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"Subnautica" Beginner’s Guide

Chris is an avid gamer who has been playing both console and PC games since the '80s.

“Congratulations on Not Dying…”

So, you’ve crash-landed on an oceanic world and you’re still alive. In order to keep you that way, I’ve created this beginner’s guide to help you make it through the first few days on your new, hopefully temporary, home.

The basic premise is simple: Don’t die. To accomplish that, you’ll need to do several things including, but not limited to:

  • Gathering materials
  • Crafting gear
  • Constructing vehicles and habitats
  • Farming

And the list goes on and on.

In this guide, we’re going to cover the things you need to know to get you set up with your first outpost and ready to start exploring the world.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Get Back In The Water...

Step One: “Just Breathe Normal Fellas…”

When you first start the game, you're in what I like to call surface phase. Surface phase means that you're at the point of the game where you have to keep returning to the surface for oxygen. You start out being able to hold your breath for 45 seconds. This basically gives you 15 seconds to get where you're going, 15 seconds to explore, and then 15 seconds to get back to the surface. That's not a whole lot of time.

Your first step is going to be to craft an oxygen tank. Once you got your first oxygen tank, you’ll have 75 seconds of oxygen. While this is still not ideal, it's good enough to get you started. It'll take you a while to get used to the timing, but your first tank will be more than enough to get you through surface phase.

Warning: the PDA will give you a 30-second warning on oxygen, but it's not always audible, and it doesn't always have a pop-up on the screen. Your oxygen meter will always flash red at 30 seconds, and then again during your last 10 seconds of oxygen. At that point, you'll get an oxygen warning alert along with a message on screen to "swim to the surface."

Grab Materials When You Can!

 CC: BY-SA, via Screenshot.

CC: BY-SA, via Screenshot.

Step Two: “Because We Scan, Scan, Scan!”

Now that you’ve got your oxygen squared away, at least for the moment, your next step is to craft a scanner. The recipe is available in your fabricator, and it’s a really easy tool to make.

Once you have your scanner, you're going to scan everything. Anytime you see the little scanner symbol pop-up in the bottom right corner, scan it. Every time you see a resource node, scan it. Every time you see something along the ground that looks like a piece of equipment, or even part of a piece of equipment, scan it. Scan the corals, scan the plants, scan the fish, scan the rocks, scan everything. If it moves, scan it. If it doesn't move, scan it anyway.

Your scanner is how you learn about the world around you and also how you learn blueprints for things you will absolutely need in order to survive. Different blueprints require different amounts of fragments to be scanned, so that's why I tell you to scan everything. Once you've learned a blueprint, scanning additional fragments of that type will reward you with resources.

This is the single most important tool you can have for early game survival, and it's one of the most underrated and overlooked tools in the game.

The GravTrap: Don't Leave Home Without It!

Your GravTrap at work...

Your GravTrap at work...

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Levelskip

Step Three: “Gravity: It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!”

Fairly early on, you'll scan the two fragments you need to create the gravity trap, known in game as, creatively enough, the GravTrap. This is the single most important tool you can have for early game survival, and it's one of the most underrated and overlooked tools in the game.

What the gravity trap does, when deployed, is reach out with energy beams and trap everything within a certain range, pulling them into the trap itself. Not only will this be your main source of fish early in the game (which are your main source of food early in the game), but it's also an invaluable tool for the farming and gathering of resources.

Along with fish, the GravTrap also collects resource chunks and nodes. This means you can swim to an area, deploy the GravTrap, and it will gather up all of the resources in its range and bring them to the trap for you to collect. This is extremely useful in caves where, not only can it be hard to see resources due to the poor lighting, but resources are also spread all over the wall and ceiling, making them easy to miss.

Using your GravTrap can help you drastically reduce the time it takes to get your first outpost built, and get you out of surface phase as quickly as possible.

Step Four: "Can we build it? Yes we can!"

Okay, so if you've followed this guide so far, the GravTrap should have you set when it comes to food and water, and you should be at a point now where you're collecting more resources than you can store in your life pod. Now it's time to say goodbye to Life Pod 5 and build your first outpost.

When looking for a location remember that deeper is nearly always better (stay on target). Building too close to the surface burns too much time with wasted travel up and down. Remember, in Subnautica, not only do you have to deal with direction and distance like in most games, but you also have to deal with depth. This means you need to think in three dimensions.

Once you've found a location you like, start simple. Each base you build starts out with an initial hull integrity of 10. As you add and remove pieces to your base, that number will go up and down. If it reaches 0, your base starts to flood and you need to not only increase hull integrity, but you also need to repair the damage before your base is completely flooded.

My standard design for my first outpost is:

  • One foundation (+2 to hull integrity, HI)
  • Two X-Rooms (-1 HI each)
  • One Hatch (-1 HI)

This leaves you with a remaining hull integrity of 9, which is more than enough to support the equipment you'll have inside. You'll really only want a fabricator and radio in this initial outpost as this is mostly going to be a glorified storage shed for your early-game builds.

Warning: While it may be tempting, don't build your outpost near the Aurora. There are two big reasons why it's a bad idea. Since I don't want to spoil anything for you I won't tell you exactly what those reasons are, but I will say, don't build there. You will die. No exceptions.

Subnautica Cinematic Trailer

And if you gaze long into an Abyss...

This Abyss does more than just stare back...

This Abyss does more than just stare back...

This ecological biome matches 7 of the 9 preconditions for stimulating terror in humans.

"Let's Go Exploring..."

Subnautica is a massive game that will give you hours of amazing gameplay. Once you've got the basic concept down, I strongly suggest you spend some time exploring the world. There are places that are absolutely beautiful, places that are awe inspiring, and places that will haunt your nightmares. And that's only the scenery.

This game reminds me of a quote by my favorite pro wrestler, Rowdy Roddy Piper: "Just when they think they've got the answers, I change the questions!" Once you've figured this game out and got everything under control, you'll make a new discovery and it'll completely change your entire understanding of the world. It's amazing!

© 2018 Chris Tyler


Ya on May 19, 2020:


Kissent on March 26, 2018:


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