Let me ask you a question—what’s the similarity between games like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, What Remains of Edith Finch, and Deliver Us the Moon? No, I’m not just talking about all of them being ‘walking-sims’. The other similarity is that all of them involve a lone person exploring an abandoned site, be it a mansion or a space station. This trope is so hackneyed that even Survival Horror games like Amnesia use this. In all those games there’s barely any soul in sight, and the only thing that gives exposition of what happened to its inhabitants are diary entries, audio files or emails if the game takes place in modern or futuristic era. And now, Fort Solis has joined the party!
So, what got me into trying Fort Solis if I have played so many similar games before? Maybe it was the voice actor cast list. We’ve got Roger Clark (who voiced Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2) and Troy Baker lending their voices and mocap for the game. But boy, I was in for a real surprise (and not in a good way).
Fort Solis is a story-driven thriller set on Mars. Developed by Fallen Leaf and Black Drakkar Games and published by Dear Villagers, Fort Solis releases on August 22, 2023
Same old stuff, and this time it’s on the Red Planet (just like Moons of Madness). The engineer Jack Leary (Roger Clark) gets a distress call from Fort Solis, and just like any sane headed protagonist in a psychological horror game, ventures alone to investigate it. The entire base is under lockdown and as expected there’s not even a single soul in sight. Apparently, they left in such a hurry that most forgot to lock their desktops allowing Jack to read through the emails like a snooping FBI agent.
But things aren’t what they seem when he finds blood and bandages in the medical bay… and a dead body. Murdered using a scalpel. Then a series of unfortunate events happen—airlocks malfunctioning, objects crashing onto him— which confirm there’s someone or something else at the base. But don’t get your hopes high, it’s not an Eldritch horror like Moons of Madness or extradimensional entities like in CONTROL, or not even a rogue A.I. I am not going to spoil anything but… sigh, Fort Solis had so many opportunities to draw inspirations from, but it turned a blind eye to every single one of them.
However, when it comes to gameplay, Fort Solis drew inspiration from one thing—the Quantic Dream Games like Detroit: Become Human and Heavy Rain. A lot of QTEs are triggered randomly, so you need to be on the watch always when there’s a cutscene, and it’s kind of hard to distinguish when a cutscene ends and gameplay begins as it’s so seamless! However, it felt like Fort Solis was designed to cater to even the most meek-minded gamers. Failing the QTEs doesn’t change the outcome, in fact, you can just sit back and let the failed QTE scene play out as your character takes damage. No worries, he’ll be back to normal once the cutscene ends, even if he had a limp only a second before. Everything is so linear and on-rails that you might as well be watching a movie.
And here’s the best part, you literally can’t sprint in a Walking Sim! There’s no sprint input to begin with! Jack drags his feet all across Fort Solis at such a ridiculously slow speed that you’ll sleep halfway through the campaign. Just hold the W key on the keyboard and mouse to control the camera, that’s it. What’s worse is, for this drab of a walking sim, Fort Solis has a dearth of exploratory items. You literally have no incentive to saunter to that corner of the map, as there’s no collectible there at all except for one or two in-universe movie posters. No lore items, nothing, as there’s no lore to begin with.
Even the emails mostly relate to day-to-day activities and no mention of any unprecedented circumstances or foreshadowing of events related to the plot. You might as well skip through them. Even the audio and video files you find on the desktops are largely skippable. Adding cherry on top is the limited items you can interact with. Like I said, Fort Solis is linear as hell where your only input will be pressing W to walk and QTEs, and the constant map checking on your wrist mounted display.
However, the mini map invokes more frustration than relief, as the objective markers are extremely tiny and there’s no indication to which floor you need to go. As a result, you’re forced to haul a** through different floors, hoping that’s where the objective marker is leading to. For a walking sim that indirectly discourages exploration with its sluggish character movements and lack of lore collectibles, I’m surprised there’s no waypoint marker. Heck, even action games like Bioshock Infinite and Dead Space 3 had them, and they provide ample incentives to explore!
Visuals, Sound And Performance
The visuals are serviceable and mocap is well done…. except for the lip movements; they barely move irrespective of the person speaking. As for the sound design, there’s barely any, and when there is, it’s an extremely generic ambient track. In fact, you can find better royalty free tracks from YouTube! Even the voice acting, which was the selling point of Fort Solis, felt so drab despite the game having two of the best voice actors in the industry! As for the performance, Fort Solis will run fine even on low-end systems, hats off to the well done optimization.
If only Fort Solis was half as good as its trailers. One would expect a mind-boggling psychological thriller set on an isolated Martian colony, but there’s barely anything until three chapters into the game, and there are a total of four chapters! The only plus point of Fort Solis might be its extremely short length, (because you’d be screaming for this game to end), but the lack of sprint coupled with tedious walking sequences would make it a slow burn. TL;DR… give Fort Solis a hard pass, even on sale!
FINAL RATING: 30/100