The Solus Project has existed in many forms; a PC early access title that was later added to the Xbox One, and now a full release on both PS4 and PSVR. The game was originally met with ho-hum reactions from players and critics alike, citing its simplistic crafting system and lack of environmental intrigue as main detractors. Playing as a stranded astronaut on a mysterious alien planet, you must fight to survive. Braving freak storms, finding shelter, and keeping yourself hydrated and fed are all top priorities. It can sound a bit overwhelming at times, and it is. Does the virtual reality experience of PSVR heighten that experience or worsen it?
For some people, this will be viewed as a negative. For others, a godsend. I’m not a huge fan of survival games, as I don’t like micromanaging my stats while trying to explore and enjoy the environment around me. I don’t have any problem with the genre; it just isn’t my cup of tea. Going into The Solus Project, I knew that it was a first person survival game, but little else. After diving in, I can happily say that even survival genre newbies will have no issue with The Solus Project’s survival aspects.
For starters, the game has a moving slider of difficulty. If at any time you find yourself too stressed, unable to keep yourself alive, or want all the survival stuff to slow down, you can easily move the slider all the way to its lowest setting. Even if you keep it at the default difficulty setting, staying alive isn’t terribly difficult. As long as you stock your inventory with enough food, water, and a torch or two, you should be just fine. The most dangerous parts of the game aren’t the potential to starve, but often environment issues like freezing cold or freak storms.
Crafting Made Easy
Much like the survival aspects of The Solus Project, crafting is about as bare bones as it gets. I hesitate to call it “crafting”, as it’s much less complex than something like Minecraft. Instead of collecting a bunch of stuff and using them to create a singular object, you’ll usually combine an item or two.
For example, combining a pipe with some chopped down vines gives you a torch. Light that torch on fire and now you have an infinite torch. Most food and water items can be easily opened with a sharp rock, and any water bottles you find can be refilled at occasional spouts. For the most part, The Solus Project is more about exploration than survival or crafting. It just uses those mechanics in a simple way to add some gameplay to the roaming.
Mystery Science Immersion
I hesitate to tell you anything about The Solus Project‘s narrative, because that’s the most intriguing aspect of the game. You crash land on a planet and your main objective is to survive and regain communication by rebuilding a satellite transmitter. However, everything is not as it seems, and you must uncover the mystery of the planet. The game does a good job pointing you in the right direction, constantly giving you a “Forward Sector” indicator that shows you which direction your next objective is. Pieces of the satellite are strewn across the game’s several areas, and these are very important to collect (even though the game doesn’t force you to worry about them).
I know that if I played The Solus Project on a normal television set up, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. That’s because the immersion (and freedom to truly explore) of the PSVR makes each moment of the experience grand. We’ve never really seen anything quite as open and expansive as The Solus Project on PSVR. It’s the most impressive and immersive game I’ve played on the system to date, and I often found myself having more fun simply exploring the environment. This is is due to several reasons, some of which don’t quite reflect well on the game itself.
Houston, We Have a Problem
For everything The Solus Project does right with its immersive atmosphere and enjoyable mystery, it does something else wrong. Granted, most of these issues could be fixed and are minor in comparison to the game’s strengths, but they’re blemishes nonetheless. Firstly, the controls are a bit awkward to get used to, and I could see this massively frustrating people in the first few hours. After a while, you’ll get used to them and hopping around will be second nature, but it’s the first negative thing I noticed about the experience.
When viewing your inventory wheel, you select the object you want to use by looking at it. This works well, except for when the game glitches out, refusing to show you your inventory wheel at all. After messing with it for a bit, I found that looking away and moving my head around caused the inventory wheel to appear for a bit, but looking straight at it would cause it to completely disappear. This is a major issue, as quickly being able to access your inventory will sometimes be the difference between life and death.
Furthermore, I had three instances where the game failed to load properly, resulting in some pretty extreme problems. Once, I loaded up the game and found myself standing in a black room with nothing in it, unable to do anything. Another failure to load saw half of the map disappear, which allowed me to run atop invisible structures while laughing at the horrendous glitch. Towards the end of the game, I found myself needing to backtrack to collect some satellite pieces. During that specifically annoying backtracking, I fell through the map. I also found out that I cannot access an area of the game anymore, as the loading transition doesn’t complete. As you can see, there’s some pretty substantial bugs and glitches I ran into, some of which greatly affect gameplay.
The Bottom Line on The Solus Project
The Solus Project proved to me that full length games can work in PSVR. Clocking in at anywhere between 10 and 20 hours, there’s a lot to see and do. As I played it, I never found myself becoming too uncomfortable, and the immersion was good enough that I lost myself in the experience more times than I can count. However, there’s a healthy amount of bugs and glitches that could be potentially game breaking, depending on when and where you save. Furthermore, some of the issues are completely inexcusable, like not being able to see your inventory at random times during the game. There’s plenty of other glitches that I found, but most of them made it more fun to explore the entirety of the map.
That’s the best thing about The Solus Project on PSVR; it really let’s you explore. Ever want to jump off a cliff that’s probably thousands of feet in the air, directly into the ocean? The Solus Project lets you do that with full movement, no “nausea blinders”, and it doesn’t cut to black before you hit the ground. The Solus Project is a VR experience for people who want to sink their teeth into something worthwhile, who want to be wowed and enjoy their surroundings. However, the amount of issues and the somewhat basic gameplay mechanics often leave a bit to be desired.
For $20 USD, The Solus Project is completely worth it. It’s a spectacle of immersion, freedom of control, and just how great it feels to explore. It’ll make you feel unsettled, it’ll make you feel isolated, but more importantly, it will make you feel like you’re actually there. It’s an impressive experience that most people won’t end up finishing, but in this case… what they say is true. “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey there.”