Fort Solis


It's a psychological thriller with a plot that slowly unfolds. The emphasis is on "slowly."


I'm going to start with this: Fort Solis isn't a sci-fi shooter, and without dropping any spoilers it's a walking game/psychological thriller set on Mars. You initially play as an engineer Jack Leary and your chatty colleague Jessica Appleton stays in constant touch via radio link. About halfway through the game you get to play as Jessica. The plot draws you in as Jack travels to a nearby research facility to find out who triggered a distress signal and why communications were suddenly lost...

The controls are basic, with standard movement controls and 'cross' to interact with objects and doors. You press 'R1' to access your wrist computer to view messages, and you also download the Fort Solis "map" on it. Nothing in Fort Solis is simple to navigate however…

The map (a schematic drawing rather than an actual map) is vague to say the least, and only roughly shows your position and your objective without any indication of which way you're facing or so much as a compass. Imagine someone sticks a push pin in a map at your last known position and you'll get the idea. Finding your way around is the biggest challenge in Fort Solis.

Jack leaves his rover as he arrives at Fort Solis. He should have kept driving...

Your character is rather sluggish;  Jack's movement reminded me of a tired and drunk Nico Bellic from GTA IV,  but you can't even break into a trot, so he plods around like he hasn't a care in the world.

The tension slowly builds, and a vague idea of what happened at Fort Solis is slowly outlined by reading other people's emails, watching video comms and CCTV footage.

This guy won the Fort Solis "Pull a Funny Face" competition.

The biggest problem is the lack of urgency. Other than one panicky sequence when Jack has to run like hell or die (don't get excited, his ability to run is only temporary), plodding around when the situation obviously demands a bit of haste seems wildly unrealistic, and there are moments with both characters when you'd run like f...heck or at least jog.

Another issue is that Jack is a "pound shop" Gerard Butler–wise cracks and not much else. I think he's the most disappointing protagonist I've played in a game since the wooden Aiden Pearce in Watch Dogs... On the positive side, Jess is cute and has plenty of fight in her, but she strolls everywhere too so playing as her didn't in any way make up for Jack's lack of charisma, heroism or agility.

That's not a mirror, that's the bad guy!

The designers decided to throw some quick time events in here and there, but they're over in a flash and I'm not convinced the results make any difference to the outcome.

With its superb visuals (apart from occasional frame rate stutters and some dodgy lighting FX) Fort Solis is the closest thing I've seen lately to an interactive sci-fi movie–and it's a disappointing one. I mean, why meticulously model several large vehicles and then not let you drive them? Was this intended and cut? Was the game originally intended to be bigger? Were budget constraints responsible or was this writer/director James Tinsdale's original vision? Who knows...

Jess wonders if she'll ever be able to go for a jog...

Again, without dropping spoilers the events at the end are ridiculous, Jack screws up royally and you're left seething and mystified by the antagonist Wyatt's extreme reaction to the results of the mysterious compound 26 research, which despite reading every email and watching every video remain less than clear, resulting in a deeply unsatisfying ending.

Your wrist computer displays video messages and your "map," so it gets a lot of use.

Generally the sound is very good, the voice acting polished, apt incidental music and a cool end credits tune by Mary Komasa. The movie-style bit after the end credits leaves things open for a sequel–if one gets commissioned. Hopefully it's a lot more action-oriented than this.

Is there Life on Mars...?

Once you're over Fort Solis's Unreal Engine 5-powered good looks and remarkably lifelike character models, then wandering slowly around a Martian base with a slow-growing sense of foreboding and a terrible map system actually isn't much fun. This is by no means a bad game, but it is underwhelming, and as an alternative you may want to look out for the similarly-themed Deliver Us The Moon and/or Deliver Us Mars instead.

Thanks to Fallen Leaf, Black Drakkar, Dear Villagers and Plan of Attack for the review code.