Over the last year or so there has been quite an influx of survival titles especially and the latest title 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, 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. It seems that the team are also thinking of the speed run gamers out there.
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. While you can sleep just about anywhere you will soon find out that you can’t sleep during natures elements like earthquakes and meteor showers. So while there are these survival elements, The Solus Project is also an exploration title at heart.
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. 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.
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. This is something that will come in very handy If you are playing on higher difficulties, as you will need more resources to survive. On the Islands you will come across cargo manifestos which will give you an idea of the resources you can find in the area. 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.
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 the crafting system works pretty much as craft systems do although my only issue is that when you have to light a torch you must drop the torch first and then click on it again to get the option to light it. This has been something that has been present throughout the Preview version but other than this the crafting system is pretty much perfect.
I have to say I am quite impressed by the level design and lends itself remarkably well to exploration. The islands themselves are quite big in size although not too big that you get lost. On land you will need to deal with natural elements that can kill you like a tornado and even a meteor storm. Each Island in the game do have their own uniqueness with the types of monuments and temple like structures. Make your way into the many maze like caves and you will come across plenty of traps and other dangers. I do not want to go too much into the details but the caves to give the sense of true terror. You won’t come across actual enemies in the normal use of the word but there is something more deadly in the form of black smoke. There is always a sense of tension as you explore deeper into the caves. There are even secret areas to discover which are for experienced explorers so venture if you dare. There is a lot of freaky moments in the caves and gets even more mysterious when you encounter the many temple like structures you come that show there has been some life form here before you.
Graphically the games uses the unreal engine and while it doesn’t use the Xbox Ones full horse power there are some really great lighting effects in play. It is when you are in the caves that this really does show. When you are out on the islands looking into the sky you will see things like shooting stars as well as the effects of the day / night cycle in the game. There is also a Northern Lights effect which is great to look at. In the day time you will see the scorching effect coming off the ground as you look into the distance. The games audio is put to great use in raising the tension where it needs to be and on many occasions had me shouting out loud and on edge as I went deeper into a cave.
The Good Things
- Some great level design and lighting effects.
- Installs a great sense of solitude.
- Plenty of secrets to find for the more adventurous explorer.
And The Bad
- The crafting system could do with a little tweak.
- In the later parts of the game you backtrack a bit.
- 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. The way the game installs the sense of being alone is outstanding. It is a sci-fi single player exploration experience with some survival elements thrown in for good measure. The environment are big with plenty of caves and underground structures to explore. The maze like caves make them a joy to explore even if you get lost occasional as well as getting turned round in circles. Where this game really stands out is the story and level design. From the moment you wake after the crash everything is 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.
A game that installs a real sense of solitude accompanied with an enigma filled story.