First-person exploration games have to do a lot to break out of the typical boring walking sim formula. The Solus Project features a large and diverse planet for you to explore so check your oxygen levels and get ready to land.
Before I start this review, I should mention that I played through The Solus Project in the PlayStation VR mode. Although the experience is more immersive and the controls are a bit trickier, the campaign and gameplay are generally the same whether you use a VR headset or not. Anyway, the story begins by describing a desperate situation in humankind's future where the Earth has been destroyed and now they've set off to outer space in order to find a new home. Unfortunately, multiple vessels are mysteriously destroyed outside of a promising planet. It reminded me a lot of the plot in the recent film Alien: Covenant. Anyway, you control a survivor who finds himself on the surface of this planet. Although there is no life to be found at first, things escalate throughout the campaign as you witness plenty of oddities and read text that describes the history of this strange planet.
Exploring this planet is quite a rewarding endeavor. There are loads of secrets tucked away in hard-to-reach places as well as interesting tidbits that help flesh out the haunting story. There's a heavy focus on survival as you have to keep an eye on your hunger, hydration, energy, temperature, and wetness. Think swimming around in freezing waters is a good idea? Well, try it out and see what happens. The attention to detail in the survival component is incredible. For example, having your flashlight run out of juice when you're exploring a complex and pitch black cave system will make anyone tense. Thankfully, you can upgrade aspects of your character via the previously mentioned secrets. Also, if you don't feel like surviving and would rather just explore then you can actually set the survival difficulty level in the options menu. You can also speed your character up which I highly recommend doing as soon as you start playing.
Although the story as well as the exploration and survival aspects are well done, the best part of The Solus Project by far is its engaging visuals and sound. The pitch-perfect creepy atmosphere becomes truly immersive when you play it using a VR headset. Probably the biggest contributing factor to this is the weather and lighting effects. Surviving a harsh storm that blows debris everyone only to watch the sun shining again afterwards will bring any gamer an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. I left the window open when I played and when I entered a snowy area, it somehow made it even colder in the room. The sound will give you chills as well. Slowly crawling through a cave only to hear rumbling and have the controller shake in your hands is definitely scary stuff.
The Solus Project seems like a great game so far. However, it does have its fair share of problems. For starters, the controls are very unintuitive. It'll take you about an hour to get comfortable with them but even after that; some things are still annoying. For example, backing away from a wall requires you to rotate in 45° increments, walk away from it, then rotate back. The biggest issue by far are the parts of the campaign that require you to aimlessly explore vast areas while trying to figure out what to do next. One part has you find four keys in order to progress and that's like finding four needles in a haystack. Finally, the text is much too small to comfortably read on a VR headset. I had to hold the in-game PDA right up to my face and I still couldn't work out what everything said.
In the end, The Solus Project is one of the most memorable and haunting games that I've ever played. Its VR implementation is amazing, too. If it didn't have annoying controls and lengthy monotonous segments then it could be a must-have PlayStation VR game.
- + Immersive atmosphere that's perfect for VR / incredible weather effects
- + Rewarding exploration and survival elements
- + Genuinely haunting story
- - Controls take a long time to get used to and can be irritating even after you do
- - Some parts are extremely tedious
- - Text is very hard to read in VR