The folks at Grip Digital S.R.O. went all out to create The Solus Project, a game playable in VR and standard 2D format in the same title. In an attempt to boldly go where no man or woman has gone before (well, at least not many), this survival title finds you stranded on an alien planet after some complications in orbit. Choosing either a male or female voice, players begin their journey with a little bit (and I mean a little bit) of survival training. Now as a big VR fan, I decided that the best way forward would be to experience this new world in all its glory using my Playstation VR headset and strap in for a very bumpy ride.
The Solus Project is…
In the very distant future, Humanity is facing extinction. Our mission is to find a planet that we can live on and survive the Human race. The Solus Project has managed to locate several planets which suit our needs, and we are charged with a mission of exploration and survival if we are to have any chance of success. The name given to this planet is Gliese-6143-C. The mission falls just short of: abandon all hope, as we crash land and survive the disaster. Unfortunately, you are the only one who does.
As we emerge from our escape pod surrounded by the wreckage which just so happens to be our ship, I look around to take in the very degraded graphics which most certainly had to be sacrificed to make the title work in VR. Now I’m not at all saying they were horrible because trust me I’ve seen worse. But it does look completely different from those who choose the 2D option. I spot some items on the floor, one of them a PDA which sparks off the start of our mission to find out if anyone else has survived the crash.
Forward Vector, or Something Like That
Almost all of the time we spend running around this bizarre planet, the words Forward Vector will be visible in the direction of our current goal. This is our indication of where the hell to next. Most games have a map or a mini-map to let you know where things are. That is not the case with The Solus Project. In addition to the big green and white sign of the Forward Vector, there are two other indicators as to where things might be. One is a pulsating blue circle which is used to detect much needed bits of tech to progress in the game. The other is a white box with a black arrow which tells you there are secrets and places of interest when these points are reached. Without the aid of anyone (until the last couple of Acts), I brushed aside the need to jump straight on YouTube and tell me where on Earth (Gliese-6143-C) I was going. I spent countless hours looking for places that didn’t come with a GPS route to it which kinda makes the game a bit tedious after a while.
Say Hello to my Annoying Little Friend
The survival of our lovely scientific character is essential to this game, obviously. But no one is really prepared for how difficult that can be with no way to recall the training given at the start. The PDA we picked up next to our escape pod is at the very least the most annoying piece of… technology, I have ever come across. There’s nothing like falling into a body of water (Oh and there is plenty of that going on) and thinking: “Whoops, my bad” and then every 10 seconds, consistently hearing: “operator is cold and wet, hypothermia is imminent”. Even though the PDA gives us every bit of information we need and we couldn’t possibly live without it, I would quite happily welcome the option of taking out the batteries and tossing the ‘lifeline’ into the drink. As it measures everything from body temperature to wind speed and anything else you can think of, we really do need to keep this thing around.
It is important to know that the elements play a massive part in staying alive as do certain tools and materials. Most of the time I spent playing ended with me dying from hypothermia because I wasn’t sure how to build a fire as I forgot from the training at the beginning. I had to wait a painfully long time for the game to reload and next time trying not to fall into the water that killed me in the first place. And honest to goodness I never worked out how to build a decent fire until the end of act IV. This means I died. A lot.
Are You Kidding? No KFC?
Two things that constantly keep you on your toes; one: your hunger level; two: your thirst level. These fall at a far quicker rate than anything else, making you clog up your inventory space with supplies you might need later on. At the start, anywhere you find some of your ship wreckage, you will find tins of unopened food and bottles of water. In later stages, these become less frequent and you have to rely on alien grub instead of a canned McDonalds. Water is a little easier to find as you spend quite a lot of time beneath the surface of the planet, descending into caves and hidden underground temples and tombs which have either fresh water coming from above or a massive marble looking water trough to replenish your thirst. Storing food and drink in empty containers is also a wise move as you don’t know whether you might run low during a mountain run or get stuck in a cave during one of the many storms that plague the land.
