Over the last twenty years, the idea of colonizing other planets while Earth is dying has been a strong focal point of many sci-fiction stories. Most of these gaming franchises have been successful whether it was Destiny, Red Faction, Dead Space, and even Doom. But what is so fascinating about colonizing Mars? Is it the unknown of our sibling planet? Is it the general proximity or is it the historical lore? No matter what the factors, what developers do with red planets is what makes the games special. Now will Fallen Leaf/Black Drakkar Games’ newest title continue with the Mars allure or will it be lost in the red dust? Find out in our Fort Solis review.
Developer: Fallen Leaf, Black Drakkar Games
Publisher: Dear Villagers
Platforms: PC (Steam), Mac, and PlayStation 5
Release Date: August 22nd, 2023
Price: $24.99 USD PC/MAC, $29.99 PS5
At PAX East 2023, we had the opportunity to meet with Dear Villagers to preview the now-released game, Fort Solis. For the preview, they put us in a dark room so we could fully absorb the atmosphere and take in the darkness of the void.
For the preview, we were tasked with finding out why the crew of the station disappeared and why a lockdown was initiated. The dark atmosphere created an uneasy feeling and every bump or creek would create tension.
With such a suspenseful preview from PAX, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on Fort Solis; this was only amplified by the announcement that Troy Baker would play a prominent role in the game.
Like other Sci-fi adventure thrillers, Fort Solis starts out with the main character repairing wind turbines before a massive storm and then receives a distress call from Fort Solis.
Upon answering the distress call, we find that the base has been put on lockdown and no one within is responding.
Looking to find the cause of the lockdown, our character enters the base and starts to search for its crew. According to records, there are supposed to be six crew members, but we have yet to find one.
The story intensifies when we find a pool of blood and a ton of bloody bandages. Something has gone dramatically wrong and rather than waiting for help to arrive, we will be the detective.
Alright, from a story standpoint, the game’s story is your ordinary run-of-the-mill suspense mystery. Something has gone wrong, people are found dead, and things aren’t adding up.
What the game does to change the standard narrative is have us play as two different characters throughout. Once, we find out the cause of the lockdown, all the pieces start to line up and like most dramatic stories, shit hits the fan.
The story is solid with great voice acting. What truly holds it back is the slow pacing and its shortness. Despite having an alternate ending, the game feels way too short for its price point.
The game can easily be completed within 2 to 3 hours if you are speed-running it. Even when trying to draw it out, we still completed the game in under 5 hours.
As we briefly mentioned in the story section, the game’s pacing is rather slow; this is primarily due to the game having the player only walk unless in a cutscene and limited directions to the objective. The game will give you verbal clues at first, but it is up to you to find your own way.
The game’s mini-map is probably one of the most annoying ones to use in recent years. In order to use it, you will need to look at your arm gauntlet/tablet, look at the map, and then try to find the orange marker to help you find your way.
Throughout most of the game, the doors within the station will be locked and will require certain access keys to open different doors; when you finally do get all the access keys, you realize how small the map truly is. The developers do a good job at disguising it based on the different environments but it seems like most of their energy was spent making the giant greenhouse.
Although the minimap can be annoying, it is not the game’s worst aspect. The thing that got under our skin the most was the QTEs; the timing on the QTEs was inconsistent and they felt like a tedious chore rather than a fun gameplay experience.
The puzzles within the game were pretty basic outside of a Rubix cube leaving something to be desired. If you like more of a linear adventure where you don’t have to do much to play detective, then the gameplay is pretty sold.
In a way, Fort Solis is basically like a point-and-click adventure where you are just having to fill in the time. When it comes to playing the game, almost everything works as intended, however, there are these weird moments when interacting with certain objects that your character will do a 360 turn.
Graphics & Audio
When it comes to Fort Solis’ graphics, there are two tales; this primarily comes down to whether you choose quality or performance. No matter what you choose the game will have moments when it has trouble rendering an area; the main difference is what setting you choose.
If you choose quality, you will get a crisper picture but there are quite a few moments where there are rendering issues. These issues take you out of the immersive experience and detract from the overall experience. The game is pretty but it feels like most of the assets came straight out of Dead Space.
Where the game does shine is with its audio and special effects. the voice actors in the game did an amazing job with their roles and you can feel the characters’ emotions through each delivery. Honestly, Troy Baker killed his role and made his character really shine. We won’t spoil who he plays but man does he deliver.
As for the special effects in Fort Solis, the developers have done a great job with the game’s audio. The way each object sounds when it moves to the sound of the storm raging outside in the background. Everything they put in the game has a purpose and sounds like it was intended.
Although Fort Solis may be a pretty game to look at and listen to, its core gameplay mechanics and rendering issues hold it back. At its price point, it is more a flavor of the month with a big name rather than an interactive experience that many will enjoy.
The game’s story is enjoyable but you can see its twists and turns a mile away. The controls are fairly simple to use when exploring but the QTEs leave something to be desired; the game offers very few accessibility options that can leave those with auditory or visual impairments frustrated.
On multiple occasions, we found looking at the minimap to be an annoying task. Despite playing on a big TV, the mini-map still felt tiny which might make players on small screens annoyed. The biggest downside to Fort Solis is the game’s overall length. A competent player can finish the campaign in under four hours unless they are trying to milk it for everything that it’s worth. Even then, you aren’t getting much more out of it.
Fort Solis is good, but its retail price leaves a bit to be desired especially for the game’s length. A good price to pick the game up is around the 20-dollar mark on PS5. On PC, it is currently on sale for $22.49. Yes, we had fun with the game, but we were expecting more.
Fort Solis was reviewed on PS5 using a copy provided by Dear Villagers. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Fort Solis was released on August 22, 2023, on PC (Steam), Mac, and PlayStation 5.