling of progression you get in this game along with the craziness of being in the deep water… it’s the perfect combo.
I look forward to researching more, finding out how to make more equipment and eventually being able to beat the game!
Subnautica is a very beautiful game. Animations of things swimming around look great, scary fish are terrifying and the different biomes really come together.
Not to mention that right before the full release there was an eye candy update which added in a lot of graphical settings, making the game that much more beautiful.
It’s hard to see the darker screen shots, it’s dark in-game as well but not to the point where you can’t see at all. There are lights to use once you progress into the game which helps a lot, I have a hard time exploring dark areas but slowly and surely, I’m getting better at pulling the trigger and going for it.
Is Subnautica Playable In VR?
For the most part, yes!
Sure there are a few bugs that are mildly annoying but compared to how VR performance was before the full release, you can now spend hours in the deep blue sea without the game crashing or bugging out to an unplayable state.
I’m having a blast with Subnautica in VR, I hope this review kind of clears up some things about the VR compatibility and what you can expect.
Have you played Subnautica in VR?
What is your favorite aspect of Subnautica?