Fort Solis Review: If Sunshine, Total Recall and Death Stranding had an Awesome Child (PS5)

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It seems that space is becoming the new westerns, or more recently, the new superhero trend. At least in video games. It’s no secret that arguably the biggest game of the year this year is Starfield, which features a plethora of space-related content, and then there’s the likes of Aliens: Dark Descent, Deliver Us Mars and more besides. Then we have Fort Solis.

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Unlike the aforementioned Starfield, this isn’t a huge open-world expedition, but something much tighter, atmospheric, scary and intimidating. And that is all meant as a huge compliment. Fort Solis was developed by a small team over at Black Drakkar Games, which although it was established in 2021, has a core team of seasoned professionals, and it shows, and the same can be said for Fallen Leaf Studio, who, although small, worked with Black Drakkar Games to produce one of the best indie games of the year.

Related: Gord Review: Dark, Chaotic and Nothing is too Far (PS5)

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Fort Solis – Uncover the Mystery

Fort Solis

For those unaware of the title, Fort Solis features two voice acting behemoths in Troy Baker and Roger Clark, as well as being supported by the excellent Julia Brown, who features for the first time in a game, although with her performance you’d never know. It is this calibre of performance from all three principal actors involved that is the anchor of the game. It simply would not work half as well without them.

In a day and age of run-and-gun, all-action, cookie-cutter releases, it’s nice to see a developer taking a chance on a narrative-driven game. Arguably the indie nature of the studios involved allow such a tact, but the final product looks nothing but a AAA-endeavour – but more on that later.

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The story starts with Roger Clark’s Jack Leary, an engineer situated on Mars, helping Julia Brown’s Jessica Appleton in repairing some machinery on the surface of the hostile planet. Witty banter between the two aside, it seems Jack is due for a vacation, but with a storm incoming on planet, it may not come to fruition. Unfortunately for Jack, the weather ends up being the least of his worries.

During their repartee, Jack gets a notification that there has been an emergency call back at Fort Solis, and according to Jessica, protocol dictates he check it out. So begins the start of a truly unsettling narrative.

Without giving too much away, Jack ends up at Fort Solis and through some investigating, surmises all is not well, although the copious blood stains, discarded, bloody clothes and human bodies should have given that away anyway.

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Related: Gamescom 2023: Alan Wake 2’s Behind-Closed-Doors Preview: One Hell of a Sequel

Fort Solis – Good Mixture of Gameplay and Interactive Movie

Fort Solis

Fort Solis isn’t the most demanding of games where the gameplay is concerned. In fact, very little of the game requires quick reactions, bar the odd quick-time event. However, it does require you to explore; to piece together what is happening; to investigate and most importantly, to have a keen sense of direction.

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The game does a fantastic job of immersing the players into the tale, with a minimal HUD, very un-intrusive quest markers, and a natural order to what to do and when. Through your investigation you’ll come across all manner of items, from video and written logs from the staff at Fort Solis, to posters, diaries and more. On its own each piece means nothing, as a collective it shows the strained relationships between the crew, the differing opinions and the total disregard for safety.

There’s a constant sense of dread every time you enter a new room, never particularly sure what or who is going to be waiting to welcome you, and the story does a fantastic job early on at setting up multiple explanations for the events that follow.

In fact, Fort Solis as a whole opens very strongly. It intrigues and draws you in incredibly well, and you’ll find yourself desperate to uncover what is or isn’t going on. One of the only criticisms of the story is that it does drop off, and quite suddenly. The pacing does come to a halt, and then speeds up to an early end seemingly out of nowhere, and you’ll find yourself wishing for another chapter or two just to have had time to process everything going on.

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Related: Immortals of Aveum Review: A Magical Mixed Bag (PS5)

So this is what Unreal Engine 5 can do?

Fort Solis

Fort Solis is built on Unreal Engine 5, and not only does it put it to good use, it excels with it. The game is glorious to look at, and that’s saying something, with a considerable chunk of the game being set in dark and gloomy corridors, or the windy and dangerous surface of Mars.

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Every single second of the game is a treat for the eyes, with environments bursting with detail and the character models are some of the most realistic we’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing in a video game. If this is what the studios can do with a small team and small budget, we can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in the future.

I loved every single second of my time with Fort Solis, and as well as piecing together everything and exploring the site, I spent too much time nosing around through my co-workers emails and private effects under the guise of uncovering the story, but it was as much fun finding out snippets of my co-workers lives outside their work. It’s a fantastically weird amalgamation of Total Recall, Sunshine and the walking simulator Death Stranding, but all packaged in a sometimes-claustrophobic, always-atmospheric package.

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8/10

Razer Viper V2 Pro

Fort Solis was played on PlayStation 5 and reviewed with a code supplied by PlanofAttack.

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Written by Luke Addison

Articles Published: 437

Luke Addison is the Lead Video Game Critic and Gaming Editor. As likely to be caught listening to noughties rock as he is watching the latest blockbuster cinema release, Luke is the quintessential millennial wistfully wishing after a forgotten era of entertainment. Also a diehard Chelsea fan, for his sins.

Twitter: @callmeafilmnerd