|PLATFORM:||PC/Steam, Xbox One, Playstation 4 (Reviewed)|
Shoutout to EVOLVE PR for providing me with a code for the game. Sorry the review is so late – with Halloween Havoc happening, as well as the inFAMOUS: Second Son playthrough, I didn’t have time to write it when the code came it.
The Solus Project is a very simple game. Its story is simple – you play as an explorer that is part of, well, The Solus Project – a project which is dedicated to finding a new planet that is inhabitable by human life.
Earth has been destroyed and time is starting to run out for our race. The Solus project was created to try and find another Earth-like planet so that we as a species could continue to live. However, problems arise. Not only has the project been unsuccessful so far – the last remaining ship, Solus-3, has now been destroyed and you end up crashing onto the planet below – Gliese-6143-C. Things are off to a rollicking good start! Almost instantly you find that Gliese is not a nice place. It’s barren except for foliage, rocks and the scrap of your crashed vessel.
You wake up – all alone – on the planet’s surface, and your only goal is to try and find a way off. To do that – you’ll need to explore the planet and find any signs of the rest of your crew and try to find a way to make contact with the rest of the Solus team.
That’s about where the proper narrative ends. There isn’t much in the way of story here – at least, not in the sense of “here’s a cutscene for exposition” story. The Solus Project is a story driven game that relies on the world to tell the story. It isn’t really about your escape from the planet, but more about what you find on the planet and learning that you definitely weren’t the first intelligent being to be there.
Story is doled out through secrets you find – wall inscriptions, painting, journal scraps – as well as a bit of direct narrative in the form of radio communications that come in from time to time. If you want the story of the planet itself – you have to find it.
This was the part that made me feel the most disappointed. The Solus Project isn’t an ugly game by any means – in fact, The Solus Project is a nice looking game, if a bit drab. The problem is that – while the outdoor areas are rather varied in foliage, the color palette leaves a lot to be desired.
There isn’t a lot of color in the world. Everything seems to be shades of gray, purple, blue and red. Maybe a green light here and there.
This can get pretty boring after a while – especially when most of the tombs in the game also share a lot of architectural similarities. Thankfully, though – it’s only the visual side of things that can be a bit boring.
The sound design is top-notch. Odd, creepy noises sound while you’re exploring caves/tombs. The rumbling of earthquakes. The strange musical sound of a violent tornado as it forms and barrels across the landscape – the sound on The Solus Project definitely helps elevate the presentation more than the visuals.
The game also runs pretty well. There were a few dips here and there – but for the majority of my playthrough on the standard PS4, the game ran at a solid 60.
As I mentioned before – The Solus Project is a very simple game. This is what is known as a “walking simulator”. There isn’t really any kind of action to speak of. No real threats, no combat – you simply explore the planet at your leisure.
That’s not to say, however, that you do absolutely nothing. There are puzzles around the planet that you’ll need to solve in order to progress, and some of these puzzles lead the way to secret areas that provide more backstory as well as character upgrades – things like more health, better resistance to the elements, more inventory space, etc. Exploration is certainly rewarded.
Crafting is also kind of a thing – just don’t expect something like an RPG. It’s very, very basic. Simplicity is the name of the game in The Solus Project. Take one item, combine it with another to create a new item. For instance – combining a rock with another rock will create a “Sharp Rock” that you can use to then cut things like vines. You can also use rocks and other heavy items to hold down switches for you – which is a requirement for some puzzles.
Take a pipe and combine it with cut vines, then dip it in oil and light it on fire to create a torch which will provide light and warmth, both very important things.
One of the main wrinkles in the gameplay is that this is also a survival game – you’ll need to keep an eye on your body temperature, wetness level, hunger, hydration and sleep. On normal anyway. There is a difficulty slider that you can tweak to turn most of the survival elements off if all you want is a peaceful time exploring the world. You can also crank it up to a point that makes it extremely vital to keep track of these things.
Everything has an effect on you – different areas have different weather conditions, days are hot and nights are sub-freezing. Tides rise and fall, meaning caves can have alternating water levels. Storms can form at any moment if conditions are right. Lack of sleep can effect your vision. Lack of food can cause starvation, lack of water, dehydration. Go into the water during a cold, cold night with no heat source? Prepare to start suffering from hypothermia.
You’ll need to find shelter – some place warm and secure – so that you can sleep. Sleeping is also the only other way to save the game outside of rare save obelisks. You also need to be sure your temperature is comfortable – don’t sleep to close to the fire or out in the cold. The game won’t allow you. You should also try to ensure there are no threats around – mainly weather. You can end up killed due to a rogue storm if you aren’t in a decent shelter!
The gameplay of The Solus Project is certainly nothing to write home about – but it works for what it tries to achieve. Giving you something to do while you’re exploring this hostile alien planet. It’s not meant to be Call of Duty – this is a title about exploration and surviving, nothing more.
This is likely the weakest part of the game. It’s story-driven, which means that replay value is inherently going to be low. There are no branching paths – no dialogue choices that result in new storylines, no side quests, nothing.
Your one and only goal in The Solus Project is to explore the planet and find a way to get off of it. For some, this may be a deal breaker – and I completely understand that. For me, personally – I enjoy a game that just wants to tell a single story. Something that doesn’t weigh the player down with hundreds of menial tasks. Games like Everbody’s Gone To The Rapture, Subnautica, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Gone Home and Ether One are titles I enjoy playing just to relax and explore a world, learn about the secrets/story that occurred in them.
If those titles are something that interest you – then The Solus Project will certainly satisfy.
The game is certainly worth picking up. Hourences and the rest of Teotl have created a world rich with story and secrets that is fun to explore. The visuals aren’t the best, but the sound design and overall atmosphere certainly help it rise above its relative bland looks.
The controls are a little iffy – and may feel a bit sluggish/heavy for some – they certainly did for me. They take a bit of getting used to, and can at times feel less responsive than one would like. They’re fine, though – after all, this isn’t a game about quick reflexes.
I had fun with my time exploring Gliese. The caves were creepy, the tombs atmospheric. I started out not enjoying the game due to the sluggish controls and bland visuals – but as I delved deeper and deeper into the planet and started finding hints of the beings that were there before…and the beings that might still be there, I began to enjoy the game much more. I became invested in finding everything I could, learning more about the peoples and planet.
All-in-all, The Solus Project was a fun time.
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