Soma is a survival horror game that will leave you with an existential crisis even more terrifying than the game’s monsters.
Frictional Games’ 2015 release brings a different flavor of horror than the developer’s previous hit, Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
While Amnesia is considered by many as one of the scariest video games ever, Soma devotes much more of its attention to flushing out a rich science-fiction storyline. And that’s where Soma finds its groove.
|Developer: Frictional Games|
|Publisher: Frictional Games|
|Genre: Survival Horror|
Soma is a first-person atmospheric adventure game set at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean. You control Simon Jarrett as he explores the isolated and dilapidated PATHOS-II research facility populated by machines that seemingly think they are human.
Like other quality atmospheric games, Soma succeeds in creating a continuous sense of vulnerability. Simon has no weapon and cannot fight off enemies. You must sneak around them to survive, hiding in the dark corners of the labs.
Some of the monsters you cross are particularly difficult to avoid, even downright annoying at times. Luckily, Simon can usually withstand one or two hits before it’s game over, so simply booking it through an area can work when needed. While it may be hard to make it through a section undetected, surviving isn’t necessarily all that hard.
Simon makes his way across the facilities with the help from a researcher who he can communicate to through a digital device he carries called a omnitool. He learns the secrets of what happened at the facility through numerous artifacts left along the path. Finding these clues is reminiscent to finding the audio diaries in Bioshock, and that aspect of gameplay really flushes out Soma’s biggest draw — it’s story.
Like Bioshock, the game also features some puzzles you must do in terminals to unlock doors or other tasks to advance, but they aren’t particularly challenging or memorable.
The game explores age-old sci-fi questions dealing with consciousness and artificial intelligence, focusing on the link between body and mind.
The themes are not exactly innovative to the genre, but Soma succeeds by presenting its story in a well-written and engaging manner that blends well into an underlying horror game.
Simon wakes up in his Toronto apartment with plans of getting a head scan to diagnose headaches he is suffering from following an accident. You awaken from the scan in a dilapidated research facility scattered across the bottom of the ocean. The lab is populated with robots seemingly possessed by people who are unaware they no longer have human bodies.
Simon learns he has awoken in the year 2114 and that a massive comet decimated earth’s surface a year earlier, leaving the undersea lab as the final pocket of humanity.
Simon journeys to different sites of the facility and learns more about its ARK project, a computer that runs a simulated reality with scans of the PATHOS-II staff. The computer was supposed to be launched into space to ensure some version of humanity survived.
Catherine Chun, the researcher Simon talks to through the omnitool, is a digital scan.
Easily the most enjoyable part of the game is simply exploring to unlock more of the backstory of the facility. The story of Soma is enthralling and makes it difficult to pause your quest, even during the most frustrating encounters.
The ending of the game is fantastic and will leave you pondering about it for days.
Soma is a story driven game that does just enough to keep a sense of nerves as you shuffle along the ocean floor. While the developer is known in the horror scene, Soma is at its core a science-fiction classic that will leave you pondering what it means to be human.
Rating: 5/5 beets