Fort-ress of Solis-tude
Horror is a cool genre. The horror in the movie can be anything from a monster, to a murderer, to a creeping sense of doubt in yourself or those around. Video game horror tends to take the monster route. Path of least resistence. That’s not to say there haven’t been thriller horror games but games need to fill in a lot of space and just running from a regular spooky guy for 20+ hours is a tougher nut to crack, despite what David Cage wants you to think. 2023 has been packed to the gills with horror. Texas Chainsaw, Dead Space, Calisto Protocol, Resident Evil 4 and you have Alan Wake 2 and Silent Hill 2 popping and that’s just the surface of the iceberg.
Enter Fallen Leaf. A brand new studio really swinging for the fences when it comes to a debut title. Fort Solis is a third person thriller running on Unreal Engine 5 and they have been playing it close to the vest on what to expect from this game. I need to make something very VERY clear about this game. This isn’t Dead Space. I’ve seen a lot of previews of people talking about how it looks like Dead Space or Calisto Protocol. DO NOT go into this experience thinking that’s the kind of gameplay experience you’re going to get. Because plainly and simply, you just aren’t. You’ll be very disappointed. With that out of the way let’s get into.
You are Jack. Jack is voiced by Roger Clark (Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2) and you’re doing your Mars job thing with your partner Jessica (Julia Brown — no previous games, she’s a Scottish actress) when you get an alarm call from a neighboring facility, the titular Fort Solis (Troy Baker is there too — he’s the other main character that I honestly can’t get into because I want you to play this). When nobody responds, you head off towards Solis to investigate what in the world is happening. When you arrive you find that the facility is in lockdown and once you find your way inside you find that there is absolutely nobody around but you find some disturbing clues to something being afoot. Can’t really go too much further in the story without starting to just spoil the entire hook of the game. Fort Solis is gorgeous. The atmosphere is incredible. This is not a derelict base lost to time as you learn its secrets. Everything that’s happening is just recently underway. It was still a very active facility until very recently. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual oily and industrial look sci fi horror usually likes to employ.
You may be saying “J.J., you haven’t explained the gameplay in any way, shape or form so far and you’re 4 paragraphs in now” and that’s not entirely true. Fort Solis is cut into 4 chapters. I completed the game in under 4 hours and I’m terrible at games and also didn’t find all the files. Fort Solis is simply an adventure game. Its entire gameplay loop revolves around environmental storytelling and sequential discovery. Superficially it is a Metroidvania. You can through parts of the base, activate various elements whether it be keycards or security terminals to unlock the next section.The entire gameplay experience is the slow burn of you gradually learning what the hell has happened in this facility. Any and all “action” sequences are QTEs. You do not get a gun. This is not an action game or a survival horror game. You aren’t going to be managing resources. This is a 4 hour video game crafted to suck you into its world with its top tier voice cast, acting, and plotting and it worked for me.
I don’t think this experience is for everybody, but it’s definitely for me. It pulled me in and I needed to know what the hell was happening here. I can only hope this isn’t the last time we’ll see such a tight well crafted experience that doesn’t wear out its welcome again frome this team. I just want people to judge this experience for what it is and not what they wanted it to be.
This review is based on a PlayStation 5 code sent to SideQuesting by the publisher. It first appeared on the August 29th episode of The SideQuest.