The Solus Project Reviews

AuthorReview
Slam-Shot-Sam
62,536 (41,055)
Slam-Shot-Sam
TT Score for this game: 326
Posted on 06 October 17 at 11:24
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The Solus Project | PlayStation 4 (PS VR) | Review

Grip Digital and Teotl Studios’ first-person, single-player survival game released on PC and Xbox One to a middling critical reception last year. The addition of virtual reality support helps to elevate the PlayStation 4 release in many ways, though some issues still hamper the otherwise engaging and atmospheric adventure.

The titular Solus Project is launched just prior Earth’s destruction, seeing you and a crew of scientists set out in search of a new planet to colonise. When your spaceship is struck and destroyed however, you crash land on an alien planet as the seeming sole survivor and potential final hope for humanity.

It doesn’t take long for it to become apparent that you aren’t alone, bizarre fauna and creatures reacting to your presence, while, more unnervingly, hieroglyphics, architecture and mechanisms provide eerie signs of intelligent life. Amongst the technology is a damaged communications tower, which it’s your main objective to fix and use to reach out into the void.

The narrative serves as a driving force throughout this more linear take on the survival game, but isn’t as compelling in itself as the thick air of mystery that ebbs and flows as you explore environments and begin to peel it back, often only to uncover more secrets.

Whilst The Solus Project isn’t the best looker inside the PlayStation VR headset, mainly due to the current absence of PS4 Pro support, that’s definitely the mode in which the game’s defining ambiance best translates. The effective implementation of 3D in both the visuals and audio is enough to send shivers up your spine merely through the power of suggestion. There’s no combat here, and so little harm in being brazen, but that doesn’t stop strange noises emanating from pitch blackness being unnerving and prompting caution all by themselves.

You’ll use the DualShock 4 to play on a television, but VR mode is only compatible with dual Move controllers. Though it’s unfortunate that those without are left in the lurch, given the option it’s always preferable to use them thanks to the truer-to-life experience they provide. Something as simple as moving your arm to proportionally wield a flaming torch in-game and dynamically light your way provides a powerful feeling of connection, though it works particularly well here because of the ever present PDA. Held in your left hand, the PDA is your best friend, conveying all manner of vital information at a glance - or mostly at a glance, small text and PS VR’s fuzzy resolution don’t always mesh - while leaving the other hand open to tackle any and everything else.

A thick air of mystery ebbs and flows as you explore environments and begin to peel it back, often only to uncover more secrets.
With that said, the absence of a formal tutorial means it’ll take a little while to get used to the button-heavy control scheme; once you wrap your head around it however, you’ll be walking, turning and teleporting comfortably without need for an analogue stick. Other VR issues include lengthy, awkward 2D loading screens that somewhat break immersion, and the galling oversight that you can clip your hand through many locked gates and use the teleporter (an item separate to the standard teleportation for travel) to bypass the game’s simple puzzles.

You can’t get up to similar tricks playing on a TV, which might be a good or a bad thing depending on how you’re inclined, but there are also definite boons to playing in our humble, real-world reality. There’s a closer connection to the protagonist as you hear more of their musings and see scenes cut for comfort from the VR experience, plus there’s a sharper presentation in terms of both resolution and a clearer UI, which can serve practical purpose in helping to find obscure collectibles that boost resistances and fill in the wider narrative.

Anything other than a temperature resistance buff is frankly a waste, as that’s the only one of the game’s survival elements that ever really comes into play. Food and water are plentiful, and getting enough sleep is easy done, but staying warm when outdoors at night is near impossible. While the straightforward crafting system can be used to start temporary fires that offer slight respite, the only real solution is to ride out the night somewhere safe. With no means to tell the exact time, you’re only ever acting on a best guess while judging an alien day/night and dynamic weather cycle, so, should you misjudge or spend too long exploring, you might be doomed to get hopelessly caught out from the moment you set off. Due to the game’s manual save points and infrequent auto-saves, it’s possible to lose a lot of progress to this - even totally bugger your save file - leaving you feeling decidedly cheated in the process.

Thankfully, the survival elements are fine tunable, so you can tone them down, turn them off completely, or, if you’re some sort of sadist, make them stricter. This goes a long way to remedying the issue, but being tempted to turn a survival game’s survival aspect off so that you can fully enjoy it is far from ideal.

While The Solus Project isn’t a great survival game, its focus on setting, atmosphere and storytelling make it more immediately engaging than its crafting-obsessed peers. Overall, the game succeeds in spite of failing within its genre - especially when played in VR, with the mode providing a fully-featured and lengthy campaign for headset owners to absorb in affecting fashion.

Pros

+ VR implementation contributes a lot to the game
+ Fascinating setting & environmental storytelling
+ A different take on the traditional survival game
+ Survival aspect can be tweaked to your liking
+ Lengthy campaign at a budget price (some VR tech demos cost more)

Cons

- Have to judge venturing out & risk losing progress on best guesses
- Too easy to get hypothermia & find yourself in an unrecoverable position
- Being able to cheat your way past puzzles in VR mode is a big oversight

7/10

Trophies:

The Solus Project has a lot of miscellaneous, missable trophies, which, coupled with the requirement to gather all of the collectible secrets, means you'll likely need to follow a guide and exercise some patience to reach 100%. You can at least turn the difficulty right down and not have to deal with survival mechanics in the process, making it much less annoying than it otherwise would have been.

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Originally written for Pass the Controller, a digital copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.

You can check out my Xbox One reviews over at TrueAchievements.

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