More human than human.
In space no one can hear you scream. The same can said for underwater. Soma aims to take players into a world where sci-fi and horror collide. Trapped in a world under the sea, Frictional Games aims to take players on an intense first person experience unlike any other. If you’re brave enough, be sure to strap in, sit tight, and prepare for a tense experience.
Soma throws players head first into a seemingly abandoned underwater facility. The place is a wreck, players are not sure exactly what has transpired, and no one is around to answer any questions. The experience starts off rather jolting in a way, but really brings the mystery to the attention of the player in wondering just how or why they ended up in this situation. The answers or twists some might have expected seemingly come early on, and what is happening or going to happen becomes a much bigger narrative focus, with some revealing and downright depressing information learned much later in the game. That’s not even discussing yet the robots who think they’re human. When running into the first robot who talks and claims to look like a person you can’t help wonder, is it crazy, or is my character?
Platforms: PC, PS4
Price I’d Pay: $24.99
How long to beat: 7-10 hours
Soma is very much like the company’s prior game, Amnesia – mechanics and all. Players navigate areas in first person, finding notes, clues, data logs, and puzzles as they try to make sense of everything going on. Various enemies with hideous design will stalk players throughout, and there is little in the way of defense other than running or hiding. It makes for some very scary and tense moments, and really captures the feeling of terror at the utmost inopportune times. Puzzles actually make sense in the context of the world. For example, there is one where players need to load a simulation into a device before they can activate it. Problem is, it needs specific key files of various gigs in size. Only with correct configuration without overloading the file size will work to allow it to be completed.
Visually this game has everything someone would expect from a sci-fi horror experience. Dimly lit hallways, lights that flicker on and off, and even organic growth that has seemingly taken over the facility. These are not exactly things that strike out as original in the genre, but the overall pieces of everything put together, along with the variation in areas go a long way. Too many games use environments such as this to cut down on development cost, and things look copied and pasted too often. Here I found most areas looked rather unique, and had a style all their own even if it was still made of metal and wires. This goes without even discussing the way exploring the ocean floors looks; breathtaking at times, but murky, quiet, and alone.
A genre such as this deserves excellent sound design, and the soundtrack delivers in spades, including noises in the distance, sounds of generators turning on, the deafening screech the creatures make, and the sound of the ocean water rushing. The main character dialog works well, and gives a great performance, questioning the very things the player wonders. Along with the data logs and other characters overheard they really help sell the overall story. It’s a great cast, excellent sound design, and moments that will crawl under the player’s skin are helped by the overall score.
I really only had one issue with the game, and it’s more of a minor annoyance if you could even call it that. The core gameplay here is by and large the very same as Amnesia. Players walk, run from creatures, solve puzzles, and experience the story. Nothing extremely out of the ordinary or genre defining, but does that always mean a game has to? I think not, and SOMA showcases this perfectly. It might come off as a cross between Bioshock, Dead Space, and The Thing, but the story it tells and ultimately delivers is quite unlike any of those, minus the familiar settings or vibes.
I finished Soma in 7 hours according to STEAM and did so in 3 sittings. When the credits rolled and the post sequence played out, I had a huge mixture of emotions. I was sad at the way the story ended, but also hopeful. It also made me question space, our very own human subconscious, and robotics. It’s not very often that a game comes along and makes you think long and hard afterward while hitting you in the face with emotion, but here I am. Soma is both an extremely beautiful and terrifying experience. While I still think Amnesia takes the cake for scare factor, everything else in Soma is done better here Story, visuals, and the soundtrack are superb and top tier from Frictional at this point. One of the best sci-fi stories I’ve ever experienced in a videogame and one that can get under your skin.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.