Video games are my favorite medium for storytelling, and sci-fi is my favorite genre, so when I saw that Fallen Leaf was bringing their latest narrative-driven IP, Fort Solis, to PAX East 2023, I knew I had to check it out.
We had the opportunity with our Fort Solis preview to go hands-on with about 15 minutes of gameplay and chat with Game Director James Tinsdale about his experience developing the story and what we can expect in the final run of the game.
Fort Solis Is a Highly Detailed Narrative Adventure
In our Fort Solis preview, we didn't have the opportunity to see much beyond the initial habitation base, but Tinsdale assured us there was more to explore and do, especially when players reach the surface of Mars. This single-player, sci-fi adventure follows Jack Leary, a man who is in the midst of surviving on an isolated mining base on Mars. Built from the ground-up on Unreal Engine 5, Fort Solis is an impressive display of what current-gen tech is capable of.
The game is impressively detailed, right down to the creases and wrinkles on the towels hanging in the bathroom, and the mo-cap work is especially well done: video diaries in particular show an incredible range of emotion from the actors.
"People are used to high production value," Tinsdale said. "We cast people comfortable with intense facial expressions and who can give a great performance when working with mo-cap. As developers, our job is to make sure the game is professionally well done."
Fort Solis: Designed for All Kinds of Players
To ensure people play and finish Fort Solis, Tinsdale understood that there are certain challenges that need to be overcome.
"When you're making a narrative game, pacing is key," Tinsdale said. "When you make a narrative-story game, the entry level needs to be very low."
The Fort Solis gameplay we enjoyed was designed to be experienced a very specific way: the character could only walk, not run, and interacting with the environment would open up new objectives or pathways to take. Tinsdale told us the pacing increases as the game progresses, allowing movement to change dynamically based on what the objective is so that it doesn't take too long to get from place to place.
Ultimately, the development team wants people to be able to finish the Fort Solis story, whether that means playing it themselves or watching a stream online. We don't know exactly how long it will take to complete Fort Solis' story, but Tinsdale assured us it's not something that would take dozens of hours where people would bounce off.
From our interview, it's clear we can expect a concise, tightly written story that deals not only with handling things on an alien planet, but the very real human emotions that go with that. Tinsdale wanted to push the performances to get the emotional stakes of the story as well as possible.
"Grief is something no one can prepare you for," Tinsdale said. "And when it happens, you learn to live with it."
Fort Solis Release Date Is Scheduled for Q3 2023
The Fort Solis release date hasn't been confirmed yet, but the team is aiming for a Q3 2023 release window. Fort Solis will release on Steam and PlayStation 5, with the latter offering dynamic DualSense haptics to help enhance the experience. For those looking for a slow-paced narrative horror experience that throws the player into the center of surviving on Mars, Fort Solis offers plenty to look forward to.
Fort Solis was previewed on a PC at PAX East 2023.