It’s kismet. Just the other day, ignorant of the existence of The Solus Project, I remarked to a gamer friend, “Wouldn’t it be fun to play a game about crash landing on an alien planet where survival is the sole objective?” Sure enough, a few days later, I was ironically tasked with writing a “hands-on” preview article featuring The Solus Project, which just so happens to be a game about surviving on an alien planet following a crash landing. The Solus Project is a first person exploration and survival title developed with Unreal Engine by Teotl Studios. It is currently in Early Access on Steam and available as an Xbox game preview.
After landing on the planet Gliese-6143-C and regaining consciousness, I peered at the small handheld PDA (remember PDAs?) that displayed a slew of vital stats regarding my physical condition and my surroundings. The “Welson TSP3” PDA reported my current body temperature, health, sleep condition, and calorie intake. It also displayed environmental conditions, such as the humidity, wind speed, and temperature. I quickly learned my survival depended on understanding this data and reacting to it accordingly. I left the pod I landed in and took one giant leap onto an unknown planet.
A heavy rock was on the ground in front of me. I picked it up and combined it with another rock, subsequently crafting a “sharp rock.” It turned into a tool I could use to make rope and cut hanging moss, which is more important than you may initially think. My first objective was to find a perpetual heat source in order to prevent hypothermia during the planet’s awfully cold nights. Parts of the doomed spaceship were scattered across the landscape, bits and pieces of burning debris all around. Diary entries and handwritten notes littered the alien ground. This literature offered insights into a fellow crew member’s mind and general tips for surviving on the planet.
Outside of a nearby narrow cave was the vast majority of what remained of my disassembled spacecraft. The cave looked like a haven of shelter, but I avoided it until the inevitable night fell. The jet propulsion system continued to fire like dragon’s breath, providing a warm area to increase body temperature and an endless means of fire. I carried my recently-assembled, makeshift torch, which was just a pipe fitted with oil-saturated moss, over to the flame and it caught afire. A simple pipe was now a mobile source of light and warmth, essential to my long-term survival. Feeling like Prometheus, I ventured into the aforementioned cave to hunker down for the frigid night. I needed sleep, but I was on the brink of dehydration and starvation. The cave had plants to consume and an infinite well of drinking water flowing through its walls. Utilizing a weird plant as kindling, I lit a fire to keep me warm throughout the night. I set my alarm on the ever-handy PDA and planned my activities for the next day. As I slipped into sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about the glowing, ominous obelisk behind me. I slept while the stone hummed a celestial tune and emanated an exotic white light…
There’s much more to The Solus Project than just survival, hence the mention of a preternatural obelisk in the previous paragraph. Indeed, it’s essential to make sure you have enough food, water, and heat, but there seems to be a figurative ocean of intricacy to explore beneath the game’s surface. Even though you spend time balancing your physical stats, it gradually becomes secondhand, and wanderlust comes to the forefront of your mind. Questions begin to emerge the longer you’re on the mysterious planet. The alien plant life, the strange critters that scurry around, and recovering pieces of the destroyed ship all adds to your appetite for exploration.
What secrets lie around this corner? What are these glowing runes? Why and how did you end up here? Only in exploring the planet may you find the answer to these questions. Afterward, you will likely have even more enigmas to ruminate on. Although there are exceptions, most survival games lack a compelling story. The Solus Project at first has a rather bare-bone story. The absent narrative is filled in as you explore, like after an amnesiac that wakes up in an unfamiliar world inhibited by zombies. Nearly every item you come across is a means to uncovering The Solus Project’s buried story.
Artifacts add extra depth to The Solus Project. These seemingly-magical totems and relics buff your character in an RPG-like fashion. One may look like an ancient Egyptian staff and once picked up, it adds resistance to hypothermia, starvation, or any one of the other lethal effects. The core gameplay mechanics also deepen the further you progress within the world. The teleportation device injects a puzzle aspect into the game. The more innocuous environmental effects–such as humidity, wind, and dampness–seem arbitrary in the beginning; however, belated events emphasize these environmental repercussions and make surviving all that more problematic.
So far, The Solus Project feels like a blank canvas where magic can happen. I don’t mean “blank” as in there’s nothing there. Plenty of room exists for your own adventure. The survival and open-world exploration will ensure all of our experiences to be singular. Even though you are alone, it doesn’t feel like a lonely game. For these reasons, I am excited to see how The Solus Project plays and looks in its final form. It feels like a finished project in numerous ways already, so it is sure to be even more enjoyable in May when it’s slated for release.