So apparently, this idea of survival games is all the rage lately. I guess, the incentive of ‘staying alive’ has always permeated video-gaming experiences, but now starvation, hypothermia and dehydration have joined the ‘let’s kill the protagonist’ party. And they’ve done so to critical acclaim. Honestly, I’d never tried my hand at the genre. I figured that I have enough trouble sleeping and feeding myself in real life, and starving in two realms would only add insult to injury. Alas, intrigue eventually got the better of me. And in spite of my everyday problems, I’ve spent the past week playing the preview release of Teotl Studios and Grip Games upcoming collaboration: The Solus Project.

The game occurs in a terrifying future; Earth is destroyed and mankind clings to survival on a fleet of spaceships near Pluto. In a last ditch effort, you are sent to scout a nearby planet in the hope that it could support a human colony. However, your ship crashes, your team dies and you are left to explore and survive on the alien environment of Gliese-6143-C.

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What’s threatening about this planet isn’t its inhabitants – in fact, I’m not sure I came across a single enemy – it’s the world itself. The environment is ever changing. Days can reach upwards of 45°C, so dehydration is almost always a worry. Despite the scorching heat, you’ll want to stay dry because nights often plummet below -30°C. The game actually keeps track of your ‘wetness’, be it from sweat, rain or sea. So if you don’t dry off before nightfall, or even before one of the volatile changes in Gliese’s weather, you’ll be met with a terrifying message: ‘hypothermia imminent’.

Honestly, almost everything on Gliese can kill you. And it’s easy to forget that because almost everything on Gliese is gorgeous. The sporadic weather changes can easily catch you off-guard. One minute you’ll be watching nearby planets orbit by, or watching the colours refract across the landscape, the next you’ll be running to shelter from a storm or even an earthquake. And even if you make it back safe, when you surface again, things will be different. Plants respond to the climate, and are destroyed by weather. Tides rise and fall; meteors crash. And all the while the fate of humanity rests of your shoulders.

The thing with The Solus Project is that if your own well being isn’t enough incentive to survive then the entire fate of humanity should be. The objectives guide you through a step-by-step process of establishing contact with the rest of humanity. You’ll salvage supplies from the wreck of your ship, and explore Gliese’s islands through underground cave systems. Your ultimate goal is building a radio transmitter, but it’s easy to get waylaid. Survival isn’t easy, and the world is daunting – in both good and bad ways. If you’re the curious type, you might delve deep enough into the planet to uncover some of its secrets. A civilisation has definitely left its mark on the planet, and the developers claim that there are answers to be found for those tenacious enough to explore. Maybe you’ll attempt to make survival easier by uncovering the artifacts that upgrade your stats and resistance.

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In the parts I played I took the more straightforward approach. The whole solitary feel of the game was terrifying, specifically for someone as new to the genre as I am, and specifically with the possibility of total human extinction hanging overhead. I’ve only played the first few hours of The Solus Project, so any major plot twists are still mysteries to me. I’m as confused as anyone else about the effigies found on Gliese’s islands, and about the eventual fate of humanity. But I’m keen to see where Teotl Studios and Grip Games take things.

I’m not going to comment on the state of the game or any of its mechanics. The game is still in its preview mode, and judging it upon its pre-release state is like hating bacon because pigs stink. I will say that I am thoroughly excited to totally immerse myself in The Solus Project upon its full release in May. We will have a verdict for you then, so stay tuned.

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