STAFF REVIEW of Subterrain (Xbox One)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017.
by Cole Jackson

Subterrain Box art Subterrain is a top-down survival horror game set at a research colony on Mars. You play as Dr. West, and at the start of the game you break out of prison only to find that everyone is dead and the security is down. Thus begins an adventure where you must do everything you can to keep yourself alive.

Subterrain is a deep and complex game with many systems to juggle all at once; unfortunately it does a poor job of explaining how it all works. During the tutorial you are informed on how to play. This is done via text boxes that pop up as you enter a new room. It makes for a lot of reading to just be able to properly begin playing the game. As you start your adventure, you'll learn that you have to juggle/manage systems that include hunger, fatigue, oxygen, infection level, and even when to use the washroom. Once you understand how to juggle all of these the game picks up, but at first it was too daunting to really delve into.

The control scheme of the game is such that I found, in my opinion, that it was not as refined as it could have been. I often found myself opening the menu screen instead of interacting with the environment, because they're the same button. I also found some of the button choices unintuitive at first, but after a while I got used to it. It is definitely not a deal breaker, but I felt that it could have used a bit more thought put into it.

The way the game progresses is that you move throughout the abandoned Martian colony using a tram system. But in order to go to different areas you must first return to the central hub and power the life support systems. For some this will be a fun task; you are essentially the owner of this colony and you have full control over it, but for others this may just feel like another task to busy your time with, on top of making sure Dr. West is fed, rested, and feeling well. This is definitely a niche game that is not for everybody. There is always something to take care of, upgrade, or acquire; and if you don't keep on top of yourself, and the Martian colony you're exploring, you will get overwhelmed.

Combat is simple enough for a top-down twin-stick type of game. I started out with a baton that I beat creeps over the head with, as I progressed I quickly found knives and guns to add to my arsenal. I didn't find combat to be a big part of the game though, rarely did I have to defend myself or my facility. Most of the game is adventure, survival, and collection.

Visually the game really gives off the feel of an abandoned sci-fi facility. It's creepy, it's dark, and it feels like an underground city. This is important for the mood and tone of the game, but the blacks, greys, and greens really get old on the eyes after a while. It has a real retro vibe to it, which is fun to see a developer play with. Overall the graphics and colours work for this game; it wouldn't make sense to have bright flashy colours even if just to break up the monotonous dark tones

Overall Subterrain is a deep and complex survival game. It gets a few things wrong, but for such a large undertaking I think overall it is a success; however, it is certainly not a game for everyone. There's a large learning curve at the start, and you'll find some things you don't use or use often enough and you'll have to re-learn them throughout the game as you will forget them.

For players who enjoy a complex game with lots to learn, and lots to have to take care of, this is a solid game. The upkeep on the entire colony mixed in with taking care of Dr. West makes for a unique, albeit complicated, experience. Personally I would want a less complex but slightly more enjoyable game, but there are many who will enjoy the incredibly complex experience.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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