In space, nobody can hear your heart pounding out of your chest. That’s the experience we had with Fort Solis, a brand new space thriller landing on PC and consoles this week. It’s not exactly horror per se, but this engaging story-driven game had us on the edge of our seats from start to finish.
In Fort Solis, you take on the role of Jack Leary, an engineer working on a Martian mining rig. His regular work day takes a startling turn, however, when he picks up a distress signal from the titular Fort Solis, an old mining base. With no-one responding to his calls and a dangerous storm about to roll in, Jack has no option but to head over there himself. He’s no idea what he’s going to find – but it can’t be anything too bad, surely? There’s going to be a reasonable explanation for what’s going on… right?
Right from the off, Fort Solis instills a sense of unease within you. Although Jack provides numerous moments of comic relief with his witty personality and the banter he shares over the radio to his colleague Jessica, the tension is palpable from the moment he arrives outside the imposing structure of Fort Solis. We just know something isn’t right. And we have no idea what’s waiting for us inside.
Exploring Fort Solis feels somewhat dangerous, but you’re going to want to poke your nose around all the corners of this empty base all the same. Spread over several floors, it’s a huge area – although where you can go is conveniently gated by a tiered security clearance system where you’ll need to find higher-level passes to gain access to new rooms. If you can fight the fear of not knowing what’s lurking around any corner, it does pay to explore: this is a game that relies heavily on environmental storytelling, and so every extra video log and voice recording you can find will give you a better understanding of what’s going on.
It looks sublime, and the emptiness of Fort Solis is amplified in its intricately detailed corridors, offices and crew quarters. Whiteboards filled with scribbles, a messy rec hall and posters and photographs pinned up on the wall provide a sense of life, which is juxtaposed by the eeriness of the silent hallways with not a soul to be found.
Gaining access to new areas really is thrilling, although the urgency of the narrative in the game’s second half is somewhat at odds with your ability to explore. Do you press on and do what you’re supposed to be doing, in the time-sensitive manner it calls for, or do you sneak off back to the living quarters, to snoop around the room of the dead worker you’ve just found? Decisions, decisions…
We can’t really complain, though, because we’re glad Fort Solis does give us a bit of agency when it comes to exploration, even if it isn’t entirely in keeping with the overall threat of the game. Still, there are lots of questions to be answered, and you’re only going to find them by poking your nose around – so it’s not entirely out of the question.
While Fort Solis’ story isn’t the most straightforward – mostly pieced together by the video and voice recordings you find as you explore – it’s helped along by some excellent voice work. Jack is portrayed by Roger Clark (Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2), and his colleague Jess is expertly brought to life by Julia Brown. Troy Baker’s among the cast, too, although even the lesser-known voices do a fantastic job, leaving you wanting to find out more about the mysterious goings-on in this huge, godless facility.
If it seems like we’re being vague about what actually happens in Fort Solis, that’s because we are. The less you know about the story before going in, the better. But if you enjoy narrative-led adventures, like to be kept on the edge of your seat and find the idea of exploring an abandoned space facility fascinating, take it from us: you’re going to lap this up. Think Alien Isolation without the terrifying Xenomorph, or Deliver Us Mars with less frustrating puzzles.
It’s short enough to play through in one sitting, but that’s for the best: once you get started with Fort Solis, you’re going to struggle to pull yourself away. It’s a tense, haunting journey that will have you hooked from the word go, keeping you on your toes as you wonder what awaits around every corner. Perhaps its overall story could have packed a bit more punch, but we still lapped up every second of it as we explored the fascinating and eerie titular space station.