In Subterrain you play as Doctor Albert West, a research scientist who plies his trade within the confines of a large industrial Mars colony. As the game opens, things are not going so well for the good Doctor. Locked up in a prison cell for reasons that are unknown, West is suddenly caught up in a colony-wide evacuation order that brings chaos and confusion. Just as his cell door is about to open, the power goes off and everything becomes silent…
Subterrain is a top-down, twin-stick survival horror and resource management game that has a wonderful retro feel and an atmosphere that drips with dread. This is a game where death is around every corner. Zombies. Hunger. Illness. Dehydration. Anybody and everything can kill.
The game starts you out in the Prison area which serves as the tutorial. This is the only part of the game where you get any help. Make sure you take note of what is being presented to you as once you have left this area, you’re completely on your own and the survival truly starts. The first thing you must do is to get Central Control up and running. This means restoring the power, thermal and oxygen regulators. Just flick a switch you say? In a perfect world, that’s all it would take. In Subterrain, you will need to find power modules in order to power up the various consoles and regulators but these modules are limited and also degrade over time. You need to carefully choose what to switch on and what to leave off. Too much power output and consumption and there is a chance you just might fry the system.
As you progress you will learn how to manufacture new modules to replace the ones that are degrading. But you will also need to access areas that have no oxygen or are too cold for you to enter. These places require portable cannisters. But where are they? Can you manufacture them? What are these software modules? What do all these machines do? Is there a use for all the items I pick up? The feeling of being totally lost in the beginning few hours will be all too real. Stick with it and slowly you will begin to get a grip on the size of the task ahead and it is important you do. You need a plan from the start or you won’t last very long.
While you are out and about hunting for resources and wondering just what the hell the various terminals and computers do you need to take into account another factor of the game. Looking after yourself. You need to eat, drink and sleep. You will also need to poop and pee. Stay healthy people! Food and drink can be found scattered about the world and is in limited quantity. An easy source of water is the bathroom. But be careful. This water is usually contaminated. I suppose if you are desperate….
Let’s recap. You need to survive. You need to find food and water and avoid getting sick. You need to do this while finding resources to build items and also working out what the various terminals and machinery do..got it? Well done. Oh..one last thing. All this is done on a timer. Yes, you are doing all this against the clock.
The different areas of the colony have different infection rates. The higher the infection, the higher the enemy count. On top of that there is a global infection rate. You thought this would easy? If you let the infection rate rise then you you will be eventually overrun. Game over. There are certain actions you can do to lower the infection rate and one of them is to go on slaughter everything in sight. Now this sounds fun on paper but guns overheat and degrade. You need ammo too. Running around like Rambo is not a good idea.
Wait…so that infection timer was not the worse bit. What else you cry! While ALL of the above is going on you need to….make sure you don’t run out of oxygen. So in a way you have two timers ticking away in the background as you try to survive. Oxygen is stored in a cannister that you have equipped at all times. Oxygen will slowly decrease as you go about your business. It decreases faster when running and in combat. So if you find yourself near a room with a must have object inside do you run in and grab it avoiding the enemies but then realise that you don’t have enough to get back? Or do you go in guns blazing? These are the choices you have to make with each encounter. In the end, there is probably no correct choice to make. You make of it what you will.
Subterrain is a game that needs commitment. It will eat hours of your time and needs concentration and hard work to understand just what you need to do. Any progression you make feels like a massive win solely because of the unguided nature of the gameplay and the complexity of the colony management system. There is no great story or character arcs and it doesn’t matter. It is all about survival. At any cost.
Subterrain is now available on the PS4 PSN Store at the absolutely must have price of S$13.90.