Fort Solis – from developers Fallen Leaf Studios, Black Drakkar Games, and publisher Dear Villagers – is a horror-mystery game wrapped in some fantastic visuals. Given the similar themes and marketing, how does it compare to the likes of Dead Space and The Callisto Protocol? Not much on the gameplay front.,If you were looking for an action survival-horror game, this is not it. It’s more along the lines of Deliver us the Moon or Firewatch, and feels like an interactive drama rather than a full on video game. That said, let’s dive in and find out what it does right!
Welcome to the Martian desert
The story of Fort Solis kicks off with two-person team, Jack Leary and Jessica Appleton, out on a routine repair mission at a Martian outpost. As a storm rolls in after they complete their maintenance work, they receive a distress signal from the titular Fort Solis, a nearby research base. Jack heads out to investigate while Jessica stays behind and remains in constant communication with him.
Upon arrival, Jack discovers the base of operations is on lockdown. He manages to get in after climbing in through the Atrium and begins his investigation as to just what the heck is going down. The base itself seems abandoned and there’s an incredibly creepy atmosphere that the game builds up as soon as you arrive. Apart from the banter between Jessica and Jack over the comms device, Fort Solis is quiet… too quiet.
Investigations go awry
While investigating, Jack soon realises something is off and the first chapter really sets the tone for what’s to come. A big part of maintaining the atmosphere and pacing is the limited gameplay – an element that will prove divisive.
You’re slowly moving your character around and investigating key points in the environment marked with a small white circle – think computer terminals, lockers, or pictures. Jack or Jessica will then discuss something, or you’ll be treated to an audio log or video log which will delve deeper into what happened before their arrival.
Yes, it’s formulaic and it’s been done by multiple games over the years but it works in Fort Solis as it’s heavy on storytelling and less interested in the gameplay. “Walking simulator” comes to mind and Fort Solis certainly falls into that category – perhaps a bit too much even given the fact that your character can’t run at all for some inexplicable reason. The lack of a run option means Fort Solis moves at a glacial pace but – coupled with the rather linear, lockdown-enforced paths – that pace makes it hard to miss things.
It’s not without a sense of progression as players can access more of the base over time, all the while learning more about the sinister events that have transpired. Given the storytelling focus, I’ll just say Fort Solis is quite entertaining.
What action there is plays out as quick-time events that pop up during cutscenes. The seamless transition from cutscene to gameplay is impressive but can be a bit confusing at times. Expect to fail a lot of the QTEs the first time because of the sheer unexpectedness of them suddenly showing up.
As such, discovering audio and video logs to learn more about the characters and piece together events was the driving force – though the game’s ending variants might be polarizing depending on your tastes and preferences.
The beautiful Fort Solis
Graphically, being one of the few Unreal Engine 5.2 games, Fort Solis looks fantastic. Environments and character models are dripping with detail and the base is packed with little touches that really make it feel lived-in. The Martian surface feels suitably hostile with a raging storm that the developers clearly researched to make it feel as realistic as possible. The base offers up decent variety but retains a uniform aesthetic in line with what a possible outpost on Mars should or rather could look like. If you’re really enjoying the setting, there’s also a photo mode that you could spend a lot of time with.
The soundtrack is limited but fine, with the music adding to the intensity during key sequences. However, most of the game relies on silence with just the ambient sounds of the environment playing a massive role in contributing to the horror-mystery feel.
The most impressive audio element is the voice acting, and the cast has really performed their hearts out here. Special mention needs to go to Julia Brown in particular though, who does an excellent job carrying the story as Jessica Appleton. It’s just a shame that the gameplay feels so underdeveloped compared to the audiovisual experience.
On Mars, nobody can hear you scream…
In conclusion, Fort Solis is a game that – while quite short – features an interesting story, incredible presentation values, and underwhelming gameplay. There are a few mishaps like forcing players to walk, the sudden QTEs, and the endings – but the rest of the game, such as the environment and storytelling, is honestly remarkable stuff from an indie developer.
If you are aware that Fort Solis is big on storytelling with smatterings of cinematic, visceral action sequences, it feels well done. It’s an impressive first game for Fallen Leaf Studios as Fort Solis is a great sci-fi thriller with some faults that can easily be overlooked and forgiven. Maybe with this experience, a larger budget, and more time, they’ll be able to craft a true masterpiece since they clearly have the talent to do so.
Fort Solis was reviewed on PC using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PC.
Fort Solis (PS5) ReviewFort Solis (PS5) Review
Graphics10/10 The Best
- Creepy horror-mystery sci-fi atmosphere
- The voice actors do an excellent job carrying the story
- Excellent environmental storytelling
- You can't run
- Surprise QTEs
- The story endings
- Not much action-based gameplay on offer