Sneak peek: The Environment Overhaul

Hello everyone!

The year is approaching its end, and as promised, there’s one more update coming. It will be the one previously referred to as “Content 2”, rounding off the content development we’ve been busy with throughout the year. Where “Content 1” AKA Rusted Remnants was about shipwrecks, and the big campaign update, New Frontiers, had to do with stations, this one is largely about the natural wonders of Europa.

Interact with the world

While the environment’s role as the visual backdrop of the game is hugely important in itself, the world around your submarine can and should be so much more than that. Before delving into what kinds of visual changes are being made, here are some new ways in which the environment is going to affect gameplay in the future.

Caves are a highly wishlisted addition that we’ve been just as enthusiastic to add, and here they come! For now, they’re like alien ruins or wrecks in that they’re found in all maps and require you to leave the safety of your sub, and you can select a mission to go clear one out. Unlike ruins and wrecks, though, they come with a bit more variety: different environments have different-looking caves, naturally. With later updates, we also plan to flesh out the cave concept some more and give them even more variety. Let us know how they play!

Ready to explore a cave? This is one of the more “basic” ones, but other kinds of caves may contain more curious-looking things. Like mushrooms.

Another important improvement is environmental obstacles and rewards. The obstacles you may encounter are now more varied and the rewards are better distributed, in that minerals now tend to spawn in clusters rather than being scattered all over the place (and naturally, you may stumble on some nice mineral deposits in caves). As for the obstacles, look forward to certain ice chunks becoming destructible, ice spires that may block your path and seriously damage your sub, and a whole new kind of environmental hazard called Piezo Crystals that is specific to one particular area. Explore to find out which one!

New uses for the plasma cutter: destructible cave wall.

Finally, we’ve worked to improve level generation in multiple ways: there’s going to be a lot more variation in the shapes and layouts of maps, and there are going to be branching paths instead of just one main path running through a level, so actually navigating to get to your objective should become more interesting. As a side note, we’ve also made some changes that should help with the target creature of a mission escaping “outside” the map that many players have encountered at some point.

Change of scenery

Barotrauma Europa cross section
Europa cross section, straight from the design doc.

Then, let’s take a look outside the window. Biomes, that’s to say, distinct zones with their own typical visuals and environmental features, continue to be the foundation on which the Barotrauma environment is built – to make our sandbox interesting even as you progress through it, it can’t be all Cold Caverns from start to finish. While we’ve not made changes to the number of biomes present in the game, they’ve finally been better defined and properly dressed up. They’re also not only visually different: each biome will feature different enemies and environmental hazards (and this gameplay differentiation of biomes is something we’ll also keep working on). Let’s take a quick look at each biome.

The Cold Caverns are, as always, the zone where your journey starts. This biome is right under the ice crust, starting at a depth of approximately 1000–2000 meters. It’s as close to the sun as you’re going to get, which is to say, not very; our designers describe the zone as “a very dim and shadowy, crystalline world of ice”. However, it’s still close enough to the surface, with all its ice and radiation, that not much grows here, and as such, the biome is pretty barren in terms of wildlife.

The Cold Caverns biome.

The rocky but comparatively lush Europan Ridge is as temperate as anything on Europa, situated a little deeper than the Cold Caverns but still largely above crush depth. The Ridge is a melting pot zone at the crossroads of the ice above and the volcanic activity below, making it biologically more diverse than most other places. It makes up the western slope that leads to the Eye of Europa gravitational anomaly site, and the after effects of the impact that created the Eye in the first place can still be seen here, or so our scientists assume, anyway.

Welcome to Europa… I mean, Europan Ridge.

The Aphotic Plateau sits on the precipice of the Eye of Europa impact crater and marks the end of the temperate western zone. It also signals the approach of the kind of depths that will crush most submarines without specially reinforced hulls. Some unknown influence or biological process has turned this area into a mushroom garden, with consistently warm water rushing across the region in powerful currents. The relative warmth and availability of food make this area home to a wider range of fauna as well as flora.

The Aphotic Plateau, a subsurface bioluminescent fungal jungle.

The Great Sea, formerly known as the Great Void, is where the Europan environment really starts coming to its own, hostile class. As the name suggests, this area is a vast open space, dotted with islands, various other obstacles and all manner of sea creatures, making navigation a perilous task. The Great Sea is found inside an ancient impact crater and can only be traversed by submarines specifically outfitted for deep diving missions.

Of all the new biomes, the desolate Great Sea might just look the most familiar to veteran players.

The Hydrothermal Wastes, the last biome that you’ll see, occupy the bottom of the crater and provide some infernal, fiery vistas suitable for the end of the road, along with rough seas: expect volcanoes, hydrothermal vents, unpredictable heavy currents, and lots of sonar flora that interfere with your navigation equipment. Only the most monstrous of Europan wildlife can survive in this environment, and if you can survive them, you’ll be getting close to the Eye of Europa.

Hydrothermal Wastes. Looks almost warm down here, doesn’t it?

That’s… not all!

Besides the environment overhaul, the update will introduce new missions, a couple of new enemies, and a bunch of fixes and improvements as always. We’ll write more about those a little closer to releasing the update… and the update is expected to be released in the first half of December. Until then!


  • November 22, 2020
    Nero sparda

    very nice also can you guys make the bots use the underwater scoter?
    as you can see I like playing Singleplayer but sometimes when i want to mine or get an artifact i want some extra protection and the bots cant use the scoter so they are slowing me down a lot so if it possible to make them use it i will be so happy
    thank you

  • November 25, 2020
    Kenny G.

    Very cool guys. I like the branching paths, caves, obstacles blocking travel ideas it’ll add more interaction to the world outside the sub that you usually spend many more hours inside than outside. I got near 100 hours and I think I may have just spent a small fraction of it outside the sub. Also, those screenshots of the improved biomes look amazing you’re trying to blue ball me into spending another 100 hours in your game which I tell you what is working.

  • November 30, 2020

    keep up the good work, we really appreciate what you’re doing to the game!

  • December 2, 2020
    Tyler B

    I absolutely cannot wait for the environment overhaul. For me personally, the most exciting part of this update will be the destructible cave walls. I think that it would be great if we could not only use plasma cutters but also be able to use the detonators to destroy the terrain. I’d also think that ramming through thin pieces with the sub should be viable! Great work so far Undertow!

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