Fort Solis is a new indie game that tries to blend an eerie walking simulator with a narrative-driven thriller. Developed by the fresh studio Fallen Leaf, it takes place in an abandoned mining facility on Mars. This may ring some bells for sci-fi fans, as creepy deserted bases are a common trope. But the devs hope to deliver an engaging story within this atmospheric setting.
The plot kicks off when engineers Jack and Jessica respond to a distress call from Fort Solis. Once inside, they find the place deserted and have to piece together what happened to the crew. The mystery draws you in as you search for clues across the intricate station.
To bring their characters to life, Fallen Leaf secured some stellar voice talent. Jack is played by Roger Clark, best known as Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2. His colleague Jessica is portrayed by Julia Brown. And later on, Troy Baker lends his vocals as an antagonist character. Baker has starred in countless games from Bioshock Infinite to The Last of Us.
In this review, we’ll dive deep into Fort Solis to see if it succeeds at blending an immersive story with engaging gameplay. Does the pacing keep you hooked? Do the thrills land? And are the performances strong enough to carry the experience? Many narrative-focused games falter by failing to make the player feel truly involved. Let’s find out if Fort Solis can avoid these pitfalls and deliver a memorable mars mystery.
A Crawl, Not a Thrill – Clunky Play Drags Down Fort Solis
Fort Solis brands itself as a narrative thriller, but its gameplay is far from thrilling. The most glaring issue is the painfully sluggish movement speed. Even during action scenes where lives are at stake, your character trudges along at a snail’s pace. There is no option to run or even jog, which makes backtracking feel like torture. This turtle-speed crawling clashes with the urgent thriller tone the story tries to set.
The slow movement is especially frustrating when you get stuck on objects in the environment. Whether it’s bumping into railings or getting trapped by an inconveniently placed crate, clunky movement controls constantly hinder you. The game also struggles with basic pathfinding. Instead of smoothly navigating around obstacles, your character will grind to a halt and awkwardly turn in place before continuing. The mechanics feel unfinished compared to polished modern adventure games.
Searching the abandoned station for clues should be an engaging part of a thriller. But the monotonous pace discourages exploration. Fort Solis contains expansive environments crammed with potential discoveries. You can dig through detailed living quarters, research labs, and machinery rooms to unearth the fates of missing crew members. However, interactable objects are scarce. Besides the occasional puzzle, most areas are static backdrops. With sluggish walking speed, heavy backtracking becomes a chore.
Solving the mystery involves finding keys to unlock new sectors and scattered clues like audio logs. Yet even this detective work is a drag due to frustrating maps. Your in-game map is a tiny wrist projected display. The miniaturized levels and indistinct icons make it hard to pinpoint your location or destination. Having to slowly scroll through multiple deck maps further hampers the process. Some kind of beacon system or full screen map would have helped immensely.
One area Fort Solis tries to incorporate traditional gameplay is quick time events. However, these feel disjointed from the rest of the experience. QTE prompts will randomly occur during action sequences. The button cues flash rapidly on screen with little warning, making them easy to bungle. But failing them seems to have little consequence, beyond a minor change in dialog. The QTEs end up feeling shoehorned in for the sake of having video game-y elements.
The biggest failure in capturing a thriller vibe is the distinct lack of tension or urgency. Despite dire situations, the protagonists remain casual and crack jokes. Drawn out segments of pointless exposition diminish any building suspense. The unhurried walking speed certainly doesn’t help in this regard. While the voice actors try their best, the poor pacing makes events feel predictable and flat.
With no incentive to explore and a general lack of meaningful interactivity, Fort Solis’ gameplay feels like an afterthought rather than the core of the experience. For a story-driven thriller to succeed, the mechanics need to immerse players deeply in the narrative. Instead, Fort Solis plays like a disjointed stroll filled with frustration.
A Failure to Thrill – How Fort Solis’ Story Falls Flat
On paper, Fort Solis has the framework of an enticing sci-fi thriller. An abandoned facility on Mars sends a distress call, prompting engineers to investigate sinister happenings. It’s a premise brimming with potential for mystery and horror. But in execution, the story fails to deliver palpable suspense or stick the landing.
The set-up instills curiosity about what dangers lurk within the deserted Fort Solis. As you uncover clues about missing crews via strewn audio logs and records, a classic thriller structure takes form. However, two major issues continuously deflate the intrigue: tone and pacing.
