Mild spoilers follow
I’m a sucker for a sci-fi game, especially if it’s horror adjacent. Throw in a futuristic abandoned facility to explore, and you couldn’t keep me away. Fort Solis checks all of the boxes, but while it makes some novel decisions, it’s ultimately a slow burn with a lack of a significant payoff.
Fort Solis is a third person sci-fi adventure game. In it, you play as a Jack–sent to investigate an alarm call at a remote mining base on Mars. Once there, it’s clear that something isn’t right. You have to figure out what happened at Fort Solis through exploration, and the time tested method of collecting emails and video logs to fill in narrative blanks. While Fort Solis can be described as a “thriller” it’s not exactly a horror game. It’s a bit refreshing to have a sci-fi video game thriller instead of the well-tread horror, but Fort Solis doesn’t quite make for a great argument in that regard.
Despite its spooky premise, Fort Solis initially sends some mixed messages. Protagonist Jack hardly seems bothered by the lack of people in the station. In fact, he’s so unbothered that he moves at a glacially slow pace throughout the game. This slow movement speed helps to build tension towards the beginning, but when the story starts to ramp up and you can only move your character at a slow walk–it begins to feel ridiculous. It’s possible that it’s an intentional decision to hide a short playtime–I managed to finish Fort Solis in about 5 hours–but even if so, it’s at the expense of fun. Even a slow jog would have been better than the “I can’t be bothered” gait.
Unfortunately, you don’t do much more than walk in Fort Solis. There is, of course, the occasional computer to read emails from, or even the odd audio recorder you can steal the memory card from to upload to your on-arm PDA. But there is no combat, and the most challenging gameplay comes in the form of quick-time events. And they’re horrible. The quick time events don’t even seem to have any immediate effect if you fail, surprisingly. The story will play out exactly how it would one way or another. As far as I can tell, the ending may be affected by your quicktime prowess but I didn’t do enough experimentation to be able to say for sure.
Fort Solis is a pretty by-the-numbers thriller–explore, watch video logs, and eventually you’ll gain access to more parts of the mining base. It took about an hour or two of playtime before Jack started to get excited about what he was finding–and that was already some time after finding a pool of blood on the ground. I guess my point is, Jack does little to sell the tension. However, the voice in his ear (for some of the game) is Jessica, and while she does emote a little more in line with what you’d expect, there’s not really much for even Jessica to get scared about.
While Fort Solis shies away from the alien or supernatural for its horror, I wish it hadn’t. It definitely does not capitalize well on its premise, beyond some creepy (and some hammy) line deliveries by Troy Baker. I would have almost preferred working against Mars itself, rather than a disgruntled employee that decides to murder all of his co-workers. And especially because the threat boils down to one guy with a grudge, the protagonists make some decisions that had me scratching my head, or even yelling at the screen. Decisions I had no choice in, which doubly sucks because I always hate it when I lose agency in a video game.
The voice acting in Fort Solis is pretty damn good, however. Troy Baker leads a cast of capable voice actors. And while Troy Baker tries to steal the show here, I feel like they let him off of his leash just a tad too much. His performance would have benefitted from a little less. The rest of the cast, however, gives some pretty spot on performances.
Fort Solis isn’t a bad game, it’s just a disappointing one. Usually I can tell if I’m going to like a game within the first couple of hours, but I wasn’t sure about Fort Solis until near the end. Its beautiful Unreal 5 graphics and excellent premise were enough to keep me interested. However, it’s such a long, slow burn that by the time I got to the end, it didn’t feel worth all of the slow walking. Upon my discovery that there were multiple endings, I audibly scoffed.
I’m not doing that shit again.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review.