Disclaimer: This review is based primarily on Oculus Rift gameplay; the game can also be played on Vive and a standard monitor.
One day you're sitting around in your spaceship, cruising the dark depths, minding your own business, when a projectile comes flying out of a nearby planet, causing you to crash-land. Oh, yeah, you're also one of the last surviving members of the human race. The rest of your friends are hovering somewhere around Pluto, waiting for a message as to whether or not Gliese-6143-C — the planet you're sent to explore — is a suitable home for a colony.
You awake, thrown from your escape pod, to find tools and papers strewn about. Your spaceship also lies in ruin. The planet looks mildly familiar — it's clear from the pounding waves that you're on the coast, and there are some fern-like plants waving in the wind. Something that looks like a windmill is just out of view, made hazy by the sea's spray.
As you walk around the beach, pages from a diary or log flutter in the wind. As you read them, you're given a bit more of a backstory than was given briefly at the very start of the game. Are the people who wrote these pages still alive? A ball of fire goes streaking across the sky, and you hear a crash nearby. Time to investigate.
Crafting tools to keep you alive
You start off holding only a PDA that scans items and lets you know how you're faring health-wise. It's a clever way of having a HUD without ruining immersion.
As you collect items, both from the crash and from the natural landscape, you're urged to craft new stuff. This is a regular part of the survival genre, but I've seen crafting done much better elsewhere. In order to combine two items, you have to toss one on the ground, pull out the other, and then click and hold while pointing at the item on the ground. Why not just let me craft within the menu?
One of the first items you craft is a torch, using a pole, some dry foliage, and oil left over from the crash. Once you get the torch lit, it stays lit forever and never burns out. Further down the line you'll discover more intricate crafting options, but one thing remains the same: you can basically figure out the recipes using common sense, rather than having to memorize complex recipes.
At some point — I don't really remember where — I realized that I hadn't crafted anything in a while, nor had I been pressed to find any survival items. There is enough fresh water dripping from cave ceilings, and enough power-ups — +1 to thermal resistance, etc. — lying around that you'll almost forget entirely that you're trying to survive. Those of you looking for a hardcore survival sim might not enjoy this, but the game does a good job of keeping you entertained despite the lack of pressing survival issues.
Puzzles and storyline
The storyline, while not in your face, kept me guessing throughout, and took quite a bit of time to get through — about 15 hours. I love this type of slow-burn reveal, especially when the story gets darker and darker as you go along. Without spoiling anything, know that how you're thinking the game ends at the start and middle really isn't how the game ends.
There are plenty of puzzles to solve while you spelunk, but none of them are very challenging. Put a rock here, turn this over here, move along. In fact, the most challenging thing I discovered about this game was trying to accurately shoot the teleportation disk when it seems like a lot of boundaries of the game have no textures. My disk would kertwang off in a random direction when there was no visible thing to bounce off of.
So, we have here a survival game that's easy to survive, a storyline that is less incredible than it is unpredictable, and a system of puzzles that is less intricate than it is time-consuming. Where's the fun?
Living in tornado alley
The Solus Project is truly a joy to look at while strapped into your Rift or Vive. From the moment you wake amongst your ship's wreckage, to the moment you uncover what the planet's really hiding, you'll be left agape. Set design and art is phenomenal; there's just enough of a hint on the horizon of what's to come, and when you get there you'll want to walk over every inch of it.
Sound is a huge part of the immersiveness of VR, and again The Solus Project nailed it. Whether it's the dripping of water in caves or the roar of a tornado about to set down next to you, you'll be fooled into believing it's all real. I don't think I've ever had my heart pound as hard in a VR game as when I was running from that first damned storm. When things are quieter, you'll be treated to a soundtrack that is pleasant to listen to for long periods of time.
If you want a VR game in which you can spend hours just walking around and looking at stuff, this is it. The world created here is truly a gift for the curious, and you'll be rewarded for your exploration. There are five islands to traipse across — each connected by a cave system — that each hold something new and mysterious.
If you're looking for a VR game that puts you into a new world and makes you explore it, this is the one for you. No, it doesn't have a billion planets you can fly between, but it does have one planet that took time and care to craft.
There is nothing truly groundbreaking about the VR aspect of The Solus Project — it was never originally a VR game — but once you've tried it with the Rift or Vive, you won't want to go back to a regular monitor. This is by far one of the most immersive games I've yet tried in VR.
It's becoming evident as time goes on that exploration and survival games are the bread and butter of VR. First-person view, an enormous landscape, and some terrifying scenarios all add up to a great time, even if the actual survival part of the game is taken care of rather early in your progress. At only about $20 on Steam, this is a great title to add to your VR inventory.
- Beautiful world to be explored
- Your ears will love the soundtrack and effects
- Story will keep you guessing
- Survival aspect is lacking
- Puzzles don't take a genius to solve