Of all the console games released in the past year, ‘Subnautica’ is the only standout that, I can say with confidence, fits the homeschool friendly category.
‘Subnautica’ is best described as a science-fiction version of the ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ and ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’. The game itself is structured around survival, and creativity. Struggling against the aquatic environment makes up a large part of the interactivity. This includes crafting, exploration, and making use of the alien, aquatic fauna and flora.
‘Subnautica’s’ free play style allows the player to stay as long as they want to on the planet. In my opinion, coming from a home education perspective, following the storyline is the better approach. I teamed up with my two youngest homeschoolers, taking turns at moving through each aspect of the game on survival mode. It took us about two weeks (14 evenings and one Saturday) of casual game time to complete.
My application of ‘Subnautica’ for homeschool involved teamwork, planning and an informal round-table application of ideas. We discussed our approach, thought through all the possible ways that would help us solve dilemmas. Most often these were dilemmas we’d caused for our character, by overlooking an important bulkhead, running too low on food, battery life; right down to being too far away from a water source.
Another major educational bonus is the technology available in the game. ‘Subnautica’ begins with a basic escape pod. Players build up from there to complete an underwater sea base (or bases, depending on how big or small you want to go), with Seamoth, Prawn Suit and the mighty, home-away-from-home submarine called the Cyclops – or as we affectionately called ours, The GSS Ned Land (GSS, Grateful Soldier’s Ship).
The underwater geological structures, flora and fauna ultimately make this game the complete package. Underwater plant life is luminous, and provides a range of applications. The sea life is just as varied. This includes a cuttlefish pet, which can be hatched from an egg later in the game.
Some of the downsides of ‘Subnautica’ included the absence of any weather mechanic. Apart from the day and night cycle, and a few clouds, the sun shines all the time. There are also glitches when diving into deeper parts of the ocean. These can be frustrating, but are easy to spot and just as easy to avoid. There aren’t as many clues, making the gamer more dependent on wiki forums than other games.
The storyline also rests on evolutionary dogma, without qualification, and has one very small questionable PDA voiceover that wasn’t necessary to the storyline. Due to the dark, unknown areas that have to be explored, and because these areas are populated by surprising predators, the storyline isn’t suited to kids under 9 years of age. This doesn’t mean that the game is unplayable for that demographic. Creative mode still has a lot to offer.
In the end, we triumphed in our struggle, launching back into space on the Neptune, leaving our marooned existence behind, and taking with us the data PDA’s of survivors, whose disappearance was as mysterious, and intriguing to investigate, as the planet itself. Overall, ‘Subnautica’ is an educational, and enjoyable underwater action adventure, well suited for parents who engage with their kids on all technological platforms.
[Disclaimer: I received no remuneration for this review of any kind].
©Rod Lampard, 2019