In the Eye of the Storm
Storms are another nuisance that tries to keep you down in an already bad situation. These storms can be anything from standard downpours to full on meteor showers. Each storm delivers a different type of threat to your well being. For example, a not so dangerous singing-in-the-rainstorm will cause you to become wet (really?) and if the temperature drops then you will also become cold (you don’t say) which arouses the silly little talking gadget with its: “Operator is cold and wet. Hypothermia is imminent” speech. This means you need to find shelter and find a way to dry yourself off and get warm again before you freeze to death.
This is where building a decent fire becomes very handy. Pay attention to how this is done at the beginning like I didn’t and you will be fine. Next up is a lightning storm cooked up by Zeus himself as multiple bolts of said lightning smash into the ground or on top of you depending on your path (it is random, there is no path apparently). This causes electrocution (imagine that) which deducts 100 from your health points. Staying in cover and waiting for the storm to clear is the safest way to survive the onslaught.
The Name of the Game
So we have our mission, but what does this mean exactly? It means we are going to spend countless hours looking for things that we need and finding out where all of the temples and buildings come from. Throughout Gliese-6143-C, there are a number of strange looking runes and headstones. Each of these pieces of literature and art contains a fragment of a story explaining what happened to the native inhabitants of the planet. The further we delve into the mysterious world, the more we uncover about a second race that shared this planet. These are known only as the Sky Ones. A race which presumably dropped out of the sky stayed for tea and never left. These aliens are depicted as giants all across the board. They were seen as gods and were worshipped by the lesser tribal race. But what happened to both of these races? That my friends is an answer that you can only find out yourself. I’m saying nothing.
It’s All a Mystery to Me
With no enemies or foes to face, this game becomes very difficult to spend long periods of time playing. With plenty of puzzles to solve and stones to read, the game has quite a bit of content. The trouble is, all the puzzles are the same: find a switch, open the door. Find a key, open the other door. Nothing is really mind-challenging. That being said there is a couple of encounters which insist that you don’t hang around to face a consequence but even then, it’s only a few times. The most satisfying thing about this game is finding the secret artifacts littered all over the place, which add attributes and buffs to your character. Most of these items are very tough to find and I honestly believe that I found most of my artifacts by accident instead of sheer determination. There’s also a lot of journal entries from the crew of your ship which make for an interesting read and even some pictures of the developers were added, implying that they are literally the crew. They even put some pet pictures from some of the community players in the full game. There were some shock surprises for me once I got a bit further into the game. I won’t tell you exactly what they were but if you don’t already feel weirded out by being stuck on a deserted alien planet, you will be.
When It’s All Said and Done
This game has some really great moments which raises the bar for future VR and even 2D games alike. My only disappointments are for such a long game, there isn’t really anything other than walking around and reading which feels more like a chore than an accomplishment. The lack of a sprint button for the VR version means it can take an awfully long time to reach anywhere. Some of the caves can even keep you running (walking) around in circles which soon takes the fun out of exploring on Gliese-6143-C. Another gripe I have and it’s a shame but the loading times are infuriating. If you have been stuck in a cave for over an hour (maybe even 2 hours) walking around desperate for an exit and you die of hypothermia, the time it takes to reload is far too long and you have to look at the same pictures of the game and also the same piece of haunting music. At the start, the music was fine, but if I died in a difficult spot multiple times it becomes unbearable. Every loading screen consists of the same pictures with the same music on a loop. But there are some good points to be made for The Solus Project. The atmosphere alone is quite haunting and can be visually creepy at times. There’s also some really weird static white noise and screeches which can make you feel uneasy too. This makes the game a bit more realistic for me and I love how the developers were able to make me of all people, feel uneasy.
If you like wandering around, discovering mysteries and looking for items, then The Solus Project is definitely for you. Grip Digital S.R.O. know how to tell a story and I genuinely look forward to their future releases.