Solaris: Off-World Combat

Developer / Publisher – First Contact Entertainment
Price – US $24.99 / CA $28.99 / EU €24.99  / UK £22.19 / AU $34.95
Release date – September 24th, 2020
Control Method – 2 x Tracked Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Reviewed on – Oculus Rift, Quest 2
Store Links – Oculus

The next multiplayer combat game from the creators of Firewall: Zero Hour is here and goes in a very different direction from that Rainbow Six style PSVR exclusive title.  Gone is the slower pacing of tactical combat and instead we are given a fast-paced E-sport style arena shooter, similar to Unreal or Quake, where teams of 4 must compete in king of the hill type action across a few different maps.

GO GO GO!!!

Solaris plays in traditional FPS fashion with a few little quirks that add a bit of depth to the action, regardless of the platform you play on.  For starters, you can sprint which is pretty stock, but you can also slide while running allowing you to come around corners at an angle that your opponents may not be facing.  While you have 2 hands, the guns you wield only require 1 and thus only 1 hand is tracked with your off hand sitting naturally at your side unless your gun hand is centered to your vision, in which case your other hand will automatically grab on to the gun.  Each match starts you with a stock pistol with additional weapons being scattered around the map like shotguns and grenade launchers.  Also scattered around each stage are health pickups, mines and a physical shield you can drop for some additional defense.  Control Point is the only game mode currently available which pits 2 teams of 4 in classic king if the hill action where the hill in question randomly appears throughout the map after one team has spent 30 seconds of time in it.  Should a rival player enter that area, the timer is on hold until one of the factions is destroyed.  There are 6 maps that are randomly chosen and should you reach certain levels based upon the experience accrued from kills and victories, you can unlock custom modifications for your avatar with many of these requiring significant play time to achieve.

It’s worth picking up a bigger gun!

Solaris is all about polish and delivers a game with striking presentation thanks in large part to the superbly mapped avatars, both yours and your allies no matter which headset you play this on.  Other than some minor loss in detail and some slightly flatter looking textures, the Quest 2 version and the Rift version look surprisingly similar.  You all play as Athlons, Elite VR athletes who definitely look the part as they are wearing some futuristic body suits with some very slick helmets.  Those helmets are how you view the action with you physically grabbing a helmet in front of you at the game’s onset.  The menu and HUD in the helmet is very reminiscent of the Iron Man films and VR game and are a fantastic way of immersing you in this competitive world.  The stages themselves are rather stark and barren but pop thanks to the rigid art style used which combines simple color palettes and some neon lighting to make for a game that looks very refined.  In truth I got Tron vibes from the presentation and though it lacks the blue and black style from that franchise, the similarities are apparent.  That said, the 6 stages have dramatically different layouts but tend too look remarkably similar aesthetically and I did wish for a little more variation between the stage’s individual themes.   Weapons have varying effects but another standout is when an Athlon dies, causing it to fall or jump in the air organically in slow motion before fading out of existence which was an effect that just never got old to me.   Even watching your hands animate just by twisting your wrist showcases realistic looking movements and when it’s all said and done, Solaris is striking beautiful in its simplicity.

Audio wise, there isn’t too much to talk about but that’s not a bad thing as everything sounds exactly as it should.  3D audio is here though given just how fast paced almost every moment is in here, I was relying way more on my eyes than my ears to determine where the enemy may be coming from.  Some ambient 80’s sci-fi music plays quietly in the background and never gets in the way as far as hearing the action, but when I noticed it, it added to the future sport presentation quite nicely.

Be quick or be dead!

I’m going to preface my next little rant here by saying that fundamentally, Solaris is a fantastic and fast-paced multiplayer shooter with gameplay that has clearly been refined to near perfection as I really encountered no issues with what is currently available.  Unfortunately, my issues with Solaris lie with what is not available as the current pre-season release feels much more like early access as there a host of standard features missing from the game.  It’s 4 v 4 combat, but there is currently no way to play with friends short of fluking out and getting placed together.  This feature has been promised along with private matchmaking when the game starts the pro season (No release date on that just yet) but it’s a glaring omission in a team-based game.  There is no way to mute other players either though this is once again promised in future update and even though I shouldn’t want to mute my teammates, on more than a few occasions I was paired up with kids who just grate on my adult nerves with their incessant ramblings.  I was shocked to learn there are 6 maps currently available as I could’ve sworn I’ve only played in 3 and I think that can be blamed on the visual style as the layouts change up, but every stage looks identical with the same floor and wall panels which does take away from the presentation a bit. My last issue would be the singular game mode.  I know they are going for the e-sport market with this one, but I personally need more from my multiplayer games as playing capture the flag over and over just got old to me, especially when combined with my random partners, some of whom drop mid-game giving the other opposing team a huge advantage.  You get more experience for finishing those one-sided rounds but getting my ass handed to me until the other team won just so I could run the clock for a few meager experience points isn’t exactly ideal.  Oh, and noticeably absent is a jump button which is obviously a choice made by the devs not to include, but I can’t really see a reason why it’s not here, especially with the stages have some verticality and open areas that allow you to fall down to the next level.

Head shots are always the way to go.

As of this review, Solaris has an amazing foundation to build off of as it really does have some of the most polished gameplay I’ve ever seen when compared to other VR multiplayer titles.  However, it’s missing so many key features that I think those that play, will play for a bit, then move on save for those hardcore players.  Time will tell if this is worth looking into and First Contact really did nail the gameplay and future sport feel but as it stands today, Solaris just lacks enough substance to make me highly recommended this.  That said, if you are looking to kick some ass online against fellow headset wearers, what is here is still a lot of fun.

What would I pay?  This is $24.99 and that is still not a terrible price despite my misgivings.  The developers seem very committed to delivering a full experience and plan on adding a host more features and content to the game and with cross play between Rift and Quest headsets and the promise of including other platforms including the PlayStation VR before years end, this seems likely to be a success with a healthy player base and that reason alone is almost enough to justify the purchase as it really is a blast and I have fun every time I hop online.

First Contact Entertainment provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!

Good

  • Fast and frenetic 4 v 4 gameplay
  • Solid presentation on Rift or Quest 2
  • Unlockable avatar items
  • Gameplay is simple, but very refined
  • Cross platform

Bad

  • Limited to the singular king-of-the-hill mode
  • Currently no way to set up private matches or play with friends
  • No way to mute players
  • Maps all look very samey
  • The lack of a jump option feels weird
7

Good

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