Posted:  Sep 04, 2022
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Disclaimer: This is an initial impression of the game. Our review and recommended settings will be updated when we've completed a full and thorough analysis of how it performs on Steam Deck. Check back soon for our full analysis!


Do you love to explore and see new and unique locations with vibrant alien wildlife? Do you enjoy water? Do those both give you a similar amount of excitement when thinking about each? Well then enter into the depths of Subnautica! You have crash landed on an alien world and the only thing you can see is a vast ocean. Grab your scuba gear and head downwards as you explore underwater rivers, kelp forests, reefs, and more. Scavenge what you can and keep track of your food, water, and oxygen as you survive and build a new home, while discovering the mystery behind this new world.

Subnautica is a ridiculously cool game, but it does have some issues with playing on Steam Deck. The biggest glaring one is the controls. The default control scheme doesn't work at all, so you will need to set up a different configuration. I used the "Steam Deck Configuration" community controller configuration made by LarryWF.


There are also framerate stability issues I noticed right off the bat. I decided to play this at 40 FPS due to it being an older game and I preferred the fluidity, and while it can be done, there are some stability issues. Loading in new objects does slow the game down and it can obviously pop in. This can cause an issue when moving to new areas or exploring. I don't think it is as noticeable with the overlay off though.

Even with all of this, I do enjoy playing Subnautica this way. With a mix of settings, a TDP limit of 8, and FSR, the game can get you around 2.5 - 3 hours of battery life with sub 70c temps. I would call this a success in general! I am looking forward to exploring more of the game soon.

Subnautica Comparisons

Water Quality:

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As you can see, the surface on the water is greatly affected by this settings. It doesn't change much when underwater, but seeing as how the surface is visible in most of the game, I felt the increased power draw was worth it for this huge graphical change.

Color Grading:

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Color grading was another tough one. I like the style of Filmic more overall, but turning it off really helped in certain areas. I believe it is more worthwhile to keep FIlmic on, but I think this can be up to you in general.


Our review is based on the PC version of this game.

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SDHQ's Build Score Breakdown

Subnautica is a gorgeous game and even with some stuttering and FPS drops, is still really wonderful to see on Deck so far.

Build Score

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Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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4 comments on “Subnautica”

  1. Hello. My controllers are none responsive when I try to play Subnautica. What I’m I doing wrong? Thank you.

    1. Go into settings and look for an option that says “turn controller on” or something to that effect. It’s annoying that it’s off by default but that fixed it for me. The next issue you’ll have is that the RT/LT triggers are swapped, change them in the controller menu and you’ll be good; after that the game is playable.

    2. Use the touchscreen to open settings from the game's main menu and find the "Enable Gamepad" checkbox. It isn't checked by default.