The Solus Project is a Survival/Adventure game with a blend of Walking Simulator, “creepy” elements, and lots of Sci-Fi charm. While it was originally flagged on Steam as a “Survival Horror” title, it’s now considered an Adventure trek with some survival elements, along with a handful of truly unnerving moments. While it does offer full Virtual Reality (VR) support, this review is based on a non-VR journey into this futuristic, dystopian landscape. Released by Hourences and Grip Games on June 7th, 2016, The Solus Project is a surprisingly addictive, beautiful package of an Indie Adventure experience that I definitely enjoyed.
Now This Is A Beautiful Alien Landscape
Without a doubt, The Solus Project is one of the prettiest worlds I have recently explored, and it’s certainly one of the most visually stunning of my reviews thus far for 2016. The atmosphere is deliciously Sci-Fi, with stunning views of a foreign sky, ocean, and landscape to accompany you in your travels. The pillar structures do get a bit monotonous after a while, but as I explored below the ground level into some dark, ominous caverns, things felt less repetitious and more enjoyable. The planet’s moon actually controls the tide, so certain underwater areas become much more easily traversed if you wait for the water to recede, rather than diving in and thereby dealing with hypothermia for a while after. Little elements like this tied the world together for me, and I found myself happily questing to find new areas.
One thing that was disappointing is that this abundant, rich, and alien world – and camps used by other explorers – provide more than enough supplies that it did not feel like much of a “survival” experience. I had plenty of food and water the entire time, and while environmental traps and hazards increased as I progressed, most of the time I felt like I was leisurely navigating the strange terrain. Once I headed into the labyrinth of caves under the surface, I definitely had to contend with bigger obstacles – and, thankfully, some other life forms eventually – but I was still more than adequately prepared. Most of my challenges were relatively easy to overcome and usually consisted of finding a weird key to place into slot A, then rearranging the pillars to pass the platform portion. The puzzles within The Solus Project simply aren’t difficult enough for this to be flagged as a Puzzle game, but they did slow down my progression and provide some resistance so that I felt accomplished when I completed a section.
Mankind’s Last Hope
The premise behind The Solus Project, in a nutshell, is that the Earth was destroyed, and now the human race is scrambling to find new planets that can sustain our particular life forms. The main character – which can be either male or female, an option I always appreciate – has crashed onto this new planet, and lost contact with dispatch. Now, players must work to find the pieces of a signal tower to get word back to the Mothership and the rest of the human race, apparently. That’s… pretty much all of the motivation, at least to begin with. You can explore and find relics that provide nifty buffs for your character, or “rare” items that don’t seem to have any value other than being flagged as rare, but there are some achievements you can unlock by doing so (and I do so love cheeky Steam achievements!). The storyline evolves from exploration of a strange planet to the discovery that an alien race has lived here before, and then disappeared, leaving behind stone statues, skeletons, and other signs of life. I’m not going to give away too much of the plot here, but I found it to be intriguing and entertaining if not all that unique within the Sci-Fi genre.
The inventory system is a little clunky, but it’s a fairly minor hindrance once you get used to just hitting Tab to choose a new item rather than cycling through your entire inventory via the mouse wheel. The crafting aspect is very simplistic and also a little clunky; at times, I would be prompted to use two items together to create a third, and other times it was easier for me to drop an item on the ground to trigger this menu option.
So, How Creepy is “Creepy?”
I could devote an entire section of this review to the completely unnerving, Emily Wants to Play style dolls that start popping up in the caverns. In one place in particular, I had to venture forth into their lair, turning in circles so that they didn’t sneak up on me in the darkness. I loved it, and I can’t wait to replay that section in VR-mode! The further into the story I progressed, the more enemies I encountered, from a LOST-inspired smoke monster, to tiny, spiny balls of pain that chased me down stone staircases. I’d have enjoyed more “scare factor” earlier on, to be honest; I had beaten the portion of the game that had been available in beta before I ever really found much to be scared of. That being said, the minor scary elements do increase as you go, so don’t assume the low-key, tranquil aspect you first experience while navigating your crash site and the beach areas nearby is all there is in that aspect.
The weather patterns in this game are stunning and exciting rather than unnerving, and I know from personal experience that water tornadoes aren’t a friendly occurrence. The rain can be mildly bothersome at times in terms of keeping warm, but the storms didn’t lend a whole lot to those survival elements I spoke of previously.
The Solus Project was actually rather difficult for me to score because there’s just such a mixed bag of elements here. It’s beautiful, far more so than I expected from an Indie game, but the landscape is a bit repetitious by the final stages. I enjoyed the storyline and my character’s reactions to her discoveries, but it isn’t revolutionary lore especially in the Sci-Fi genre. I do love that it’s VR-ready, but when reading other reviews for the VR version of gameplay, I found that to be a fairly even blend of positive and negative sentiments within the Steam community.
If you’re looking for an intriguing, pretty adventure with some creepy moments, platformer challenges, mild survival elements, and a decent amount of playtime to defeat it, The Solus Project is a fantastic choice. However, if you’re looking for something that is going to stand out against scores of other titles in the same genres, you might want to look elsewhere, because this Indie trek is middle-of-the-road, moderately challenging, essentially fun experience. I’m certainly looking forward to revisiting it, especially to test its VR capacities.