‘Fort Solis’ Joins a Legion of Disappointing but Beautiful Narrative Games

I’m a sucker for a good story, gorgeous art, and sensational sound design. I can forgive plenty of sins if the heart of a story is there; I am one of those people who love to love things, heck, I even liked the much-maligned Redfall for most of those listed reasons. And even though many of my favorite elements are included in this game, they aren’t enough to excuse the many flaws of Fort Solis.

If you’re the kind of gamer who likes straightforward interactions, predictable plots, and tedious mechanics wrapped up in a beautiful package, then this game will absolutely knock your socks off. But if you like having fun or feeling like you’ve done something meaningful with your valuable free time, stay away.

Fort Solis has a classic space thriller setting, and the gorgeous visuals help to set the tone of an isolated and alien world. When a recently deserted mining facility on Mars issues an alarm, a nearby pair of engineers are the only people close enough to answer the call. Jack Leary, voiced by Roger Clark of Red Dead Redemption 2 fame, grunts his way through the first few chapters while his partner, Jessica Appleton — voiced by Julia Brown (World on Fire) — quips through his earpiece. I won’t touch much on the plot since it’s the only thing the game has going for it but I will say this, there isn’t much thrill in this thriller.

Screenshot via Dear Villagers

Fort Solis does try to live up to its own claims, but it never reaches the requisite heart-pounding effects that would solidify it as a thriller. It does try to throw a few jump scares in, but they are a bit half-assed and rarely delivered the intended result. I’m a big believer in telling stories in unconventional ways, and I loved Firewatch, Heavy Rain, and What Became of Edith Finch as much as the next player, but Fort Solis invests too much in high-quality actors and stellar visuals to find itself in the same league as those narrative icons. It lacks meaningful interactions, the suspenseful build that defines a thriller, and worst of all, any actual fun.

 Moreover, the characters all fail to leave an impression. Jack and Jessica chatter amiably for the first few chapters, but even as the plot thickens, both characters never express themselves in a more animated fashion. They lack urgency, even when their lives are in imminent danger. When the murderer on-the-loose tells Jessica he is coming to find and kill her, she still nonchalantly examines data pads, ogles computer screens, and plods her way from room to room. This meandering pace doesn’t only affect the dialogue, but much more egregiously, the literal pace of the game.

Just a few minutes into Fort Solis I started to realize the main reason this game will never be fun, at least for me, it forces players to heavily invest in the time tax. Characters galumph with no urgency whatsoever. I’m not exaggerating here, they walk like an octogenarian making their way home from a triathlon. This game would clock in at three hours if Fallen Leaf had allowed for any adjustment of walking speed, and there were plenty of narrative reasons for them to implement that. Instead, anything other than a slow shuffle is limited to cutscenes, so while we know that Jack and Jessica could run for their lives, they choose not to. It’s like the developers were trying to be cheeky about how slowly stupid horror movie characters move – the main duo quip about horror movies throughout the beginning — but instead they just made a speed so slow, a space snail could move faster.

This sucks the joy out of almost everything you do in the game. It makes exploration so tedious you’ll want to blunder into the murderer just to make it all stop. Don’t even get me started on moments you find yourself outside of the protective mining station. A horrific sandstorm is ripping its way through the area, reducing what could have been alien vistas, beautiful enough to distract from the soul-sucking experience that is the tedium of walking from one building to another, to a blurry brown nightmare accompanied by a somehow even slower walk animation than usual. I cannot emphasize enough how slow the movement speed is. Fort Solis claims that there is no fighting in the game, but I found plenty in the form of stairs, double doors, and agonizingly pedantic puzzles.

Developer Fallen Leaf was not exaggerating when they said there would be “light puzzles” in the game, I’m not sure they could even be considered puzzles; they are more like moments that put the game on pause for a bit, or heaven forbid, several agonizing walks between point A and point B, interacting with buttons, or knobs, or switches, along the way to get things working again. They really don’t require any thought to them; in fact, I’d recommend not thinking about them, it will inevitably lead you through an exhaustive process that will bring you back to the one truth — Occam’s razor exists and it defines these tasks. Not only that, but the frequent reliance on the thrice-repeated action is so prevalent players could make a drinking game of it. Perhaps this is how Fort Solis was intended to be enjoyed, absolutely plastered so walking straight down a hallway seemed like a challenge.

Screenshot via Dear Villagers

All of this could be forgiven if the title lived up to its claim that it was a “character-driven story.” There are characters in it, sure, but they don’t drive the story, rather, they get shifted from one place to another for “reasons” – also known as locked doors— as players struggle to parse oddly blurry terminals and watch video logs with more dramatic pauses than high school theatre tryouts. There is a support cast of victims for the player to find but most are introduced seconds before their corpses turn up and lack any meaningful development. Even the main villain failed to leave a lasting impression, despite the excellent voice work from Troy Baker (The Last of Us).

I wandered my way through the story, unlocking 90% of the mainline and around three-quarters of the collectibles. There isn’t much else for me to look for in Fort Solis, and though a part of me wonders if there’s an alternate ending where things turned out better, I can’t imagine putting myself through the experience again. I’m actually not sure how much acing each quick time event would change the story — I could never tell if the interaction did anything at all, and they happen so sparingly in cutscenes that it’s almost as if they were an afterthought.

I wanted to like Fort Solis. It had many of the elements that I look for in a game, but it was a swing and a miss on almost every single one for me. It had the exact opposite problem that plagued Star Trek: Resurgence; it’s a beautifully crafted box without anything substantive inside. I can see a world where playing this chapter by chapter could make for a better experience, but I imagine if players were to take breaks in between chapters until they forgot how tedious it is to play, they would need to start it over again anyway.

This review is based on the PC version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Dear Villagers.


Fort Solis markets itself as a thriller, but fails to build tension or deliver interesting characters. Its visuals live up to the promise of “AAA production values,” but it doesn’t have any charm. Instead, Fort Solis plays like a walking simulator with a dual hip replacement.

Fort Solis

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