Subnautica was in early access for a while, but now it's a full game with a sequel called Subnautica: Below Zero. Both games feature tense survival, creative crafting, and wonderful exploration, but only for a single player. A fan changed that with an ambitious mod.
But why is a mod needed? And is it easy to use? Why isn't the developer making multiplayer, a long-requested feature, a priority? Especially with the release of Subnautica: Below Zero, multiplayer seems like it would make players happier than any single-player story. Here's the mystery behind Subnautica multiplayer, and how to add it in with a mod.
Updated by Sergio Solorzano on May 23rd, 2021.
Is There An Official Subnautica Multiplayer Mode?
No, there is no official Subnautica multiplayer. As mentioned before, the game was launched in Early Access first. Like many titles launched that way, Subnautica was a bit of a buggy mess at the start. The core concept drew interest, but there was a lot of work to be done to smooth out the experience. This work took a little over three years, from late 2014 to early 2018. With all that time spent just making the game work, the developers had nothing left over for multiplayer. The game's director, Charlie Cleveland, wrote on the game's official forums:
"Back in our early prototypes we always had multiplayer in the back of our mind. But we had so much to learn about the game, multiplayer was never a priority. Eventually we hit early access and now it would take many man-years to add any kind of multiplayer to Subnautica. We don't want to spend years more working on Subnautica before v1.0, so we sadly have come to terms with the fact that we won't be adding any kind of multiplayer or co-op to the game."
Essentially, adding multiplayer to Subnautica would require either rebuilding the engine from scratch or devoting an entire team to squeezing it into its current iteration. There wasn't enough manpower for that. At least, not in the development studio. In the fan community, however...
How To Play Subnautica Multiplayer
A Nexus Mods user called Sunrunner37 created a popular multiplayer Subnautica mod. Follow this link to download the mod, called Nitrox. From there you'll have to set up your own server that caters to multiplayer. Instructions are available on the Nitrox site. If you want a more visual guide, follow the Youtube video above. Nitrox currently works with the Steam and Epic Games Store versions of Subnautica.
The Nitrox mod is open-source and there's a Nitrox Discord channel, meaning users have dedicated a good deal of time to refining the experience. That said, players are likely to encounter bugs as the mod is a work in progress. It shouldn't mess up your game, but it will probably result in some inconveniences during play. If you have issues with installation or use, the Discord channel and Nexus Mod forums can offer advice.
What New Gameplay Subnautica Multiplayer Offers
Nitrox offers most basic Subnautica gameplay with friends. The world will react to any player picking up and dropping items, and will even maintain the environment if players separate to a certain distance. Players can also build together, and the Cyclops will recognize that it has two passengers.
One really cool addition is a chat function. Since Subnautica's original form is a single-player game, it doesn't have an in-game chat. The Nitrox mod rectifies that and offers cross-platform connection. You can also get a Windows launcher that makes launching the multiplayer version of Subnautica easier.
Does Subnautica Multiplayer Work With Below Zero?
Sorry to dash your hopes, but the Nitrox multiplayer mod does not support Subnautica: Below Zero. The Nitrox Twitter account acknowledged the sequel's release, but said their efforts are still dedicated to perfecting Nitrox's use with the original Subnautica. That means that, at least as of the first month of Below Zero's release, there is no way to play multiplayer.
Feeling cautious about how Sifu will turn out eventually