Despite the creepy setting, the protagonists maintain a flippantly casual attitude. Jack and Jessica exchange humorous banter, even directly after encountering corpses. The total lack of urgency clashes with the life-or-death scenarios portrayed. When characters don’t react believably to threats, it’s hard for players to feel invested.
The story’s slow pacing also steadily saps its tension. Long stretches of pointless exposition and backtracking essentially stall the plot’s progression. This repetitive downtime dulls the impact when pivotal story beats do occur. When thrilling moments are spaced too widely between monotonous filler, they fail to shock or surprise.
Fort Solis doubles down on wasting the player’s time with an absurdly convoluted ending. After a painstakingly slow burn, the conclusion crams in a belated avalanche of reveals. Yet none of the eleventh hour exposition sticks the landing. Most players are left more confused than satisfied about the central mystery and events. For a game relying heavily on its narrative, a messy ending is a huge blow.
One aspect that hits the right notes is the voice acting. Roger Clark and Julia Brown have natural chemistry as Jack and Jessica. Their banter and panic feel believable even when the script fails them. Troy Baker is predictably excellent as the creepy antagonist. It’s commendable that a small indie project secured such talent. But their great performances alone can’t carry the entire story’s shortcomings.
Fort Solis had all the elements in place for an engaging thriller narrative. However, the tone, pacing, and confounding conclusion undermine the promising setup. Jack and Jessica’s constant joking dulls any sense of peril. Excitement is too frequently punctured by long lulls. And the ending piles on new revelations when investment has already waned. While the voice acting shines, the story itself fails to capitalize on its potential. When the narrative falls flat, it takes the bulk of Fort Solis down with it.
A Gorgeous Haunt – Visuals and Audio Elevate Fort Solis
While Fort Solis falters in story and gameplay, its visual presentation and audio atmosphere are stunning. For an indie title, the level of graphical fidelity and attention to artistic detail are hugely impressive. These visuals excel at immersing you in the eerie setting, even when the pacing and mystery themselves fall flat.
The abandoned mining facility environment is intricately crafted and brimming with character. The sinister industrial architecture is strongly inspired by Dead Space’s iconic sci-fi horror aesthetic. Fort Solis’ sterile white halls juxtaposed with dark machinery rooms perfectly capture the feeling of exploring a haunted house in space.
Realistic details breathe life into the deserted stations, hinting at its lost inhabitants’ personalities. Scattered personal artifacts like family photos make the missing crews feel poignantly real. The expert use of reflections and lighting also enhance the environments. Light rails flicker menacingly in flooded corridors. Moonlight spilling across dusty control rooms reveals handprints on foggy glass. The excellent graphics render an evocative backdrop.
The facial animations and character models are also magnificent, rivaling massive AAA projects. Advanced performance capture translates the actors’ nuanced expressions onto digital faces. Every furrowed brow, side-eye, and grin is uncannily lifelike. As Jack and Jessica experience fear and despair, you feel the weight of those emotions. This an astounding achievement for a small team.
From a technical perspective, Fort Solis is surprisingly well optimized across the board. Framerates remain stable despite the visual complexity. I encountered no major bugs or glitches during my playthrough. For an ambitious indie game built in Unreal Engine 5, the polish and stability are remarkable. The team clearly put care into avoiding technical issues marring the experience.
Complementing the striking visuals is an eerie soundscape that compounds tension. Ominous synth tones echo through vacant halls, accentuating your isolation. Groaning metal infrastructure rattles uneasily, keeping you alert for threats. The music itself is used judiciously. Long segments pass quietly with just footsteps and distant mechanical hums. When the score swells during key story moments, the dramatic effect hits hard.
In Fort Solis, the setting itself becomes a central character. The fully-realized Mars facility brims with intricacies that make exploration engrossing, even when progression feels slow. Arresting graphics and audio generate an atmosphere thick with dread. While virtually every other aspect has pronounced flaws, the phenomenal artistic presentation remains a big bright spot. For players who prioritize immersive worlds over gameplay, Fort Solis absolutely delivers.
A Mixed Bag Leaning Negative – Fort Solis’ Highs and Lows
Fort Solis is the epitome of a mixed bag. In certain areas like presentation, it exhibits AAA polish that transcends its indie origins. Yet in terms of narrative and gameplay – the core elements – it stumbles again and again. Evaluating Fort Solis involves weighing stunning strengths against fundamental weaknesses.
