Subnautica – Quick Start Guide

Some observations about things in the game I wish I knew before I started playing.

Pod Life

Starting Position

It will vary a little bit each time you start a new game. So don’t be surprised if the surroundings look a bit different if you restart right away.


Your rescue pod has a small storage area with some critical initial supplies inside. Be sure to take a peek and pickup the supplies, you will need them! This is also a good spot to deposit the fire extinguisher you just used. There is no need to carry it around at this stage, and storage is at a bit of a premium.


For some reason, you can’t sit in the seat after you leave it. Sitting is actually kind of important in this game. When you are seated, you do not spend food and water resource. So you can read your PDA in peace and not worry about dying from hunger or thirst. Sleep has a similar effect, only you get fast forwarded to the next morning (skipping the dark of night). Neither is possible in the rescue pod.


It’s broken so you will need to craft a Repair Tool pretty early on to fix it. Hint: the radio is your primary tool for advancing the story

Medipac Station

These stations will spawn a medical kit to heal you based on a timer. Hint: There is no point in crafting medpacks since they are always free via this machine. I typically leave them in the device until I have damage.

Fabrication Station

You build stuff with it. It comes loaded with a few recipes, take a look to see what you can make. Hint: If given the correct ingredients, it will cook fish and make drinkable water.

Wall Mount

After repairing the pod, you might expect you could hang that fire extinguisher in its rightful place back on the wall. In the pod, it doesn’t work. Much like the seat you should be allowed to sit it doesn’t work. Hint: Later, if you build a Cyclops submarine (and you will) the fire extinguisher wall mounts are in fact functional and you can re-hang extinguishers.

Crafting Equipment

When you first leave your pod you will quickly notice the following:

  1. You cannot hold your breath for very long
  2. You are not a fast swimmer
  3. You are going to be thirsty soon
  4. You are going to be hungry soon
  5. You are defenseless

As you build things with the fabricator on your pod, they look like they disappear. They are either going into your personal inventory, or in the case of certain gear, automatically fitting gear slots on our person. Press the Tab key to view your inventory and equipped gear slots.

Priority Number One Items for the first 15 minutes of play:

  • Scanner – If only there was a device I could use to tell me what I can eat/drink?
  • Dive Knife – You are defenseless and in need of a critical tool for cutting and scraping
  • Air Tanks – Increase your time underwater
  • Swim Fins – Improve your mobility
  • Repair Tool – please fix your pod!
    Repair Tool Hint 1: the radio is your story and mission generator, get it working
    Repair Tool Hint 2: pay attention to what you fix in the pod, it might be useful later

You will need to use your scanner to find some/most of the blueprints that follow:

Secondary Items that you will need pretty soon:

  • Grav Trap – if you drop it one time, you will understand quickly why it is so helpful!
  • Seaglide – extends your range considerably! Press F for a cool sonar 3D map
  • Habitat Builder Tool – hard to build without one
  • Laser Cutter – access granted! Hint: it only works on damaged doors
  • Beacons – moving around underwater can be a little disorienting, never leave home without one!

What you decide to build beyond these will probably depend on what blueprint info you find with your scanner and which items pique your interest the most. Take your time, explore with caution, and have fun.

Of all of the above items the Repair Tool can be a bit of a snagging point due to the requirement of having to locate Sulfur. It was fun to find it eventually on my own, but it might take you a little longer than expected. If you give up, check the spoiler below.

Repair Tool Sulfur Location SPOILER: it took me waaay too long to figure out the sulfur is found in caves (as stated in PDA, OK!) but it is inside an eggpod thing, with an exploding fish. I would trigger these exploding fish, they chase after me and explode doing damage. I go back to my pod for medpack and might forget where I just was. You will find the sulfur in those vacated exploding fish pods. GRRRR!! So trigger the fish, deal with explosion, get the sulfur they leave behind. After a set time, the eggpods respawn the exploding fish and the sulfur is hidden again.

Changing Batteries and/or Power Cells

Many tools and vehicles in the game require a battery to operate. To change a battery, press the “R” key for “reload” and use your mouse wheel to select the battery you want to install. Your choices will include: (1) any batteries in your inventory, (2) the battery already installed (in case you change your mind and want to leave it alone, and (3) a large “X” which allows you to remove the battery from the device and leave it empty.

