Explore new worlds in VR with The Solus Project. The Finger Guns Review;
Do you remember the very first episode of Lost, where Jack wakes up to a strange noise pulsing in the background? Once Jack had woken properly and stumbled his way to the beach it turns out that pulsing noise was the jet engine of the crashed airplane they were on.
And so the mystery began.
The start of the Solus Project is pretty similar. You are humanity’s last hope, sent off to find a new world for earth folk to colonise. Unfortunately, your ship crashes on a strange alien planet. Next thing you know you are stumbling out of your wrecked craft into what looks like the Devils Causeway, in the distance, you can hear a pulsing noise and see a fading light. Curiosity overload. Once you have brushed yourself down and tried to get to grips with the quite awkward controls you start your adventure to find that the pulsing sound and the light is coming from a rocket that broke off from your crashed ship. It’s then that you literally have an overwhelming sense of being lost.
The Solus Project is the latest in a long line of in-fashion survival/exploration games. Usually, I don’t like this sort of game, they are slow and laborious and bore me quickly. But something grabbed the inner child in me (who wanted to explore planets) and made want to press on with this adventure. At first, you will tiptoe your way around the beach you crashed on, partly because you’re not sure what’s coming from this alien world. Plants open as you walk past, there is a full day/night weather cycle and you generally don’t know to expect. But partly because the controls are not particularly intuitive. This game uses both the Move controllers, credit to the developers they have tried to map movement and action and everything on these cumbersome sticks but it doesn’t quite work. It would have been nice to have the option to either use the Move controllers or the DualShock. At the start it took a lot of opening of the inventory, dropping the wrong object picking up the right object only to drop it again and pick up the wrong object you just dropped. There are rendered versions of the Move controller on screen but you can’t see the buttons so your thumb is feeling its way around the Move’s various buttons like it’s reading braille, which can be hit or miss if you have the right one button or not.
There are two ways you can move. You can do the teleport way which zaps you forward a little ways. The other option is normal walking which surprisingly doesn’t feel too uncomfortable at all. Even though there is a walk forward button, there is no walk backward, and the only way to turn is with a press of a button. When in a tight environment and you need to interact with something, you can often move too close to the object you want to interact with, which means you can’t get your pointer to target the interaction point. Seeing as you can’t just walk back you have to turn 180 degrees walk, turn 180 degrees again, and then walk forward a smidge so you can now interact with said object. It’s cumbersome at best. Still after half hour messing around I kind of got my head around the controls and set off on my adventure.
To help you with your planetary exploration there is an ever-present PDA type computer that lets you know your status, keeps you informed of anything of interest you come across and can scan various objects. In your other hand, you have the currently equipped item. For a human race that can send people to other planets, their PDA’s are BIG and cumbersome and can get in the way of your view sometimes. As with any kind of exploration game you’ll need to craft some things to help you on your way. The Solus Project does have a basic crafting system, like combining a metal bar with some dry grass to make a flaming torch (which handily never runs out. Must be super burnable new planet grass or something. Odd seeing as your flashlight is solar powered and runs out all the time). With most VR games there is usually a problem with motion sickness, which can either range from extreme to not so bad at all. Thankfully Solus Project falls into the later category so you can explore for long periods of time and not feel like you’re going to blow chunks. This is something developers Teotl Studios had to get right as you’ll be spending long periods of time in this VR world. Good news then because it’s a world screaming to be explored. The sense of wonder you get as you scan the landscape is quite something.
Along with the crafting, there are basic survival needs, so you need to keep your spaceman hydrated, warm and well rested and fed. All this can be done with items you find on your journey, foraging the wildlife or by using the crafting system. The game isn’t too strict with these stats though, and at times inaccurate too. After drinking 2 litres of water, I was told a minute later I was still dehydrated. So I had to go off and find some water instead of explore that mysterious looking building I had just discovered. After a while, it does turn into something that just gets in the way of the game as opposed to adding any real tension. On the flip side for ages my PDA computer was telling me I was, wet, cold or tired and needed sleep but nothing seemed to happen, so I just carried on. The only reason I did stop to sleep, and eat was to stop the warning voice going off every minute or so. Of course, you will eventually die but the urgency is not there. It’s almost an afterthought, something to break up the walking sections.
Graphically it looks great with the mighty Unreal Engine 4 working hard (a tornado in VR is quite the nerve-wracking experience let me tell you). The lighting effects are also impressive. Waving your flaming torch around a cave for example gently highlighting the wet rocks around you was great. At times I was literally holding my Move controller out at arms length to try to gain that extra bit of vision in the murky depths. I felt like a proper tomb raider.
The resolution, however, is terrible some of the worst I’ve seen. You see a lot of jaggies, even on the PS4 Pro! It’s this resolution that makes it almost impossible to read your PDA at times. You have to keep your hand and head really still if you have any hope of deciphering the pixelated text. It’s a shame really as it does make you feel a little detached from the world, but you do get used to it
The Solus Project is definitely a game you need to stick with. The first mission sends you into a pitch black cave system. A pitch black cave system in VR is boring when there is little more to do than drink water and press the odd button, but it’s well worth sticking with once you’re out and the story starts to unfold. The controls are at first are unwieldy cumbersome and will annoy, but with a little patience and practice, you will get the hang of them. look past these flaws then you’ll get to explore more of this mysterious planet, and the wonders it has to offer and get engrossed in the story. Are you the first to discover this strange alien planet?…Perhaps not it seems.
There is genuinely a great sense of both fear and wonder when you first step out from your spaceship. The need to explore and discover is such that you are willing to look past the game’s shortcomings. The sense of scale is incredible. At first glance, you think, this planet isn’t so bad, not too dissimilar to Earth. Then you see the whopping planet and moon engulfing the horizon and you gulp realising that this isn’t Kansas anymore. The Solus Project creates a greater sense of loneliness than No Man’s Sky Does. The sense of scale and wonderment and discovery are what this game does best all thanks to the power of VR
The good thing about the Solus Project is that you can play either in VR or normal 2D with the dual shock. I stuck to the VR version for this review and I’m glad I did. Exploration games usually don’t appeal to me and if was to play this in 2D I’m not sure I would get the same enjoyment as I did playing it in VR, I said the very same thing about Resident Evil 7 as well. It’s amazing what this extra dimension can do for a game.
The Solus Project is definitely a game to stick with, The longer you’re in it, the more you will get out of it, it’s similar in vein to VR’s other explore-em-up Robinson the Journey. However, even though there are no giant dinosaurs to gawp at the story and the imagination this world conjures up make this a better game, in my opinion.
I just wish I wasn’t bogged down having to manage the very things that keep you alive.
The Solus Project is available now on PSVR (reviewed), Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4
Disclaimer: In order co complete this review, we were provided with a copy of the game by the Publishers. Please see our review policy for more information.