Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Solus Project Review (XONE)

Fresh out of the Xbox Game Preview program comes The Solus Project, a sci-fi first-person-adventure that has you trying to survive on an alien planet.  Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just another survival sim, though, as The Solus Project holds a dark secret – it’s actually a horror game.  With a fascinating world to explore and truly stunning presentation, along with some fantastic twists and turns, The Solus Project is easy to recommend for sci-fi and horror fans.  See our full review for all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Grip Digital
  • Developer: Teotl Studios, Grip Studios
  • ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
  • Genre: First-Person-Adventure
  • Pros: Good presentation; interesting world to explore; surprising genre shift
  • Cons: Pointless survival elements; clunky gameplay; puzzles aren’t great
  • MSRP: $20

The titular “Solus Project” is a fleet of ships full of colonists sent out to discover a new planet to live on after Earth is destroyed.  Your character’s ship has an accident while in orbit around an alien planet and crash lands on the surface.  From there, The Solus Project turns into a game of survival, as you have to scavenge parts and essential items from the wreckage of the ship and try to find other survivors. 

At first, The Solus Project really seems like it is going to be a hardcore survival game.  You have to eat food, drink water, sleep, and carefully monitor your body temperature in order to survive and that is what the initial few minutes heavily focus on.  Except, as you’ll quickly realize, survival is really, really easy in The Solus Project.  Food and water are extremely easy to come by.  Maintaining your body temperature is as simple as holding a torch to keep warm at night or retreating into the shade to stay out of the sun during the day.  The survival aspect is almost totally pointless here and adds literally nothing to the game.

That’s fine, though, because The Solus Project isn’t actually a survival game.  Instead, it is an adventure game with horror elements.  Surprising, right?  It also isn’t open world and rather a linear experience where you travel through a series of islands and caves, unraveling the mystery of the alien planet as you go.  There are some larger open sections that you can explore and find extra items and alien artifacts and stuff, but for the most part anything essential to progress is always found out in the open close to the main path through each area.  Puzzles consist mostly of simply scouring an area to find the key item you need, but you also have a neat device that lets you shoot little discs out and then teleport to them in order to get through barred doors and climb around on stuff.

The game is split between exploration on the surface and underground in caves, and as you explore you discover that another sentient race used to call this planet home.  You find ruins of their settlements as well as temples and other facilities.  You also find writings and murals that indicate another alien race from the sky were largely responsible for their development.  The further you get into the game, however, the darker and more sinister the murals and writings get as something terrible happened to the people and the planet. 

Delving deeper into the mystery is where the horror elements come in.  Rather than having big scary aliens you have to fight suddenly pop up, however, The Solus Project is much more subtle.  There is a pervasive creepiness that gets under your skin as the ruins get more weird and twisted and you start seeing stranger and stranger things and a sense of dread builds and builds that keeps you glued to the game until you see what everything means.  It is absolutely brilliant.

It is a bit of a shame that the gameplay isn’t a little more polished, but since there isn’t any combat or anything that really requires super fast reactions, it gets the job done.  Picking up items or using your inventory or the simple crafting system can only be described as “clunky”, though.  It is also a let down that the puzzles are so simple and straightforward and the survival aspects seem like they were meant for a different game than what The Solus Project ended up being.

We can forgive all that, though, because as a complete experience The Solus Project more than makes up for those shortcomings.  The alien planet is awesome looking with a great skybox featuring multiple moons and gorgeous stars.  You see a lot of really, really neat stuff, too, so the thrill of exploration just to see what you’ll find next is a big motivator to keep you playing.  Things like impressive structures and landscapes, meteor showers, and tornadoes and extreme weather are simply incredible.  The mystery of the planet and the horror elements keep you hooked as well. 

The appeal of The Solus Project is almost entirely about the thrill of exploration rather than the moment-to-moment gameplay, and if you’re cool with that you’re in for a real treat.  If you’re ever dreamed of exploring an alien planet and seeing truly new and unique things you’ve never seen before, The Solus Project is a wonderful experience.  It is also pretty lengthy, too, at 15-20 hours long, which is a great value considering the $20 price tag.  Sci-fi fans, particularly horror / sci-fi (think “Alien”) will have a great time with The Solus Project.  Buy it.