If you're a fan of PC gaming, you likely know two distinct genres have produced some of the more intriguing experiences of the past few years: survival games, and walking simulators.
It goes without saying these two styles of games appeal to some pretty specific tastes. If you're not into harrowing, punishing experiences that require meticulous planning, survival games probably aren't for you. And if you don't dig mostly passive explorations of worlds and characters, you've probably steered yourself far away from Gone Home and the like. If you consider yourself in either of these two groups, I have some good news: The Solus Project cherry-picks the best elements of these genres for a great experience that still feels like its own thing—and one that's completely accessible.
The opening of The Solus Project finds you as a survivor of a failed colonization mission, stranded on an alien world and forced to simply survive. Unlike most games with a focus on survival, The Solus Project isn't really sandboxy: Instead, it's designed to push you down a fairly wide path while dropping hints of its story along the way. Of course, you'll still have to stay alive via mechanics you'll find pretty basic if you've ever played a survival game: eating, drinking, staying warm, and getting enough rest. While there's still a lot to keep track of, The Solus Project does a great job of streamlining these necessities—and including a PDA to let you know when it's time to take care of certain needs.
Even if The Solus Project's world doesn't feel quite as dangerous as those of other survival games, it still offers a healthy level of tension to keep you from dawdling. You don't need to, say, boil water, cook food, or address the problems of each individual body part, but there's still an implicit timer in the background, ticking away the minutes to your death.
Above all, The Solus Project does a great job of keeping you engaged with its world—and that's a good thing, seeing as said world is so beautifully rendered. Instead of digging through menus, you can simply scroll the mousewheel to sort through your current items on hand, and simply looking downward brings up a PDA that gives you a basic readout of your stats, as well as information on any objects you can interact with. Even crafting is done right in front of you: Just drop whatever you want to combine on the ground, get out the item you want to combine it with, and you're good. The Solus Project also soups up your movement options to make travel a breeze: Early on, you're given a device that can fire a disc which you can then transport yourself to with the push of a button. This comes in handy when you want a safe space to immediately return to, or if you need to reach an area, but would rather not fall to your death to get there.
I've only had a few hours to explore The Solus Project, and while I definitely feel like it's guiding me down a prescribed path, it's also not an experience that feels heavily scripted. While I haven't run into any other living things as of yet, this new planet has certainly given me a few surprises. A sudden rainstorm broke out as I was exploring, and instead of ducking into a cave, I traipsed through the torrents until I spotted a funnel cloud swirling off in the distance—and approaching fast. The next minute saw me frantically scrambling for shelter as wind threatened to rip me apart right then and there. It's these kind of unpredictable moments that keep you on your toes, and add just the right amount of hostility to the alien landscape around you.
It's a shame that The Solus Project is just coming out now, since I'm guessing it may get lost in the whirlwind of E3 news over the next week. But if you don't have eight hours set aside for the sake of frothing over publisher press conferences, definitely consider giving this affordable little adventure a try. And be sure to check back soon, because if it grabs my attention for long enough, you may be able to find an official review right here on USgamer.