The Solus Project is a single-player survival exploration experience developed entirely in Unreal Engine 4. Earth has been destroyed and humans are now on the brink of extinction. You have been sent on a mission to find another planet that is inhabitable, but after years of exploration with no luck, you find yourself stranded and alone on an alien planet after your ship has crash landed – sounds all too familiar if you ask us. You must search the crash site to recover supplies and forage your surroundings in the hope of discovering resources to be able to survive and find a way off of this strange planet.
The survival aspect of the game is the main focus here: equipped with a PDA that monitors your vitals, hunger, thirst, temperature, and tiredness, you must make sure these numbers are kept at a relatively happy medium. Although it sounds relatively interactive it’s quite the opposite with a very simplistic crafting system which consists of just using two objects with each other – for example, rock and rock creates a sharp rock. Also with a plentiful supply of bottles of water and cans of food lying around the islands make surviving a walk in the park.
As for the exploration side of things that doesn’t bring much interactivity either other than the odd very easy puzzle – it’s basically a walking simulator. The environments are very barren as the planet mainly consists of oceans except for five islands, connected by underground tunnels, each one with not much more than rocks, grass, trees, and the very occasional alien structure to interest you. There are very few buildings, no allies, no enemies, no other life – you are completely alone.
You are also completely alone in learning how to play the game as there is no indication of where you should be heading, what your goal is, or what the controls are other than in the short introduction which you’ll get through in a matter of a few minutes. The control scheme isn’t the easiest to get used to either with some very weird button mapping for certain things. Also with the majority of the gameplay involving picking up and dropping objects the inventory management should be so much better. It's very fiddly to sort through items, with limited space and an irritatingly clunky UI.
The most impressive part of The Solus Project is by far the real time day/night cycle and its dynamic weather which can change from scorching sunshine to meteor showers in an instant. It doesn’t just affect the appearance of the world you are in either as it can have a huge impact on your survival, too; if you let yourself get caught in a downpour for too long it can cause hypothermia which will lead to your demise pretty quickly. There’s also wind and tide cycles in the game which shows the level of detail the developers went to with the survival aspect of the game. All of these cycles are extremely impressive and try to add an element of depth to a very lacking inventory managing walking simulator.
Unfortunately The Solus Project suffers with a few bugs; some would say it’s a bit under the weather. Several times we found game breaking bugs or places we couldn’t get out of while exploring which meant we had to either reload our last save point or reload the entire application. Occasionally we had an issue where an item we placed on the ground would fall straight through the world and become irretrievable. We also found some areas to be impassable due to the conditions in the game being too harsh; there was an especially cold section where we continuously died of hypothermia and there was nothing that we could find that would provide us warmth.
The Solus Project is also virtual reality compatible; you are able to play the entire game in PlayStation VR although we’d argue it’s not one of the headset’s better experiences. The motion controls are very fiddly, and we found ourselves constantly referring to the very lacking controls page in the menu due to the title's very unique button mapping. The visuals are rendered in very low resolutions and look like a game from the PlayStation 2 era even when playing on a PS4 Pro. We’d argue that the only benefit in playing this in VR is the sense of scale that you get when walking around the environment. Entering caves is particularly impressive, getting completely engulfed by the entrance is a very satisfying feeling in virtual reality.
The Solus Project is poor survival game that plays far better as a walking simulator. The lack of any guidance in controls and direction will leave you feeling clueless on how to proceed throughout. The environments are bland and barren, and although the weather and day/night cycle offer some positives, they're all ultimately overshadowed by the game’s negatives. To top it all off a below par PlayStation VR option and a large number of bugs turn what could have been a good survival title into a disappointing one.