Slow paced games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s something about low-paced, low-peril exploring that I really enjoy. I love the idea of finding an abandoned building and getting chance to go places that people haven’t been for years, or somewhere that’s been lost to the elements through years of abandonment and neglect. So bring about the chance to explore a mysteriously abandoned location on Mars of all places, and my interest is well and truly piqued.
Fort Solis lets you do exactly that. As an engineer on Mars you’re alerted to a problem in a nearby station, and head off to see what’s going on. Finding the entire place deserted, you’ll be wandering around the corridors and rooms of Fort Solis trying to piece together just what’s going on. Fans of games such as Gone Home will feel at home here, but while part of the beauty of Gone Home was the small and cosy home that you were exploring while the story unfolded around you, Fort Solid is a much larger and more sprawling area. There’s more to explore which is pretty cool if you’re patient enough, and as you gain further security clearance you’ll be able to get into new areas and additional crew quarters, giving you even more stuff to be nosy about. The problem comes when you need to get from one place to another and can’t quite remember the way.
At times like this, and with the map on your wrist not being overly easy to follow, things can become a bit of a slog. You can find yourself wandering aimlessly for quite a long time, only to find yourself back where you started. And if you’re hoping to speed things up with a gentle job, forget it. There’s no option to up your pace, so you’ll have to make do with a leisurely stroll. At times, this is fine; in the early stages of the game when your surroundings are novel and exciting it’s nice to know you won’t miss any details, and as a narrative-driven game it’s not your own heart rate that dictates how the game is going. The exploration, the feeling that you really shouldn’t be poking your nose into those places you’re poking it, it’s really nicely done. It’s just later, when that novelty has worn off and you just want to get from A to B that things can feel a bit slow.
The storyline is really decent though, and the voice acting from the likes of the always-brilliant Troy Baker fits things incredibly well and rarely feels like it’s been levered in or unnaturally dumped into a quiet moment. Throughout the four hours or so things progress in a way that isn’t entirely unexpected, but still has enough question marks hovering around to keep you wondering. My only main gripe with the storyline is how it all comes to a close. There are two possible endings depends on your success at some tricky-to-spot quick time events in the closing moments, but neither felt overly satisfying after such a build up. My wife, who had enjoyed watching me play through the entire game, was visibly irritated by how it all came to a close, with the phrase “is that it?” being used more than once. It was a fair summary, after finding out so much and going through some tough moments in the final hour of the game it really did just fizzle out at the end in a way that made me wonder if they just ran out of ideas at the wrong moment. It’s a shame; until then it has been a genuinely interesting experience.
Which all comes to asking whether you should pick up Fort Solis. It all comes down to your levels of patience – if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to retread old ground and just wants their stories to rattle onwards at a quick pace, you’ll want to head elsewhere. But despite Fort Solis’ shortcomings, if you love the idea of exploring an abandoned facility on Mars with little by way of danger or concern (for the most part, at least) then you still might find quite a bit to like here. Be prepared though for those moments of feeling slightly lost and wondering why things had to taker quite as long as they do.
Reviewed on PS5