Battery Hint 1: Some blueprints require a battery, but the battery charge level does not have to be at 100% so it’s best to always use dead batteries for blueprints! If you have to create a new battery, swap out that half-used or dead one in your Seaglide before committing a battery to a blueprint.

Battery Hint 2: Battery chargers of various types do become available in the game, it just might take a while to locate the blueprints.

Battery Hint 3: Batteries are a common requirement in blueprints and to have for backup. You are very unlikely to produce too many of them in the early game so don’t worry about making too many, but also… Do not throw away the used batteries! They can always be used in blueprints until you have the chargers.

Power Cell Hint: Adding a moonpool to your base will allow you to dock vehicles and recharge its power cells using your base power system. It is possible, although a tad clunky, to use this as a method for recharging power cells by swapping out cells of docked craft.

Food & Water


Seaweed is not your best nutrition/hydration option, but in an emergency… Yeah, you can eat it. I am not going to admit how long I survived on nothing but seaweed until I figure out where to find and produce more suitable food and water.

Fruits and vegetables you might need to look for and they grow where you would expect they would grow, on land. So yes, on this ocean planet there may exist some dry land. If not able to pick fruits and vegetables directly, your trusty dive knife can chop off chunks and/or dig up many of them.

Vegetation Hint: Blueprints for planting pots might be helpful in food production for your base.


I love sushi, but raw fish can get old pretty quick. If you manage to catch a fish, bring it over to the fabricator at your rescue pod and you might see a new blueprint item appear for a cooked version of that fish you caught! There are detriments to eating raw fish, so best to cook them first.

Fishing Methods:

  • Swim & Grab: swim around after fish and just grab them with your hand
  • Knife Strike: swipe at them with your dive knife and pick-up the dead fish
    Knife SPOILER: A modification to the knife will instantly cook a fish that you strike with your knife.
  • Seaglide & Grab: the seaglide is agile and fast, which makes grabbing the fish easier
  • Fishing Hint: Gravtrap: put one down near fish and watch what happens
  • Fishing SPOILER 1: Propulsion Cannon: it’s really a gravity gun that pulls things to you, like fish! Right-click to hook a fish, and left-click to drop-in your inventory.
  • Fishing SPOILER 2: Later in the game you might find a blueprint for Alien Containment. Put two fish of the same species in this large aquarium-type container and they will multiply!

Live Well

Once a fish is cooked it has a finite life. Fish that are stored alive in your personal inventory or any inventory for that matter, are assumed to be in a “Live Well” and the fish do not die or spoil. They are just in suspended animation. You can release a live fish from your personal inventory by just dropping it with right-mouse click on inventory item while you are swimming. Personally, I don’t like the idea of storing live fish in the closet so this is the one valid use (IMO) for a floating storage container that is aptly named “Live Well” near a base or favorite fishing spot that is used for keeping your fishies alive.

Preserving Fish

A fish preserved with salt will last forever and does not deteriorate with time. This will be a primary source of food for your on-the-go adventures.


Hydration Methods:

  • Seaweed: Slash off a chunk with your knife and slug it down, little nutritional or hydration benefit. I have used it in dire emergencies to gain a few points to make it back to base.
  • Vegetation: Some fruits and plants have high water content
  • Chemistry: knife scrapings of coral combined with salt yields bleach, that can be used for sanitizing drinkable water at your fabricator
  • Biology: one specific fish can be used (not cooked!) to produce drinkable water using the “bladder” of this “fish” as a filter, the key is to select a water bottle option when you have this bladder fish in your inventory.
  • Water SPOILER: Water Filtration Machine: if you locate the blueprint, you can produce water and salt at your base using power alone. Which is nice!

Base Building

Why do you need a base right away?

You don’t really need to build a base, but it does help to have the extra storage and a safe haven on the seafloor to replenish oxygen.

What about floating storage?

You can build these for extra storage if you want. I do not recommend building more than *one* floating storage box though. There is no way to recycle the materials you use to construct floating storage. Hint: I do like to use one floating storage box for fishing.

