Review: The Solus Project (PS4)

The Solus Project is probably best described as a survival/exploration/adventure game. You’re the last survivor of a crashed ship that was looking for a new habitable planet for humankind to relocate to, and you need to find a way to survive. Not only that, you need to communicate with your people so that you can get on with finding a new home for humanity before it’s too late. Survival and exploration with no combat isn’t usually the kind of thing that catches my attention, but I happened to have played The Ball, a previous game by developers Teotl Studios – I was quite impressed with this physics puzzler/adventure, so I thought The Solus Project would be worth checking out. It’s actually been on my PC to-play list for a year or so now – but when I saw that it was getting a PS4 port with VR compatibility, I figured that would be the version to wait for.

Don’t go swimming at night. Seriously.

My experience with this game leads me to bring you good news and bad news. The bad news is that if anyone was expecting this to be another killer title for PSVR, they’re probably going to be disappointed in that area. VR mode is controlled using dual Move controllers, and only dual Move controllers, supposedly due to some kind of performance-decreasing issue with using a standard controller in VR mode. This game doesn’t really use motion controls, so this only really serves to make controlling your actions more difficult and awkward. There is also no smooth turning option, which I understand can sometimes cause nausea for some people in VRbut I am just not a fan of weird angled turning and teleporting. These things are just too immersion-breaking for me. Finally, and probably most importantly, is that the text on the PDA device, a vital tool that you need to be keeping an eye on almost constantly to survive, would often be extremely blurry and hard to read in VR. So I ended up pulling off my headset pretty quickly, because it was all just too messy and awkward.

Hold on though, there’s still that good news to talk about! The good news is that playing with a normal controller and screen, this game exceeded all my expectations, turning out to be so much more vast and exciting than I thought a game like this could be. There may not be any combat, but there are still many, many ways to die, and with a set of very well-made survival mechanics and a massive, beautifully detailed world to explore, it never failed to keep me entertained.

Even the dirty old caves are beautiful.

Having to keep track of your food, water, sleep, and temperature levels at all times really does sound boring on paper. But when you’re out exploring in The Solus Project and feeling the pressure of all your character’s needs, it’s much more interesting than I would have thought, especially when you also have a treacherous alien environment constantly hard at work trying to whittle your stats down into the danger zones. Finding food, water and other essentials may be simple enough (at first), but carrying it all in your very limited inventory space is a problem. You’ll soon find that this little island that you start on is much bigger than you thought and that the food and water you brought with you isn’t lasting nearly as long as you’d hoped. Next thing you know, the sun’s gone down, the temperature is rapidly dropping, your supplies are low, and now that it’s dark you’re suddenly having a hard time finding your way back to your camp with all the rest of your supplies. If you’re even unluckier, some bad weather will also come your way, and if you don’t find some shelter quickly you have a pretty good chance of dying.

Sooooo many things are out to kill you: heat, cold, wetness (which leads to cold), various types of storms, lava, toxic plants, dehydration, starvation, sleep deprivation, fall damage, drowning, becoming utterly lost in the dark if you should lose your light source, and more. And the environmental hazards and supply availability tends to change a good deal from area to area, so you may think you’re prepared only to find that things have changed and you’ve brought the wrong gear for the situation. This forces you to choose between retreating to resupply or trying to push on and hope that you’ll find something useful, knowing that if you’re wrong, you’ll have gone too far to be able to turn back and survive.

Your tactics will have to change a bit depending on if you’re in an above ground or underground area, too. The above ground areas will usually have much more food and water to find, but have a great deal more environmental hazards to worry about, while the underground is nice and safe from the weather, but very short on food and water and can get extremely dark and maze-like.

One of many appearances of the ball from The Ball.

If this all sounds rather intimidating, well, I suppose it is! Managing all of this definitely has a learning curve that some may find stress-inducing. Personally, I found it all pretty exciting, but if you’d like to worry a bit less during your exploration, there is a difficulty slider that can greatly reduce or increase the level of micro-management and environmental dangers, and it can be changed at any time.

As for the environments themselves, they’re really something to see. From vast islands to sprawling cave systems to bizarre alien temples, this is one truly enormous world. Each new location contains several hours’ worth of exploration, and they’re all meticulously detailed and beautifully designed. There are also over 100 stat-increasing secret items to be found throughout the world, which is a nice, satisfying reward for all that risky exploring. It’s all enough to keep one busy for quite some time. It took me around 30 hours to finish the game in my obsessively thorough way, though it can reportedly be done in half that time if you’d rather just stick to the main objectives.

Can you unlock the mysteries of this strange alien world?

Overall, despite the ineffectiveness of the VR feature and a small handful of technical issues (a few crashes and glitches), this is an excellent game with compelling gameplay, great graphics and enough content to make it feel it would have been worth full price – it’s an absolute steal for its low price of $20.

I absolutely recommend this for anyone into survival and/or exploration, or if you’re just looking for something pleasantly different. You can find The Solus Project right now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Disclosure statement: Review code for The Solus Project was provided by Teotl Studios. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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