Fort Solis review: Surface tension

Although this narrative-driven thriller may have went all-in on the visuals, it ultimately falls short in other departments.


Fort Solis, the debut title from developer Fallen Leaf and published by Dear Villagers, is a sci-fi thriller that blends cinematic quality graphics with interactive elements for an immersive and intense story-driven experience. Inspired by games like Firewatch and Until Dawn, Fort Solis is akin to an interactive film, offering sharp visuals and realistic animations that further strengthen the stellar performances of its star-studded cast. Told across four chapters, Fort Solis is a digestible game that can be completed in a few hours. While it ultimately does not break new ground in its genre, it will likely satisfy those looking for a different way to spend movie night.

Holding down the fort

A screenshot of the back of a vehicle used to drive to Fort Solis.

Source: Dear Villagers

Players don the spacesuit of Jack Leary, an engineer stationed on Mars in the year 2080. As a storm looms on the horizon, Jack and his cohort Jessica are working on repairs when they are alerted by an alarm set off at the nearby mining complex, Fort Solis. Jack sets out to investigate the alarm, while Jessica stays behind to brace for the storm.

As you explore the dark and eerily quiet mining base, you will have to piece together what happened to Fort Solis and its crew based on messages, surveillance footage, audio recordings, and video logs found along the way. The journey is underlain by a somber soundtrack with original tunes by composers Ted White and Mary Komasa that set the tone for the trek ahead.

Out for a spacewalk

A screenshot of Jack looking down a hallway inside Fort Solis.

Source: Dear Villagers

Built in Unreal Engine 5, Fort Solis boasts crisp graphics and top-notch animations, which are bolstered by impressive mocap performances by Roger Clark, Troy Baker, and Julia Brown. Despite its cinematic nature, Fort Solis offers seamless gameplay that does away with loading screens and does not cut away during cutscenes, allowing players to become more immersed in the story and setting. While the high visual fidelity is among its most appealing features, it also means the game is rather technically demanding. Lowering the graphics settings does little to quell performance issues and the optimization options are somewhat limited for a game that puts so much emphasis on its visuals.

Most of the time in Fort Solis is spent meandering through the dark corridors of the complex in search of clues and information. Some objects can reveal new details about the events leading up to the alarm being triggered. You have a Multitool device attached to your wrist that allows you to view a map of each layer of the facility along with any audio and video logs you’ve collected. Even with the map, however, it can be easy to get turned around while retracing your steps through the facility. There is a bit of light puzzle solving that typically involves using environmental clues to forge a path forward, such as unlocking a door using a computer terminal.

A screenshot of a pink tree inside the Fort Solis mining facility.

Source: Dear Villagers

Aside from some minor puzzle solving, most interactions involve pressing one or more buttons in a sequence or landing a quick-time event. While the intent was clearly to provide some way to game-ify the experience and elevate it beyond the status of walking simulator, the key combos and QTEs hardly break the mold. Missing a key prompt or QTE can mildly effect how a scene plays out, but ultimately does not change the overall direction of the story. I also encountered a glitch where I became stuck during one of the button prompt sequences and had no choice but to quit the game and restart.

The character movement in Fort Solis also leaves something to be desired. Walking speed is as fast as you can move, with no way to sprint or otherwise move faster. While this helps build tension and suspense early on, the slow-burn pacing begins to feel tedious and misplaced as you uncover more about the facility and experience intense moments. The walking itself is also rather cumbersome and imprecise at times, which makes trudging from place to place that much more arduous.

As a narrative-driven experience, Fort Solis presents an intriguing story that remains compelling throughout the initial chapters. However, the tale becomes increasingly convoluted as new details unfold and the latter half of the game ultimately did not have the narrative punch that I had been preparing for. The more intense story beats were often marred by uninspired QTEs that further break the immersion.

Beauty is only skin deep

A screenshot showing Jack looking back over his shoulder in Fort Solis.

Source: Dear Villagers

While the game does little to push its genre forward, it does set the bar a bit higher in terms of visuals. As visually stunning as Fort Solis is, it puts all its design eggs into one graphics basket, resulting in gameplay elements that end up taking away from the immersion that the developers so desperately tried to create and sustain. Heavy emphasis is placed on the visual fidelity of the game, just to have players spend their time squinting through sandstorms and slogging through pitch-dark corridors. While the facial animations and acting performances are excellent, these features are rarely on display, save for the occasional pre-rendered video logs found along the way.

Fort Solis is presented like an interactive movie, but with gameplay that detracts from the experience rather than complimenting it. The narrative tries to subvert your expectations to maintain the excitement, but despite the compelling circumstances in the beginning, the story failed to stick the landing in the end. At least the game does not overstay its welcome, clocking in at roughly four to six hours depending on if you pursue collectibles and side content.

This review was based on a pre-release Steam review code provided by the publisher. Fort Solis releases on August 22, 2023 for PlayStation 5 and PC.

Contributing Editor

Larryn is a freelance contributor who creates video game guides and reviews for Shacknews and has more than a decade of experience covering games across various outlets. When she's not gaming, Larryn can often be found watering houseplants, playing D&D, or teaching her cats new tricks.

Review for
Fort Solis
  • Stellar acting performances
  • Graphically impressive visuals and animations
  • Soundtrack adds to atmospheric tension
  • Short enough to binge in an afternoon
  • Technical problems and glitches take away from immersion
  • QTEs and limited mobility make for tedious gameplay
  • Story falls flat toward the end
  • Easy to get turned around at times
  • Limited optimization options
From The Chatty
Hello, Meet Lola