Title: Fort Solis
Developer: Fallen Leaf, Black Drakkar Games
Release Date: August 22, 2023
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Dear Villagers
Genre: Walking Simulator
Space horror has been a big theme in gaming lately, and we are about to add another one to the list with the launch of Fort Solis, the debut project from indie developers Fallen Leaf and Black Drakkar Games. The game was initially revealed last year at Summer Game Fest 2022 and has kept its fans in suspense ever since, but the game is just about to be released shortly. Set on the far side of the red planet Mars, Fort Solis has you play as lead engineer Jack Leary, who receives a distress call from a nearby base and goes to investigate.
An abandoned space station with something insidious going on behind the scenes always serves as an eerie backdrop for any sci-fi story. At an initial glance, you might be confused about what type of game Fort Solis is exactly. It is not an action horror game, so don’t expect to experience something like Dead Space or The Callisto Protocol. Though there are horror elements, I wouldn’t go as far as to categorize the theme as horror, but more so mystery thriller.
At the end of the day, Fort Solis is a third-person walking simulator that plays like an interactive movie. Most of your time is spent walking, searching for clues, investigating audio logs, observing left-behind objects, interacting with computer terminals, watching videos, and solving an occasional quick-time event. It’s a nice touch to see so many random objects you can interact with, such as solving an entire Rubik’s cube or getting some steps in on the Stair Master. However, the button presses required for the QTEs are sometimes not very intuitive as the game gives you no warning on when it’s coming, and sometimes the controls themselves are unresponsive.
The narrative aspect is probably the most important part of this game, and for the most part, it’s quite well done. Obviously, I won’t be spoiling anything here, but just know that all the suspense and buildup from the beginning pays off in the end, despite there being a disappointing cliffhanger. The premise doesn’t break any new grounds, but the situations that the characters are put in make you think about the moral and ethical decisions that need to be made despite the sacrifices. Characters are well-developed and can easily be empathized with, especially those that are dead set on finding out the truth behind what’s been going on.
For a developer’s first game, it’s quite impressive to see Fort Solis look so visually stunning, as the game is built from the ground up with Unreal Engine 5. The flickering red emergency lights, the emptiness of an abandoned space station, and even the facial animations on the main character’s face set the tone for a deeply sinister experience.
What complements the advanced graphical fidelity is the star-studded cast, featuring Roger Clark, who voiced Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption 2, Troy Baker, who voiced Joel Miller from The Last of Us, and Julia Brown from the BBC drama series World on Fire. The visuals, sound design, environmental lighting, voice acting, and overall atmosphere easily make the game a top-notch cinematic experience.
This review was done on the PlayStation 5, but the game is also available on PC via Steam. Two graphical modes are offered, one targeting 4K visuals, whereas the other one prioritizes performance. I personally prefer a higher frame rate, but given this is not an action game, I can see many opting for the better graphical fidelity option.
That being said, the performance mode is not without its faults, as the frame rates frequently dipped below 60fps to the mid-40s. There are some features utilized with the DualSense controller, such as rumbling and color lighting around the touchpad, but not as much as I would have hoped.
My biggest gripe about the game is how painfully slow you walk. Look, I get it. The developer’s goal was to drive home the suspenseful tension of the environments, but having to walk at a snail’s pace back and forth trying to figure out where to go is simply not fun.
The game does hint at what your next objective is, but that also depends on you exploring every nook and cranny to gather all the clues available to you. There were also many times that I had to walk back to previous sections because I got a security clearance upgrade, and boy, was it frustrating to take minutes to get where I needed to go.
Fort Solis will take you roughly around 4-6 hours to complete and is split into 4 episodic sections. I reckon another reason they made the walking speed so slow was to drag out the playtime too.
There is also a Photo Mode and various collectibles you can find via exploration, which can then be viewed in the Extras menu. Keep in mind this game is priced at $34.99, which is kind of hefty for an experience of this nature.
Fallen Leaf and Black Drakkar Games have done an exceptional job conjuring up a slow-burn, suspenseful narrative thriller, largely in part due to the impressive visuals and big-name voice cast. You can easily finish Fort Solis in one sitting if you lose track of time, much like a movie, but the high price tag and painfully slow walking speed make me hesitant to recommend it to everyone. But hey, if you’re into high-quality walking simulators, then this might be the next game for you.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.