A reader gives his verdict on the recent Xbox Early Access title, and its intriguing mix of sci-fi exploration and survival.
The Solus Project is an odd potato. It’s an indie influenced walking sim/survival sim in the mould of ARK: Survival Evolved or DayZ, via a teleporter accident with The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter or Everyone’s Gone To The Rapture. But it’s hardly been mentioned in the gaming press, go ahead and google it… only 500 hundred thousand-odd pages, barely a drop in the Internet ocean!
So that was my attempt at a joke, but I certainly hadn’t heard of it as I looked through Xbox Early Access for something different and new to play. Here’s what I thought about the experience.
The story goes that our own sun has been pulverised by a rogue red dwarf star, which destroyed the Earth plus all of the other planets closest to it. The human race has made a mad dash to the far end of the solar system to be a toasty distance between itself and its new, vast sun. The final destination is apparently Pluto (the sometimes planet, sometimes not). Tou are part of the last expedition to leave for Pluto and are about to make your final approach when your ship is obliterated by a blast which originates from the planet surface.
What this setup inspires is a mysterious and oddly unsettling atmosphere, the game does an excellent job of making you feel like an astronaut on an alien world. From the weird and wonderful flora and fauna (graphically the game is very accomplished for an Early Access game) to the restricted view from your visor and the eerie soundscape straight from old sci-fi films – full of wails, bleeps, and vibraphone notes.
Of all of the tools used to immerse you the single biggest thing to make you feel like a fish out of water is the survival aspect. You must avoid hypothermia, dehydration, and starvation alongside a need to find out what happened to your ship and the other survivors. From the beginning there are clear signs of an abandoned ancient civilisation (is there any other type?). What happened to them? Who were they? Are they responsible for your predicament?
The mystery plot drives The Solus Project and differentiates it from other straightforward survival sims. You have a point in being where you are and you are trying to understand the events that brought you there. Even though many of the areas are large and open it can appear quite linear if you stick rigidly to the objective markers highlighted by your handheld computer, called Wilson. The nature of the game is to tease you into wandering off the story to reward you with colour in the form of notes, photos and ancient artefacts which provide handy buffs.
There is no combat that I’ve seen so far, apart from the fight to stay alive, but this is complemented by an uneasy sense of dread which pervades the game. It hints that danger is lurking, that you are unprepared for it, and will be defenceless in the face of it. It was this that grabbed me, a feeling of isolation and exploration mingling to make a potent cocktail of solitude and discovery.
Is it for you? I could see people not liking the lack of action in the traditional sense, and the constant need to service your many nagging need. I personally found the atmosphere excellent, a bit like the early part of Fallout 3 when you’re a bit feeble and flailing about but you know you’re going to make it eventually. All of these drove me stumbling head first further into the game world slightly scared and intrigued before I fell head over heels.
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. As always, [email protected] us on Twitter.