In Subnautica, we play as Ryley Robinson, who after crash landing on an alien planet, fights to survive in the face of overwhelming odds. After avoiding Reaper Leviathans, Ghost Leviathans and Warpers, and helping to cure Planet 4546B of the deadly Kharaa bacterium, he finally leaves the planet. What should have been a moment of relief quickly turns sour when he is welcomed back to the news he now owes a substantial debt to Alterra, and was unable to land until he’d settled it. So what happened to him? At this point, we don’t know, but that certainly won’t stop us from theorising.
Theory 1: He joined the Alterra board
Alterra is a company that puts money above all. With the alien technologies Ryley discovered, it’s entirely possible that he was permitted to land on the condition he worked with the board as a profitable asset and a wealth of information for the subsequent research. He was described as a Non-Essential Systems Maintenance Chief, and by no stretch of the imagination is he rich enough to simply pay off the debt. Perhaps his discoveries and his struggles paid off… literally.
Theory 2: He returned to the planet to do further research
Despite the fact Ryley came up against some truly terrifying creatures, he may have agreed to pay off the debt by doing research for Alterra. Nothing is mentioned about Jevov’s research team in Subnautica: Below Zero (Subnautica’s successor), so he could have joined them in one way, shape or form, researching the icier parts of Planet 4546B to salvage more of the Architect’s technology, or maybe even conduct research elsewhere on the planet.
Theory 3: He fled Alterra
It’s unlikely Ryley fled since the Neptune Rocket was on a direct course back to Alterra, but can we really blame him for wanting to turn tail and run? If he was able to get away, this opens up many interesting theories on where he is during the events of Below Zero, including the prospect of him secretly aiding Marguerit Maida in her quest against Alterra.
Theory 4: He was arrested
Upon returning to Alterra, it’s a possibility that Ryley was arrested. The first time a player picks up some diamond, the PDA states ‘remember that materials you gather are the property of the Alterra corporation. You are liable to reimburse the full market price. Your current bill stands at three million credits’. If he couldn’t pay off his bills one way or another, Alterra may have arrested him.
Theory 5: He’s dead
Grim, but possible. With no mentions of him in Subnautica: Below Zero, everything is a possibility, even death.
Subnautica: Below Zero brought back many features of the original game, like the Peepers, Leviathan class creatures, base building, the Architects and of course, an appearance of the fearsome Marguerit Maida, but we have yet to be given any information about what happened to Subnautica’s protagonist when- or if- he returned to Alterra. The story in Below Zero is changing and a new introduction has already been implemented in the experimental mode, so will we see Ryley Robinson again or find out what happened to him after the events of Subnautica? If you have any other theories about what happened to Ryley, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.