Also on: PC
Publisher: Dear Villagers/Plug In Digital
Developer: Fallen Leaf/Black Drakkar Games
It’s been a long time since I hated a game as much as I hate Fort Solis. From top to bottom, there literally wasn’t a single thing about the game I liked. I’m sure I’ve played games that are more poorly made than Fort Solis, but for sheer dislike, I can’t think of many games that come close.
Where to begin? I could talk about the fact it’s a thriller with virtually no moments of tension. I could talk about the fact it’s a walking simulator that artificially extends the length of the game by making you walk at a snail’s pace. I could talk about the fact it’s a story-focused adventure where there’s barely any story to speak of. There are so many ways in which Fort Solis sucks, it’s hard to know where to start.
Let’s start with the walking simulator aspect, because it’s probably the biggest part of why I loathed Fort Solis so much. Right from the get-go, you’re walking across the surface of an alien planet during some kind of storm, and every step feels like you’re pushing against heavy winds and gravity. Then you get inside the eponymous building, and it still feels like you’re pushing against heavy winds and gravity, with the added bonus that you get stuck if the slightest obstacle is in your way. On top of that, if you don’t approach a turn from the correct angle, you turn around (very slowly, of course) on the spot until you’re able to go wherever it is you want to go.
To make matters worse, Fort Solis’ world is mostly static. You can barely interact with anything, and you certainly can’t move anything. Is there a box blocking an entrance? No use trying to squeeze by, it’s a dead end. Trolley blocking your way? Same deal, no go. Time and again, the heroes of Fort Solis find themselves thwarted by the fact they have no mobility and zero problem-solving skills.
This would be annoying on its own, but it’s made worse by the fact that you’re stuck with useless, barely decipherable maps that are a pain to read. You’re forced to view them on a tiny display on your wrist, and your options are either zooming so far out you can’t see where you are or where you need to go, or zooming so far in that you can see exactly where you are, but nothing around you. To further complicate matters, Fort Solis has multiple levels, so you’ll often need to scroll through them just to figure out how to get from one place to another. Given that beacons and full-screen maps have been a thing for a very long time, and the game takes place in a future where they’ve evidently figured out some pretty advanced technology, you’d think none of this would present issues for Fort Solis, but, evidently, you’d be wrong.
This slow-moving lack of urgency is especially bad when you consider that Fort Solis is, nominally, a thriller. Two space engineers are sent to the titular space outpost to investigate a distress signal, and when they arrive they find…something bad? It’s never fully explained, and even after watching the end credits roll I still didn’t fully understand (or care, by that point) what the big mystery was. Nonetheless, they find a few dead bodies, and realize someone or something has gone on a killing spree. It’s a solid set-up, and, to Fort Solis’ credit, even if “abandoned space facility” is kind of a cliché, it’s creepy enough that they’re able to make it seem like the game is going to be scary fun.
Except it’s completely undone by the fact neither of the two heroes – Jack and Jessica – show even the slightest bit of urgency or concern. No matter what they’re doing, they move at a crawl, even when one of them is literally rushing to save the other’s life. The only time either of the characters run is during a cutscene, and you know you’re able to control the character again when they’re back to strolling along the abandoned hallways of the space station where a serial killer is lurking somewhere.
Not even their dialogue reflects the seriousness of their situation. The first half of the game, when you’re controlling Jack and talking to Jessica, is basically just a stream of banter. Even when Jack discovers a dead body, moments later they’re back to cracking jokes with each other over their communications link. Likewise, in the second half (minor spoiler ahead), after Jack gets knocked out and you play from Jessica’s perspective, she’ll go from getting threatened by the killer to making inane comments about her surroundings. While both voice actors, Roger Clark and Julia Brown, try their best to give their respective characters personalities, they can only work with the script they’ve been given, and the plain fact is the script is terrible.
The total lack of action and suspense also serves to undercut the moments where things do happen. Every so often Fort Solis features Quick Time Events, except they’re completely random occurrences, so it’s easy to get caught off guard and miss them completely – though, at the same time, it doesn’t seem like they matter all that much to the story, so it feels like they were just thrown in for the sake of having QTEs. The same goes for the story: there’s so much useless exposition and so many stretches of nothing happening that it’s not hard to zone out and miss what’s going on. It’s entirely possible I missed some major plot points because my mind was wandering while I meandered from one end of the station to the other, because it was such a slog going from Point A to Point B every single time.
And, without getting into spoilers, I have to say that the ending was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. I’d say that it soured me on the rest of the experience, but the reality is that I was done with Fort Solis long, long before I finished it – which is an especially bad sign when you consider that you can finish it in about three hours.
Honestly, even after writing all these words about Fort Solis, I still feel like I’ve only brushed the surface of why it’s such a terrible game. It may look nice, but there’s literally nothing of value here. It’s a waste of time, money, and hard drive space, and you’re better off forgetting its existence.
Dear Villagers/Plug In Digital provided us with a Fort Solis PS5 code for review purposes.