From art direction to acting, Fort Solis’ presentation is phenomenal. The visuals rival big-budget blockbusters, crafting an eerily lifelike abandoned facility brimming with character. The excellent lighting and attention to detail in the environments elevate the atmosphere. Likewise, the facial animations and models during cutscenes are so impressively accurate that the actors’ nuanced emotions shine through. These technical triumphs become even more astounding when considering the game’s modest team size.
The sound design also stands out through tense music, piercing sound effects, and quality voice acting. Roger Clark and Julia Brown have effortless chemistry that energizes their dialogues. Despite flat writing, they sell the friendship between Jack and Jessica. Veterans like Troy Baker greatly enhance scenes where they appear. On presentation alone, Fort Solis distinguishes itself as a remarkable achievement.
However, that stellar presentation carries more weight given the gameplay and narrative fundamentals falter. Fort Solis advertises itself as a narrative thriller, but has neither thrilling gameplay nor an engaging narrative. The sluggish walking speed removes any sense of urgency from the proceedings. What little gameplay exists feels disjointed rather than enhancing key story moments. Quick time events crop up randomly with clunky button prompts. Exploration involves slowly scouring rooms and squinting at frustrating map interfaces.
The story similarly falls flat, with inconsistent tone and pacing that sap tension as fast as it builds. Difficulty navigating environments and reading scattered logs make uncovering the central mystery more tedious than intriguing. An overstuffed ending tries too late to cram in critical reveals. Top tier acting elevates individual scenes but can’t fix systemic issues. With core elements this lacking, it shortchanges the game’s superb presentation.
In the end, Fort Solis feels less like a fully realized game and more like an elaborate tech demo. The graphics, sound, and acting would feel at home in any high budget cinematic adventure. However, solid fundamentals like tight design and compelling storytelling are absent. The result is an experience at odds with itself – breathtaking environments to walk through accompanied by mediocre objectives and motivations.
Fort Solis hints at lost potential, showcasing flashes of brilliance which are constantly dampened by missed opportunities. Creating a thriller narrative with more interaction and a brisker pace could have showcased the graphics even further. As is, the stellar presentation supports a hollow core. For gamers focused on exploratory experiences rather than challenge, it may satisfy. But the overall package leaves much to be desired. With some retooling of its weaker elements, Fort Solis could have been great rather than just sporadically good.
A Let Down With Glimpses of Promise
In the end, Fort Solis fails to come together as a cohesive and rewarding experience. Despite isolated strengths, fundamental flaws in storytelling and interaction undermine the promising setup. Strong acting and visuals alone can’t compensate for boring, unsatisfying gameplay.
The narrative aims for thrilling mystery but instead delivers a disjointed slow burn lacking payoff. Neither characters nor players feel a real sense of tension or urgency. Meaningful interactivity is sparse, making the game feel passive aside from frustrating walking. An utterly confusing conclusion caps off an underwhelming story.
As an immersive walking simulator, Fort Solis may offer brief enjoyment for fans of the genre. The detailed environments brim with atmosphere and the voice cast shines in their roles. Yet for most players, the sluggish pace and shallow plot make it a bland slog. With such a stellar technical foundation, the poor execution of core elements is doubly disappointing.
In the end, memorable games require the whole package – smart mechanics, engrossing narratives, and polished presentation working in unison. Fort Solis stumbles hard on the first two. For a game marketed as a narrative thriller, it features little thrilling action and no compelling mystery. Diehard genre fans can appreciate glimpses of its potential, but it’s hard to recommend such a flawed experience to general audiences. Fort Solis may have promise, but in its current state offers only sporadic flashes worth seeing through the tedious tedium.
Fort Solis reaches for the stars but falls short of being a stellar experience. With AAA production values in its visuals and acting yet fundamental gameplay and storytelling issues, it exemplifies wasted potential. Excellent presentation can’t salvage mediocre mechanics and narrative. Its flaws keep it from being thrilling or memorable. Only diehard fans of walking simulators may find enjoyment in its sporadic high points. The stunning visual achievements save Fort Solis from being outright bad, but its glaring weaknesses prevent it from being considered good. With some reworking, its strong points could have supported more compelling gameplay and mystery.
- Engaging story set in an atmospheric setting.
- Intricate station design with potential for discoveries.
- Stellar voice talent including well-known figures in gaming.
- Engaging mystery narrative that draws the player in.
- Painfully sluggish movement speed.
- Clunky movement controls and frequent hindrances in the environment.
- Monotonous pace discourages exploration.
- Interactable objects are scarce, reducing the sense of immersion.
- Frustrating maps with miniaturized levels making navigation difficult.
- Quick time events feel disjointed and lack meaningful consequences.