Review – Fort Solis

The Unreal Engine 5 is finally here, and we’re finally seeing a plethora of games featuring it being released in the wild. Layers of Fear and Remnant II are two main examples, but what I really wanted to see was a small studio handling the power offered by Epic Games’ brand new engine. What would be the brand new standard for ambitious indie development with such tools? Fort Solis, by Fallen Leaf, is today’s test subject.

Fort Solis Wyatt

This guy carries the entire damn game on his back.

A thriller set in an abandoned base in Mars isn’t exactly the most groundbreaking of premises, but I can’t deny, it’s always enticing. Moons of Madness made it work back in 2019, for instance. There’s something about the claustrophobia and isolation of an abandoned sci-fi base that makes the premise so interesting. Maybe it’s the fear of the unknown, the fear of having your breathing equipment blow up at any moment. Fort Solis starts off with your protagonist, Jack (now that’s a creative name, innit?), responding to a distress alert coming from the titular base. He hops into his cool Mars rover in order to investigate.

The game started to disappoint me the second I hopped into said car. The reason? I wasn’t driving the damn thing. It was just a cinematic cutscene up until reaching the titular Fort Solis itself. Upon entering the base, I would only be able to walk. Slowly. Calmly. At the pace of a snail after smoking a fat one. It then hit me: Fort Solis is, by all intents and purposes, a walking simulator. In no moment was I able to actively start running or move at a faster pace; any instances of seeing my protagonist run towards or away from something/someone were scripted. They were mere cutscenes.

Fort Solis QTE

Quick-time events. In 2023. Are you for real.

Now, the fact a game is a walking simulator isn’t exactly an immediate deal-breaker. I always mention The Stanley Parable when trying to describe the perfect walking sim: a game where, yes, all you do is walk, but your actions actually make an impact on the plot. You’re not an spectator, but the actual protagonist of the interactive story at hand. Truth be told, Fort Solis does feature interactivity, and Jack’s action do set the plot in motion. Sadly, the developers thought that a handful of interactions with computer terminals and freaking quick-time events were enough to constitute the entire interactivity department of their game.

I was legitimately appalled upon facing my first QTE in Fort Solis. “Did they really add this crap into the game?” was my immediate mental response. None of the QTEs in question were terrible (hell, very few of them would cause any penalties if I ever pressed them at the wrong time), but why add them? They never added any meaningful depth or tension. Were Fort Solis completely devoid of them, being focused solely on you going from point A to point B in order to trigger conversations and cutscenes, I would have considered that less of a disaster.

Fort Solis rover

What a neat rover. Too bad I can’t drive it.

Thankfully, the story itself isn’t bad, though it is the typical case of a horror/thriller which could have only happened because every single player in the story was a complete imbecile. Jack loves to put himself in trouble whenever possible. His coworker tells him to never explore a place without wearing a helmet, in case said place suffers from depressurization; Jack does the exact opposite. Jack finds corpses and pools of blood; he then decides NOT to get the hell away from the area, even though he clearly knows things ain’t right. These are but a few examples of your playable character’s innate ability to act like the biggest idiot on the surface of Mars.

No, it wasn’t Jack who captivated me, nor was his coworker, who would talk to him ad nauseum in a carbon copy of the dialogue exchange style seen in Firewatch. To be fair, I really disliked Jack’s actor’s delivery, even though he is the same guy who voiced Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption II. Nope, the stars of the show were the supporting characters, namely the scientist Wyatt Taylor, portrayed with perfection by Troy Baker (because of course).


Even your coworker agrees with me, Jack. Get the hell out of this damn base.

It’s not just the quality of the performances that elevated characters like Wyatt Taylor and other scientists stranded in the Fort Solis station. We now need to talk about the main selling point of the game as a whole: the visuals. Fort Solis is one of the first commercial releases to be developed on Unreal Engine 5, so the developers did their best to showcase one of the main features of the new engine: human facial expressions. The most appealing aspect of the game as a whole is looking for terminals containing video logs recorded by the aforementioned scientists.

Those are some fascinating facial expressions. They make formerly ultra-realistic faces like the ones seen in the Final Fantasy movie look like Lego blocks in comparison. Weirdly enough, however, the protagonist wasn’t blessed with the same kinds of facial expressions. His face looks lifeless, dated, not fitting at all with his voice. Finally, whilst the game as a whole looks really impressive, I noticed a ton of framerate issues when playing it in Performance mode. Considering how there is zero action in Fort Solis, there is no reason to stick to such visual mode. Stick to Quality mode, and just enjoy its, uh, “cinematic appeal”.

Fort Solis rubik's cube

Highlight of the game as a whole.

The fact that Fort Solis is devoid of gameplay isn’t what made it so unbearable to experience. Filling it with clunky walking physics, pointless quick-time events, and plot decisions only a braindead idiot would make, are what ruined it for me. It is an impressive showcase of what Unreal Engine 5 can provide to smaller games, but also a game so devoid of interesting interactivity I can’t help but think it would have been a better experience had I just decided to watch someone play it on YouTube, or if the devs just decided to turn it into a movie (it’s as short as one). When the most interesting interactive aspect about your horror game is the fact you have coded a Rubik’s cube into it, you know something ain’t right.


Graphics: 8.5

There are some impressive visual elements in display, namely the quality of facial expressions whenever watching video logs. Your playable character’s facial expressions are the polar opposite, feeling lifeless and dated. Framerate issues are persistent.

Gameplay: 4.0

It being a walking simulator isn’t what hinders the gameplay the most. The problem lies in the sluggish movement and barrage of QTEs.

Sound: 8.0

The protagonist is poorly voiced, but everyone else in the cast delivers a fantastic job. The soundtrack is sparse but impactful.

Fun Factor: 4.5

Even if the story isn’t half bad, Fort Solis isn’t presented in a way that’s fun to experience.

Final Verdict: 5.5

Fort Solis is available now on PS5 and PC.

Reviewed on PS5.

A copy of Fort Solis was provided by the publisher.