The Solus Project review (PS4/PSVR)

The Solus Project is another conversion of an existing PC title to the Playstation VR platform, though it’s also playable without a VR headset. We played it in VR, and here is our account.

When The Solus Project came out last year, I read the reviews but never played it. Most reviews spoke highly of the game’s sci-fi atmosphere though, which is why it stuck with me as a title I was going to keep on my wish list. When I heard it was coming to Playstation VR, I figured that that was going to be the best way to experience the game – not owning a Rift or Vive myself. It turns out that was probably a correct assumption on my part.

The game puts you on an alien planet after a crash landing, and your aim quickly becomes to survive and make contact again with fellow travelers. It’s the kind of setting that I would have jumped on if it had been in the context of a story-driven sci-fi mystery, but The Solus Project was (and is) described as a survival game – which caused some hesitation on my end since it’s not a go-to genre for me. Luckily, in my own experience the game was much more about exploration than it was about survival.

solus project2

Sure, you have to manage your body temperature and make sure you eat and drink enough, but I didn’t find myself scavenging an alien planet and crafting inventory items as much as I feared (based on other survival game experiences). Instead, the areas you explore are rather barren – which goes for both the outdoor and indoor environments. Think caves when thinking indoors, and don’t think about heading in there without some kind of light source either. This isn’t because you’ll be overwhelmed by monsters (The Solus Projects hardly has any combat in it) – it’s simply too dark without it.

My other fear about the survival genre was that the game was going to be lacking in story content, but story development is definitely a factor in the game. Because the alien planet is a lonely place, most of the story development is done through whatever your protagonist says at random intervals – as well as through items that you find and then translate with your computer. The writing isn’t the game’s strongest point though, as it failed to inspire and immerse me – sometimes by being absent for too long, sometimes by seeming irrelevant.

That immersion did come from the game’s excellent sense of atmosphere though, especially in the way the game portrays the hostile conditions of the alien planet. Life-threatening storms and tornadoes roam the surface, and I found my health dropping rapidly at one point just because I was standing still and staring at it, instead of seeking shelter.

solus project3

Objectives usually come in the form of waypoints, which is also how the game’s puzzles and other challenges are structured – they’re generally in the way of your progress and getting by obstacles is an important part of the gameplay. You have a teleportation device and a jump ability, but when your target is obstructed you might also need to resort to breaking down walls using special tools for the job instead. Puzzle design isn’t very complex or satisfying though – in that sense, I really wish The Talos Principle will some day make it to Playstation VR.

Right now, the main control method when playing in VR is using the Move controllers – but the game still allows you to move around somewhat freely by letting you move forward and turn in any direction. This can be finicky, especially in tight spots, but that’s to be expected when using Move controllers. On the plus side, the Move controllers do create a nice immersive sensation in the way they portray your arms in-game – allowing you to glance at valuable stats on one hand while controlling things in the environment with the other. Adding DualShock support would improve movement, but would take away some of the immersion.

Although I still believe that The Solus Project’s setting would have been better served with a more tightly written narrative, its immersive alien environment did win me over. Better writing and more rewarding gameplay could have pushed the game even higher, but it’s definitely another VR title worth adding to your PSVR library.

Score: 7.1/10

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