@adrock mentions above that the VR in the first game was pretty janky, if you look at the negative reviews on steam they echo this as well.
The actual gameplay is story driven survival. You set the pace it unfolds at though, so if you want to ignore the story and just build your habitat, survive and explore then you are totally free to do it.
The story unfolds with your character and your PDA computer voice being pretty much the only characters. There are others, but they’re mostly disembodied voice recordings or radio signals - you only ever actually meet one other ‘character’ and that isn’t until just before the closing portion of the game. You’re totally isolated for 99% of the game.
The objective is to survive, unfold the mystery of the planet and in doing so figure out how to escape the planet you’re trapped on by a mysterious alien force.
This new one differs in that there are more characters, you directly interact with one from the very beginning of the game but even so they’ve still tried to make you feel as isolated as possible - its set in the polar regions of the same planet one year after the events of the first game where you play as a member of the Atlas corporation again but this time you’ve got a very clear idea of why you’re there: Find, study and if possible activate and backwards engineer the alien technology found in ruins.