The Solus Project, a survival adventure title helmed by Teotl Studios, starts off like most stereotypical space stories. In the year 2115, scientists have discovered “a rogue Class-B star traveling towards us. Earth, and the Solar System, will be destroyed.” So, as you may have guessed, you’re tasked with the simple mission of saving mankind.
They won’t be residing on Earth any longer though, as that rogue Class-B star I mentioned destroyed it in 2151. It’s not much after that, and Earth’s human remnants reside within the three Prolus ships currently orbiting around the safe-zone near Pluto. With mankind desperate for a new home, five scout ships are sent to find an inhabitable planet from five potential worlds. This endeavor is known as… drum roll, please… The Solus Project.
Things don’t go well, of course. As you and your colleagues enter the orbit of the world known as Gleese-613-C, your vessel appears to be shot by a missile and careens toward the planet. This is where we first take on the view of our character, and although we don’t have any control at this point, the game does a great job of making the crash scenario tense. Our character eventually awakens within his fallen ship, and as he exits, you get a beautiful view as thousands of ship pieces burn up above as they rip through the atmosphere.
What transpires next gave me a bit of a Lost vibe. You exit the ship and see that your wreckage is strewn all across this foreign beach. Soon you’ll be standing right beside your ship’s engine, and the dire, screaming sound that this lays before you really drives home that your character is screwed. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First you need to get a hold of The Solus Project‘s most prized possession: your World Independent Local Survivor Overseer Node. Yes, quite the mouthful.
This device, WILSON for short (Castaway reference perhaps?), will be in your character’s left hand for the entirety of our adventure. It is your lifeline. At its core, The Solus Project is all about survival, and your WILSON informs you constantly how well you’re doing with regard to your number one priority. On it, you’ll see statuses for health, body temperature, calories, water, sleep, world temperature, humidity and wind. The game teaches you immediately that drinking water, ingesting calories and keeping up your body temperature better be at the forefront of your to-do list.
When I first started the adventure, it took me far longer than it should have to get out of the game’s initial area. The way the game’s item system works is that when you see an item, such as a rock, you can either pick it up or craft with it using items already in your inventory. The problem is, at least on the Xbox One, it’s clunky. So this essential aspect of the game, it’s crafting, comes off as difficult and cumbersome. You’ll eventually get the hang of it, but it never feels “good”.
Once you free yourself of the wreckage area, you’re free to wander pretty much wherever you deem fit. You’re WILSON has a waypoint it sets for you, but you don’t have to immediately head that way. I didn’t at first. And I died quite a few times. The area just begs to be explored, and you’ll be rewarded with helpful items for doing so, but herein lies another big problem with The Solus Project. It feels as though it desperately wants to explored in the way Metroid Prime did so masterfully. But in reality the platforming and general adventuring it presents just isn’t much fun. Mainly because the platforming you think you’re savvy enough to spot and tackle aren’t actually platforming areas at all. Rock formations that appear in the early stages of the game just scream to you that their hiding secrets. In actuality, they’re traps, calling out to and your unsuspecting astronaut so that you land in them and flail around for five minutes before finally resigning to start fresh again – or if you’re lucky – load a recent save.
It’s not all bad in The Solus Project though. In fact, once you learn from your mistakes a few times the game’s atmosphere really begins to pull you in. And while it’s annoying to hear “dehydration imminent” for the hundredth time, the way the game forces you to learn survival skills actually becomes enjoyable once you start to get the hang of it. There’s interesting things taking place in this foreign world, some creepy and some fascinating. And while I don’t want to get into specifics here, once you invest some time in the game you’ll be hard pressed to remove yourself from it before reaching its conclusion.
The preview, which I played on Xbox One but is also available on PC, is pretty meaty. You’ll get a good two and a half hours out of it. And with that, you’ll know for sure whether The Solus Project is for you. If you’re looking for an action-heavy adventure you’ll want to look elsewhere. But if you’re content with just taking your time, finding food and water and exploring this world we’ve dubbed Gleese-613-C, there’s plenty to like here.