The Solus Project Casts You As Humanity’s Only Hope

Humanity no longer has a home. Earth has been destroyed, and all that remains of it is on a nomadic fleet of ships searching for a place to rebuild their civilization. In The Solus Project, you take on the role of a surveying team charting an Earthlike planet that may just prove suitable for humanity’s resettlement. Disaster strikes suddenly and you find yourself marooned on the surface of Gliese. Armed with only the most basic knowledge of the dangers the planet holds, you must set out to solve the mystery of the destruction of your ship, and contact your fleet for rescue.

The Solus Project could easily be mistaken for another sci-fi themed survival game.

To an extent it is. You’ve seen these mechanics over and over, and with every new survival title that joins Steam Early Access, you’ll continue to see them crop up. You do have to find food and water, make sure you’re warm and dry and get the right amount of sleep.

The difference is that, like so many other similar games, building isn’t the focus here. You’re not looking for permanent shelter or to set up a forge and blacksmith alien ingots. You’ll need to be on the move most of the time, and in that way, The Solus Project is more of an adventure game sprinkled with elements of survival, and to be frank it works much better this way.

From the start of the game at the crash site, you’re very much on your own. You do have a PDA, but it can only give you basic information on the world around you as far as some “survival suggestions” that aren’t always the most useful guidelines to follow. Instead, you have to explore, explore, explore. And by “explore,” I mean you’ve got to examine the environment as thoroughly as possible and remain alert at all times, just like you’d do in real life. Most of your time is spent searching for items you may require to perform certain tasks or craft better supplies. For instance, you’ll have to tear apart pieces of your own newly-derelict spacecraft to piece together early shelter and additional items. Later on, fresh water and sustenance is the order of the day, and it’s up to you to seek it out if you want to avoid dying of hunger. You’ve also got to watch out for sudden shifts in the atmosphere, as any moment could send a whirling cyclone your way that you’ve got to take shelter from.

If it’s not the weather, it’s your lack of supplies. If it’s not your lack of supplies, it’s your lack of preparedness. It’s a brutal frontier, and you’ve got to be able to handle it. With so much on your plate the focus is removed from building and more on keeping alive by any means possible. With the removal of the need to always worry about building, the exploration aspects of games like Minecraft and Ark: Survival Evolved come to the forefront.

The Solus Project won’t hold your hand, either. In fact, the only real direction you’ll receive lies at the beginning of the game in the form of a brief tutorial. Much like a real disaster in which you may find yourself stranded on an uninhabited alien planet, you’ve got to rely on your wits to survive. That very well could be why I found myself so irresistibly drawn to the game. Too often we expect to be shepherded throughout open worlds that beckon to us, and being left alone to my own devices was a refreshing change of pace. You’re forced to head out and see the alien world you’re on with your own eyes.

Interestingly enough for this type of game, there are no procedurally-generated lands here. I went in expecting the terrain to change shape and alter itself as the game wore on, but that wasn’t the case. The whole map is very carefully laid out; a chilling expanse rife with gorgeous alien foliage in one area to threatening mountain ranges with areas that practically beckon to you to come partake in what they have to offer. If you see it, you can reach it, and you’ll thrill in doing so. The dynamic weather system is one of the most impressive features about the game too. The atmosphere-rich environment creates unique instances, where you might find chilling temperatures in one area and run the risk of dying from hypothermia or find yourself responding to the humidity in another.

It can be difficult to conceptualize where you are in relation to your manmade shelters or the caves you’ve uncovered, and thus it’s a great throwback to the days of games where you might need to make your own maps, which I readily did with MS Paint and haphazard text. I also found myself scribbling down notes as far as how to ride out a storm, what I needed to do in order to find fresh water, and how to approach the dangers of the world.

For those who relish in leaving no stone unturned, the game is incredibly rewarding. There are hidden areas and secrets galore, and most of them can be entirely missed if you just stick to the core mission objectives of surviving. You’ll miss out on some revealing notes, for example, that offer some insight into the overarching narrative. They’re absolutely worth seeking out, too. A great analog would be the FPS games of the mid-to-late ‘90’s. Sure you could finish Duke Nukem or Rise of the Triad without entering a single secret area, but not doing so took a lot away from the experience.

There is a drawback, however, to playing the game in its current state, which is that The Solus Project is extremely short. While I spent 3-5 hours exploring the area, without scouring I could easily have completed this first segment of the game in a an hour or an hour and a half. The current Early Access build is just the first part of many, and it’s a bit frustrating to reach the end of Part 1 and get a screen telling you to wait for Part 2. It’s doubly annoying since right before the first part ends, you start acquiring additional clues as to what might be going on.

What’s interesting to note here is that the game isn’t being released as individual “episodes” as per Telltale Games’ publishing model, but instead in segments that are being added to the base game one by one. However, unlike so many Early Access games, I can already see the shape of the game it’s becoming, and maybe the fact that I was so irritated by the abrupt ending serves to show how involved I had become.

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  1. Gandor says:

    So, similar premise to Subnautica, but on land instead of sea?

    • MrFinnishDude says:

      No, in subnautica you have all your nano-replicator gizmos and such. In it you can just make a factory grade submarine appear if you shove enough stuff into a machine. Also you must collect materials and build bases, just like every other survival game.
      Here its just you and your wits, no replicator nanogizmos, no base building, no “collect 16 alien flint to make a cocktail dress”, no in game wiki that tells you everything.
      Just you. And you must use your head to survive.
      Thats what the term “survival” is all about. What molded our species to what it is.

      • Justoffscreen says:

        So the short answer is yes, it is just like Subnautica on land with less crafting. And all that other shit he said.

