Nowadays, many games have ‘survival’ mechanics. A few quick examples include ARK: Survival Evolved, Subnautica, and Minecraft. Each of these games include their own take on health, sustenance, and environmental obstacles. The Solus Project has all of these and keeping up with these survival mechanics makes up most of the gameplay in this gripping game. There is one other thing those 3 games include that I didn’t mention. Simply put, these games aren’t meant to end. Now, I know these games may have an ‘end’ or may have an end patched-in in the future, but my point is that the entire allure of these games is seeing how well you can survive in the worlds they put you up against. I was ill-informed when I started The Solus Project and assumed it was the same way. In fact, I was dissapointed at first when I realized I couldn’t build a shelter or do things I can do in other ‘similar’ games. Having completed the game, I realize just how wrong I was and how this game is more like a survival horror game where you’re tasked with getting from Point A to Point B without being turned into a monster’s plaything. I want to make it clear that this game is very narrative driven and is about surviving, but only until you reach the end of that narrative.
The reason I was so confused is actually really easy to explain. In most horror survival games, you aren’t concerned with whether your character is thirsty, hungry, or tired, as these are not nearly as important as checking to make sure your head is still attached. So when The Solus Project started out with me needing to find food, water, and a torch to keep warm, I could have sworn I was in for another never ending survival game. It was after I realized my torch only went out when I dunked it in water and food did not rot in my inventory that I started to think this game was something different. At first, I struggled with keeping up with all the little things my character needed. I did find that changing the temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit and the KM to MPH made things much easier since I’ve never been properly learned Celsius. The option to change different values like this is very appreciated, since I can’t use Celsius as easy as Fahrenheit.
Fighting the temperature can sometimes be an awfully tough battle since the day/night cycle means you’ll be dealing with heatstroke inducing days and hypothermia filled nights. At times, this felt a little unfair since I ended up with an item I could deploy endlessly to get through hypothermia but couldn’t seem to find any way to deal with heatstroke. This got so bad that I had to lower the difficulty near the end of the game just to live long enough to get through the area I was in. In fact, the difficulty slider in the options is also wonderful as it can help players find out exactly how bad they want heat, cold, wetness, and wind to affect them through their playthrough. At this point, you may have realized I’ve talked very little about the food and water aspects of the game. The thing is, these aren’t that big of deal on the normal difficulty. Sure, at first you feel pressured to keep up with these issues, but soon after you’ll realize there are safe campsites with infinite food and water nearly everywhere. These campsites did save me early on, but once I realized how common they were, I just tried to eat and drink when I absolutely had to because I knew there would be a campsite nearby.
It may seem like I don’t like the food/water gameplay aspects, but I assure you that is false. Without any combat or many puzzles, keeping up with all these things quickly becomes your only real responsibility. Some things may be poorly implemented, but they still help to make the player feel immersed in the game world. For example, there is food in the game that also gives you water when you eat it. This, by itself, isn’t an issue. But when the amount of water given means you don’t need your water bottles, it feels a little silly. Another quick example is sleeping. In The Solus Project, you can only save in 3 situations. These three are if you transition to a new area, activate a Savior Stone, or sleep. The player can only sleep when certain requirements are met, which makes sense seeing as I wouldn’t want to sleep if I were outside in a thunderstorm, suffering from hypothermia, or while meteors are crashing into the ground near me. The problem with sleep is that you can ‘store’ up to 24 hours of sleep and once you can sleep, you can feel free to sleep as long as you like because you’re probably near a campsite with it’s infinite water and food. Throughout my (roughtly) 15 hours of playing, I can say I only slept a handful of times since I’d just wait until my character was close to 0 and just sleep for 24 hours at a campsite. These kinds of oversights are a little too common in the game and I’m sure other more clever players will come up with other ways to outwit the game’s weaknesses.
Unfortunately, I’m very conflicted as there are many things in the game that make it fun while there are nearly as many that make it aggravating or silly. I don’t want to go into too great of detail on any one point so I’m going to name off a bunch of things in rapid fire. We’ll start with the good, the developers did a wonderful job using shadows, mist, and other effects to make the world very visually appealing. I’ve seen others say the game doesn’t look that great, and I agree that many things look worse when looked at up close (the torch is an example that comes to mind). The scenery is where the game looks the best. Next, the sounds and music throughout The Solus Project match with looks of the games to create a very immersive survival experience. Without spoiling anything, I can say I really enjoyed the plot of the game and the frequent, informative moments that furthered the overarching plot seemed to be paced perfectly to keep the game moving forward at all times. If you aren’t trying to move the story forward, maybe you’d rather hunt down some of the games stat-boosting secrets. These secrets make surviving that much easier and can be found all over the place. Some are easy to find and can just be walked up to while others may require some help from the best part of the game, the Teleport Gun. This ‘Gun’ fires plates that the player can teleport to and can be used to get around previously impassable obstacles. Unfortunately, the Teleport Gun can’t save you from the crazy weather that will threaten your existence throughout the varied areas of the game.
There are a couple things that are good and bad in the game. First, the game makes it fairly easy to just follow markers to get you from place to place. This means if you want, you can just follow the markers or choose to look around and ignore the markers. These markers will also force you to retread some old areas later in the game. This is cool because these areas are familiar while also being altered when you retread them. But, this also means you have to see the same areas again, which doesn’t always work. Finally, since you’re on an alien world, there are lots and lots of lore and history throughout the world. This is good because it makes the world feel even more alive even if there may be a little too much at times.
We’ve done the good and the meh so now we need to cover the bad. The first thing I noticed was how awkward moving feels when you first boot up the game. Shortly after, I realized that tutorial was easy to miss, the item wheel often doesn’t go where you want it to, and the crafting is non-intuitive. After I got more comfortable with the game, I noticed the game had failed at tracking my collectibles. This isn’t that big of a deal, just kind of frustrating since there are achievements linked to secrets found. Since I was trying to get through the game as fast as I can, I ran through most of the areas as quickly as I could. I found this made some areas more difficult as I didn’t think ahead and didn’t have enough inventory space to pick up new items (didn’t know which items were useless, lots of them were useless). That covers all but the ‘big three’. First up, the load times, they’re agonizingly long. Anytime The Solus Project has to load, you may as well read a chapter (or two) in a book because you’re going to be there a while. I understand how these are probably necessary, but they are ridiculously long. The load times break the immersion, but not as bad as the lack of plant and animal life. The game claims to have plants that live and die, but I couldn’t find many that actually changed gameplay at all. Animal life is basically completely absent and it’s a real shame. My final gripe is that I realized that many times, the game tries to scare the player or hype them up without any kind of payoff. At first, this is fine because you assume “the next time will be different”, but you can only say that so many times before you realize it never will be.
With all this in mind, I can still say I enjoyed my time playing The Solus Project. The game was able to wow me over and over again even though I only truly felt like I was in danger when I was out in the world and not while the game was trying to hype me up. All in all, the game is great for a playthrough and should be played at least once by any fan of the survival style gameplay.The game has it’s problems, but hopefully the team behind the game will slowly but surely fix some of these issues as the game earns more fans and sales. Even though I generally don’t like sci-fi, The Solus Project was able to captivate me and keep me engaged for many hours.
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