There is nothing like doing your nine to five mechanical job on a planet, storm looming and sporting a 3 day beard. Except there is and has been plenty of times before. The unoriginal setting isn’t Fort Solis‘ biggest issue though, but let’s get back to that.
With the red rock as a backdrop, Fort Solis is a narrative heavy thriller spun out of an emergency signal from a remote mining facility. You play as Jack and you’re tasked with investigating the base and finding out what’s really going on. There are hints of it during your first few actions, but the moment you set foot in the rover the cinematic nature of the game washes over you. Fort Solis is undoubtly a, excuse my language, walking simulator. This means that you will spend your time exploring and occasionally click a single button to perform an action, read something or access a computer. Sometimes you will flip a picture to see what’s on the back. While this might sound inherently boring, the setting plays a huge part. Everbody’s Gone to the Rapture and What Remains of Edith Finch are examples where this formula absolutely works. Fort Solis is an intimidating place, and one of the core strengths of the game is that you will spend so much time being terrified not knowing what’s behind the door you’re slowly opening, or the next corner you’re about to turn. Dark corridors, blinking lights and solitude is nothing new to the genre, but it sure works here.
Fort Solis feels like an expensive game. The production values are high and it shows in how it’s animated, how it looks and the great voice acting performed by Roger Clark (Jack) and Julia Brown (Jessica) among others. There are everyday conversations, quibbles and jokes between Jack and Jessica, and they are totally selling it with their performance. Computer terminals have video logs that feel real and coming from a place where something definitely happened. The buildup is great. I might have emerged from a narrow vent by clipping straight through the hatch, but that was the only technical hitch I experienced all throughout the game. The crippling atmosphere packages everything neatly in.
With audio- and video logs, secrets and collectibles to be found, Fort Solis is a place that begs to be explored, and thus we’re introduced to the game’s biggest crime: The walking speed. It might not sound like much, but the speed of which your character traverses the base and its surroundings is absolutely infuriating. The choice of speed and lack of a run button combined with the wish to explore and tons of backtracking results in a game that is actively working against you and your enjoyment of the experience. In a key moment of rush and sense of urgency, all player agency is removed from you and replaced with a cinematic. Yes, it looks cool, but I’d pay $10 more to just be able to play the part. At the end of the day Fort Solis is a walking simulator, and at a times a really cool and scary one. It’s just a bummer that the actual walking around part is so frustrating that the act of playing the game becomes a chore.
An unoriginal setting and poor traversal implementation unfortunately overshadows a very well acted, great looking and suspensful thriller.
The trophy angle: With only a couple of missables (an action and two collectibles), Fort Solis doesn’t require a lot in return for a shiny platinum.
This copy was bought. Fort Solis was developed by Fallen Leaf and published by Dear Villagers. The game was released on August 22nd, 2023