Having crashed onto a hostile planet and spat out on the ground amidst the wreckage of your ship, you must survive under hostile conditions—that's your directive in The Solus Project. With a limited number of slots to carry items, deciding which item to drop in order to pick up something you need for use can be a harrowing choice. In one section, I watched another player temporarily drop their flashlight, pointed straight at a game puzzle, then nervously picked up the piece that would solve it off the ground and used it before hurriedly picking the flashlight back up.
Like other games in the genre, The Solus Project has gorgeous environments, but its gameplay is a bit more challenging than the passive developments of a walking simulator/adventure genre. In the game, your right hand always displays your vital statistics; if any of them get into the red, it becomes a desperate struggle to survive.
Nothing seems too worrisome during the first section of exploration, where the player tries to find a key to what appears to be a locked ruin under a pink afternoon sky, amidst a beach flush with plant life. However, this is complicated quickly as night begins to move, following a fantastic but destructive meteor shower at twilight.
Or perhaps not a meteor shower, as a rocket soon crashes nearby with provisions inside, the key just beyond. Moving quickly back to the entrance opens up a new area, but a mechanism inside needs something to cause it to start. Dashing back out into the night, you can find another key you passed by before; but the longer you remain outside, the lower your body temperature gets. I was lucky enough to watch the player before me heat themselves at the rear of a jet engine that was still firing after it fell to the planet's surface nearby. Good idea, sir.
The actual solution lay back in the chamber with the machine, deceptively hidden in the dark. The runaround did impress me and other people playing the demo, and how much survival and monitoring your vitals is a part of the experience. I checked my other vitals and drank some water, just to be sure that nothing else was going to fail before moving on into the murky shadows of the cave, before the screen darkened and the demo ended.
As mentioned prior, The Solus Project looks absolutely gorgeous. The golden grasses sway and whip with the winds, the moons (perhaps planets?) hang in the yellow and amber sky, and the water on the shores gently laps against the beach. With the emphasis on environmental puzzle solving over more dynamic elements, these games can afford to spend their budgets on their environments, and Solus is no slouch in this department, filled with otherworldly beauty and a clean science-fiction look that recalls the look of science fiction book covers from the '80s on.
The Solus Project demo was short, but definitely attention grabbing with its physical beauty, survival mechanic, and dynamic shifts in weather and day/night cycle. The game is set to release early in 2016 on the Xbox One and PC.