Over the last year or so there has been quite an influx of survival titles especially when it comes to the Steam Early Access program. Now that the Xbox One has it’s own version of Steams program we are seeing more PC titles making the jump across to consoles. The latest title to be added onto the Xbox One Game Preview program is The Solus Project developed by Teotl Studios and Grip Games. While The Solus Project can be seen as a survival title, it actually stands just outside from this genre as the survival element is only part of what this intriguing and very mysterious sci-fi adventure has to offer. This game concentrates on not only a single player exploration experience but also an enigma filled story to unravel.
The story element of The Solus Project tells of a time in the future where earth has been destroyed by a rogue star. There were three giant colony ships sent to a safe zone near Pluto but of course the limited resources can only last so long. With time running out you are part of a crew from five scout ships sent to five distant worlds in hope to find a place of salvation and to reignite the human race. This last chance at survival is known as The Solus Project. Travelling for fifteen years, your scout ship gets shot down from a mysterious planet. With all your crew DOA you are the sole survivor in a planet you know nothing about and it is here your true adventure starts.
There are a number of ways to play through the game and while there is a story to work through, you can also just go exploring the new world and moving to the check points as you wish. The game does have a survival element to it but not in the way you would think. Where other titles would be a full on survival simulation like Ark: Survival Evolved, The Solus Project diverts from this path. Instead of having to focus on clothes, your main worry should be food, water, shelter and heat and sleep. This mixed in with the natural environment of this mysterious world and the unknown challenges will be the difference between life or death. In the option menu there is also the ability to display the speed run timer, which is very interesting for a title of this nature, and looks as though there will be a gameplay element aimed at the speed run gamers among you.
As soon as you wake up from the crash you will find yourself with just the clothes on your back as well as a very handy PDA/Satellite Radio in your hand. This is where you can keep an eye on your health including your calories and water intake. Yes you can suffer from dehydration as well as hunger and more serious things like hypothermia. This is one title where you can actually die in your sleep and that’s without a visit from Mr Kruger. This handy electronic device monitors your temperature, wetness, wind and your sleep. You can oversleep and under-sleep both of which will have an effect on your health etc. At one point when I tried to sleep I couldn’t because of an earthquake going on, granted it only lasted a minute or so but hopefully this will be something that lasts longer in the final release.
The first thing you will be tasked with is getting out of the crash site where you are trapped. This introduces you to the games crafting system as well as another feature of your handheld electronic device. Interactive objects can be scanned by the device and will give you key information about certain objects. The first thing was to take two rocks and craft them to one sharp rock to cut the wires to make my escape, not forgetting to pick up the wire. You are then free to start exploring your location and begin unravelling the enigma of this planet and its surroundings. The crafting system is fairly logical and you can find helpful hints in the form of paper debris found around crash sites and elsewhere. The craft system at this point isn’t as refined as it could be due to you having to hold one of the items you are crafting and the other on the floor in front of you. I am confident and hope that the devs will allow you to craft within the games U.I. Within these first few moments the game will hold your hand telling you how to make a torch and leading you to your first cave for shelter. After this though you are left to your own devices to begin exploring.
The only thing you have is a way point which will take you through the story path, remember the game doesn’t rely on you to have completed exploring each of the fairly large areas before you can advance. The option to do this does mean that you can play the game how you want to a certain degree. I have played through the game to as far as the preview lets you go on easy difficulty but you can ramp the challenge up to a point where you are not given way points etc if your a master explorer.
For the purposes of this preview I didn’t fully explore everything but I did do enough to get a feeling of what the title has to offer. After having found shelter and crafted my torch I continued to explore this wondrous planet. The game is made in the Unreal Engine and looking out to the sky and seeing not just one but two planets in the distance is quite spectacular. You can also see islands off in the distance although it seems exploration is limited mainly to the island you are on. Even at this there are still plenty of very large caves to find and explore. On your travels you will come across stones that have a cryptic language on them. Thanks to your trusty handheld device this can decrypt the language and in turn you begin to find out bit by bit about this planet and it’s history. It’s completely up to you if you want to go hunting down all the info as only some of it will appear on your path though the main story of the game.
Your players stats can be upgraded to help combat the planets natural and unnatural elements by finding items from crash sites or by finding stone relics. Once these relics are scanned it will give you a boost in specific stats. They are not easy to find and the ones I did find it was just by chance. One thing you will want to find are extra back pack slots to allow you to carry more stuff. Especially if you are going to go and hunt down parts for the tower. I was playing it on easy and only managed to boost my carry slots a couple of times. If you are playing on higher difficulties you will need to pay more attention to your stats as you will need more resources to survive. I also came across worship stones but I had no idea how to use them, or they might not have been fully implemented in this build. When you do scan them though it looks as though they give a boost to stats etc. Interestingly you can only save the game buy going to sleep or finding a specific type of stone which you would be best to keep in mind. I was getting so engrossed in exploring I would not always sleep when I should and falling to my death undone all the exploring since the last save.
As I have mentioned there are plenty of caves and underground areas to explore, with one leading to what I’m sure is another island. The first cave you come across will require you to find the teleportation gun to allow you to gain entry. Once you enter you really need to look back out again as it was my first glimpse of a full blown tornado rushing towards me. In another part of the game I was in the middle of a meteor shower, and after surviving it I thought I would be able to withstand more, how wrong was I. If your hit with these it is pretty much instant death. While the graphics do need work it is in the caves where the game tries to show off the lighting engine. When I entered the first cave I though the glow stick might have gave me better light than the torch, so I didn’t bother when the fire of my torch went out. Well I spent the biggest part of this cave using the dim green light from the glow stick with my face to the walls. I should have known better but it was rather funny. I did eventually come across two light crystals one blue and one red. The former gave of better light but the latter gave off more heat keeping me warm enough till I could get another torch.
The caves themselves are pretty huge with plenty of dead ends and running around in circles, which is where a map would have came in handy. On the plus side it is more fun when you have to discover areas by yourself. In my time I didn’t come across anything too deadly in the caves and underground structures. There was some plant life and things that would attack you from the walls but easily dodged. I did come across a few traps and if you are not looking where you are going you can fall to your death easily. It is clear to see the the game will incorporate some puzzles for you to solve as well as hidden areas only meant for experienced explorers to find. One of the puzzles near the end is easily solved as long as you remember you carry a teleportation gun which will make getting to certain locations easier.
So far the level design in The Solus Project is heading in the right direction. I managed 3-4 hours in my play through to get to the end of the current build and that wasn’t doing and seeing everything the game has to offer. I have to applaud how the team have merged the main story into the single player exploration experience. When exploring I would find stones that were one of multiple in a set and when scanned reveals more information about the planet and inhabitants. I wasn’t finding them in order and if this was meant it is a great idea as it had me exploring more than normal just to complete that section of the stories mystery.
The Solus Project is a game wrapped in enigma and a title that you will get out of it what you put in. While this can be called a survival title, it does do it’s own thing to stand out from the influx of titles we have been getting recently. It is a sci-fi single player exploration experience with some survival elements thrown in for good measure. While the game uses the Unreal Engine there are still obviously graphics tweaks needed especially in the lighting department, although you can still get a a feel for the scope and scale of the environments the team are going for. The areas are big with plenty of caves and underground structures to explore, as well as the mountain filled planet. Where this game really stands out is the story and level design. From the moment you wake after the crash everything in a mystery. I like how the game is open to allow you to fully explore and find out every little secret about the planet. If you don’t want to do that then you can just go ahead and play the more direct story path. I await for the rest of the game to be finished and see how the adventure ends.
Check out my initial play through below of the first couple of hours.