What about the air pumps and pipes?

The pumps are a very, very odd tool. Yes, you can use them to pipe oxygen to lower depths and refill your air tank, but they are clunky at best and cannot be recycled. They also have a limitation on how deep they are allowed to pump oxygen. Hint: The pumps that can be attached to a base are a real head scratcher? I honestly can’t figure out any legit use for them.

Your First Base

The PDA for the Build Tool and associated blueprints include a vague hint. Those pipe-looking things you can build that look like connecting walkway tubes for larger base parts are actually what you are expected to start building your base with; note they are referred to as “Compartments” in the blue print descriptions. I plopped one down and had no idea what to do with it. I thought entry was controlled by the Multi-Purpose room and did not realize I could build a “Hatch” on one end of a pipe and it becomes a very small base.

Later, when you discover the Multi-Purpose Room, these pipe-like pieces can be used to connect them exactly as you would expect. I found them a tad confusing at first because I didn’t read the PDA entry for the build tool SUPER CAREFULLY and pickup on the clue to build a compartment (or pipe) add a hatch to one end, slap a solar panel to the side of the pipe and “poof” you have a base.

Therefore, your first base should be: X-Compartment, Hatch, Solar Panel

The X compartment is handy because there is a little more room to mount stuff on the walls. Add a solar panel to the top and air is magically pumped into your base. You will not be able to enter your X-base until you install a hatch on one of the ends of the X compartment. Hint: Anything you build in a small base can be reclaimed and reused later. Do not bother with pumps, pipes, or floating storage. They are (with perhaps one exception) just a waste of material.

Solar Power

Solar power is not modeled very accurately. For instance, it doesn’t matter if the panels are facing the sun or not, they only need to exist to generate power. The angle and position of them on your building is purely aesthetic preference. The panels work underwater and although there may be some impact of depth modeled it does not reflect reality in terms of the inability of sunlight to penetrate past a depth of 200m.

Personally, I don’t mind using solar panels on bases down to about 150m or so. Bases below 200m, I don’t use solar panels, although I think you probably could. The game does a decent job on visually representing light not penetrating much past 200m so it does get pretty dark down there. Solar power does follow the day/night sequence, so you can expect power generation during daylight hours only. However, solar panels will also generate power in completely shaded environments including caves. So, feel free to apply whatever discretion and limits you like in terms of what you consider a valid application of solar power.

Power Generation

All power generators seem to work on a battery charge system. There is a certain max capacity for each power generator that fills up like a battery and gets discharged when an item on the base is being used.

Oxygen Generation

Given the existence of pumps and pipes, you might think these are required to establish an oxygen supply at your base. This is not the case; any base that has a positive power supply will generate oxygen automagically and oxygen generation does not discharge the battery. So you could charge up during the day, not run anything and sleep through the night without concern for asphyxiation. All systems that run on power or batteries seem to work the same way with oxygen generation. You could run a vehicle down to 1% but then not move it, and the vehicle could still function as an oxygen resource indefinitely on 1% power.


As mentioned previously, if you can find a blueprint (scan, scan, scan) for something you can sit on, or sleep on, there are benefits for each. Sitting allows you to pause food and water depletion, and sleeping allows you to fast forward the night sequence.

Multi-Purpose Room

This is the bread-n-butter of base building. You don’t have the blueprint at the start of the game though. Hint: Following the story via radio messages is a good way to progress your collection of blueprints. You should treat the messages like assigned missions.

SPOILER Multi-Purpose Room Blueprint Location: I think the easiest location for scanning base parts would be on the Floating Island. Stand on top of your pod and look on the horizon for fog banks that are obscuring something. You can make it there with a Seaglide or Seamoth. I did find it a little odd how late in the game (at least for my first play through) the blueprint for the Multi-Purpose room was finally revealed to me.

Helena Stamatina
About Helena Stamatina 2715 Articles
My first game was Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandicoot (PlayStation) back in 1996. And since then gaming has been my main hobby. I turned my passion for gaming into a job by starting my first geek blog in 2009. When I’m not working on the site, I play mostly on my PlayStation. But I also love outdoor activities and especially skiing.

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