Many of us dream of going to space, blasting off through the atmosphere in a spacecraft destined for other worlds. Though that might not be a possibility for most, even within our lifetime, it doesn't mean we can't daydream of the adventure.
With the wonder that is virtual reality, that space adventure can be made tangible. That's what the developers of The Solus Project have tried to do, by creating a single-player space adventure/survival game for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, that puts you on a distant alien planet fighting for survival.
A vast atmospheric adventure
It's the classic tale: at some point in the future, Earth has been destroyed and the last remnants of mankind are aboard a fleet of ships looking for a suitable new home. A disaster strikes and your ship is knocked out of the skies, coming crashing down onto a planet below.
Stranded alone on the planet's surface, we found our job was one of desperate survival. The terrain is apparently harsh and the climate equally so. You're forced to quickly gather supplies, including food, water and a flaming torch to light your way.
Although free to explore the planet's surface, you're faced with a day and night climate cycle and a dynamic weather system that includes torrential downpourings, meteor showers, extreme weather anomalies and more. Seeking shelter and the warmth of a glowing fire is often a must in order to survive.
But the quest here isn't just for survival. No, your goal is to hunt the surface for signs of other survivors while also collecting parts for a communication beacon to warn the rest of the fleet of both the disaster and the danger that has befallen your crew.
Your only company is a small handheld scanner that can be used to assess local food sources or warn you when your health is in danger. This little box of tricks also regularly reminds you that your mission is key to the survival of the entire human race - so no pressure or anything.
The main path of the story takes you off in hunt for specific objectives, but you're also free to explore the vast landscape around you. Although it's rather perilous: other intriguing landmasses can be seen jutting out into the sea, but wading into the waters soon finds you drenched and being warned of impending hypothermia.
There's a basic crafting system that includes simple things like bashing large rocks against tin cans in order to get some food to eat. There are also numerous simple puzzles that need to be completed to carry on along your journey. And additional items, such as a larger backpack to carry more inventory.
The pull of the main objectives begins by leading you into some dark caverns, searching out a strange alien noise calling from within. We put this off for a while, fearing the worst and wishing to prepare with any gear we could find. Instead, we set off into the distance, poking about looking for things to help us get by, which is part of the fun of this open-world.
Signs of life
Eventually we had to return to the main mission, though, by investigating that alien sound. Disturbing alien egg sacks and strange creatures lie hidden in the depths. These don't seem to be a threat at first - they just make a horrid noise as if frightened by your presence and the bright light from your torch, then scurry off into the dark.
Then we started to discover alien artefacts that gave us some extra resistance to hypothermia, and found strange cave paintings that told of an alien race of god-like creatures that came from the stars. We began to wonder if there was life on the planet and if it was hostile.
Although this isn't a horror game by any means, there were a number of occasions where we found ourselves suffering from goosebumps or being startled by our discoveries. We won't spoil it too much though. Discovery is half the fun.
The voice acting is also remarkably well acted. Every now and then your character will record a log of his findings - a verbal diary for others to find if he doesn't make it. This re-telling of things you've already witnessed really helps set the tone. As do the intermittent broadcasts we occasionally picked up on our scanner, such as words from other ships in the fleet.
That's what's really enthralling about The Solus Project: its brooding atmosphere, the voyage of discovery, the mystery that lurks within the depths of the planet. It's a thoroughly enjoyable adventure game that'll keep you coming back for more.
The Solus Project is everything we hoped it would be. A brilliantly crafted space survival adventure, full of mystery and intrigue that's not over-burdened with the constant hassles of survival mechanics.
You're free to explore the alien planet at risk of your own peril, while also being dragged into a world of discovery and adventure. We found ourselves pulled in by the story and enthralled by the atmosphere.
Of course, the length of the gameplay will depend on how much you want to wander around on your own, but we found we could certainly spend hours and hours in this universe.