        • MrFinnishDude says:

          Dont fall to overly simplified logic. There is a difference in absence.
          It doesn’t mean that it’s the same “but with less stuff”. It places more importance and focus on other things, essentially changing the whole gameplay experience.

        • Jalan says:

          From what I’ve seen of it as played on Xbox One there’s enough crafting there. I mean, there’s even a way to craft an infinitely burning torch. There’s plenty of material gathering, just not in the typical sense that we tend to associate with these sort of games.

  2. CannedLizard says:

    Game developers sure love the Giant’s Causeway type rock formations, don’t they? Dragon Age: Inquisition had the most visible one with the Storm Coast, but I was replaying Wolfenstein: The New Order recently and even they had (minor spoiler warning) magical Jewish technology hidden underwater surrounded by columnar jointed volcanics. Guess it’s indies turns to pile on.

  3. G_Man_007 says:

    That first picture – Rage anyone?

  4. Fersken says:

    I’m put off survival games when you starve to death after less than an hour without eating. Unless you’re a hummingbird I’m fairly certain you could go at least a couple hours before dropping dead.

    This game sounds interesting though, I’ll look further into it when it drops out of Early Access.

    • brucethemoose says:

      What do you expect?

      Sure, someone could make a game where you starve to death after, say, 12 hours instead of days. But without major timeskips, that would still be a very infrequent game mechanic… I can only see it appealing to hardcore survival sim fans, which is a pretty small niche.

      • Fersken says:

        Maybe find some other way to challenge players. Sure, if you’re eating only raw vegetables, you’ll need to stuff your face almost constantly. But if you where to kill a larger animal, like a deer, you should have enough food to last a week.

        But hunting deer (or similar) is more difficult. Patience, considering wind direction, risk not eating this day etc. If you’re successful, then worry about other carnivores stealing your food, and how to store it safely.

        Without food for a time, lower some stats, like stamina.

        Of course, I’m not talking real time, but in-game time. Rarely does one day in the game equal 24 real hours.

        • Geebs says:

          Humans are particularly well adapted to starvation, which makes the whole “you died of hunger in 12 in-game hours, in your sleep” thing too ridiculous for me to bother contemplating survival games as a genre.

          • slerbal says:

            I completely agree. It frustrates me me no end, not only because it is so at odds to reality, but because it makes the game nothing more than “keep two bars constantly filled” and it just one more kind of pointless and unsatisfying grind.

          • Jalan says:

            “Humans are particularly well adapted to starvation”

            Some even going so far as to claim they don’t need food to live.

            Breatharianism doesn’t seem to be high on any developer’s to-do list when they come up with these games though.

          • Blackcompany says:

            Geebs you absolutely nailed it. This mirrors my feelings on the this entire “genre” of game perfectly. I honestly wish it would just die so these skilled developers could move on to something that is far less tedious and maybe even – gasp – actually fun to play.

          • aepervius says:

            Same for me. I wish they would go a route similar to Far Cry 2 : instead of being starvation it should be that you , I dunno, dependent on insuline or similar. Or maybe that planet does not have some essential element needed for survival, for example no iron or potassium or something. So the crafting is not anymore about starvation , but actually maintaining your homeostasis over short period of time rather than starvation which is ridiculous.

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            DelrueOfDetroit says:

            Why nobody has made a zombie apocalypse game where you play as a diabetic is beyond me. (Unless they have and I am just unaware of it)

            Or a heroine addict. Imagine playing a game where you simultaneously need to find demons while fighting demons!

          • KreissV says:

            The problem with a lot of these types of games is that ‘survival’ (I wish I could make those quotation marks larger) is supposed to be the main gameplay feature, which once you’ve mastered it, is done. Once you have a full fridge of food, a shelter and what have you in games such as Minecraft, Ark, Subnautica, Dayz, 7Days To Die, Rust, H1Z1, Stranded Deep etc. then the core game is just about over. Which is what makes Minecraft and Solus (in my few hours of playing it) so much more interesting.

            Minecraft has endless possibilities due to their modding API and the community, survival is no longer the main point of the game, people start making their own quests, craft rockets to get to space, build a factory, make mini-games through coding, the focus shifts. In Solus, survival is but a small focus, the game relies on exploration as a mechanic, which is great because the exploration actually leads to more story/plot progression rather than say exploring in Ark.

            A big killer for these games is the question of “why”. I could go forage for more food before I starve in 12 hours like some constantly malnutrition-suffering man, but why? So I can do it again in another 12 hours? There’s no point, but with Solus you explore and the plot progresses and you actually move the game forward, the survival aspect is simply a vehicle you need to keep repaired in order to drive you through the game.

            TL;DR: Games with actual progression in story/goals keep interest much longer than ‘survival games’ where the only point of the game is to survive but amount to nothing else.

        • draglikepull says:

          In The Long Dark, if you kill a deer, you can take several kilograms of meat from it. It takes up inventory space, but if you can find a safe place to leave the meat (like a cabin), it can be enough food to feed you for a while.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Yeah, Long Dark isn’t too bad for this, but you still start starving pretty quickly. I guess that’s justified by the extreme cold, though, and the effort of hacking up furniture and building fires etc.

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            DelrueOfDetroit says:

            Oregon Trail has taught me that any human being is only capable of carrying 100lbs of meat and not a single gram more!

  5. SpinyNorman says:

    Thanks, good to hear. I’m interested in this enough to not play it in early access.


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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Also, does anyone find the HDR look to this game as kind of ugly?

  7. Neutrino says:

    So what’s the difference between an episode and a segment then?