Subterrain Review - Sci-Fi Martian Survival

Published: April 2, 2016 9:00 AM /

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Subterrain is a third person overhead survival game devolved and published by Pixellore. The game wears its sci-fi survival inspirations on its sleeve, and features a non linear story. Players can make their way to any place open to them, and the game's story will be revealed in this non-linear fashion as well. Weapons can be found scattered throughout the facility, to aid the player against the ravaging infected that patrol the halls. On top of this, you'll need to watch your various survival meters like hunger, oxygen, and blood contamination.

Players will explore the game's randomly generated levels looking for loot, weapons, food and water. The layout manages to be the right amount of confusing for a game like this, without getting to the point of being frustrating. However, levels are endlessly dull. The station feels like it's all taking place in one massive metal toolbox. The same rooms, the same locked doors, the same key cards, the same computers. The survivalist fan may be able to look past this, and find a game with a plethora of systems to manage, but the game can become unbearably boring at times.

Combat also left a very plain impression. The weapons themselves are fun, but the actual fighting boils down to backing up and shooting/swinging till whatever you're attacking is dead. I never really felt a sense of challenge from the enemies, almost to the point that I might have preferred ditching them altogether and focusing more on just surviving alone on Mars.

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It wouldn't be a modern survival game without a crafting element. Weapons and items can be made to aid the player. The various debris found through the game's dumpsters, drawers, and desks give the player proper incentive to explore and scavenge, and the system works well. Item placement can be completely nonsensical at times, which isn't a major issue, but seems like an oversight for a game that proudly touts the depth of its survival mechanics. Furthermore, it turns the search for material from a keen hunt for the right places to look into a crap shoot where any room might have any item. A better system would be keeping certain rooms to certain items. This way should I only need a certain type of item, I can make an educated guess where to find it. Now finding items themselves feels rewarding, because I made a good call. I also won't be wasting my time, which becomes an ever more precious resource over the course of the game,

The game holds a significant number of survival meters to watch out for. Sleep, thirst, hunger, contamination, stamina, health, body weight, fractures, oxygen, temperature, bleeding, urinating, and defecating. After maybe the ninth or tenth time my character sprinted down the hallway thinking "I'm going to crap my pants" I began to wonder why certain mechanics made it in the game. If you're looking for a masochistic challenge, Subterrain will constantly by reminding you to check these meters. If you aren't as up for that, Subterrain may leave you scratching your head for their inclusion.

"Why doesn't my character just pee in the corner?" I would wonder to myself. "Why doesn't he just sleep on any of the couches or chairs, why so specifically a bed?" The answer is that these are game mechanics first. It makes sense as a game, but when the game over screen is staring you in the face, having this many finely detailed mechanics feels like a hindrance to the game and not just to your survival.

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Momentum seems all over the place. At times, I would be clearing rooms at a break neck pace, mowing down enemies and unlocking doors with ease. At other times, it felt like the game had broken somehow. Searching those dull grey rooms over and over for a key card in a desk till I find the one I missed in the room of five other computers.

The game's mechanics echo this feeling of waiting. The expansive level design and major downtime in-between can create serious pressure on the player to make every second count during their play. As you travel from one area to another, the clock is always ticking, and Subterrain succeeds in creating the uncomfortable atmosphere it intends. It always feels that the world is out to get you and there's little hope left.

The scariest enemy in the game is time. Time will constantly whittle away at your survival. As you travel from station to station in the underground colony, your contamination will slowly increase. Every decision to travel to a new area must be weighted against how much time your character has left. It brings a feeling a tension in the decision making that's rare to feel in many games.

Subterrain felt more like a simulation than a game. The game's numerous meters and systems to remember made for a challenge, but not as much of an experience. Its endless dull hallways, dry combat, and at times confusing inclusion of mechanics makes for a less than stellar experience. Though it manages to create an atmosphere of tension and stress, the game gives little reason to care about what I will lose if I fail.

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This game was reviewed on PC via Steam with a code obtained from the developer.

Have you played Subterrain? What were your thoughts on the game? Let us know in the comments below.

Review Summary


Subterrain manages to be an interesting challenge, but can feel masochistic for the sake of it. Those looking for that challenge will find it, but not much else.

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Avid shooter and platformer fan. Coffee is the only power up I need. In the spare time I have I will listen to more podcasts than has scientifically been… More about Bryan