Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
-Phillip K. Dick
Frictional Games‘s newest tale of terror is quickly on it’s way to becoming a horror classic. Much like it’s spiritual predecessors (The Amnesia series) Soma certainly has it’s fair share of jump scares and monsters to flee from. But this time Frictional Games has shifted their focus slightly more towards telling an authentic story, and it shows. The story in Soma alone is enough to sell the game. This adventure is rich with innovative, surprising plot twists and paired with a unique philosophical narrative. One which both surprised and intrigued me until it’s abrupt end.
“Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time.”
— H.P. Lovecraft, “The White Ship”
Simon Jarrett was recently in a serious car crash and in the process sustained some sever brain damage. The game opens up to the last few seconds of a nightmare recalling the accident. Simon awakens with a jolt frightened and panting, only to realize that his vibrating phone was responsible for his waking. It’s doctor Mushi calling to verify Simon’s previously-scheduled appointment for an experimental brain scan later that same evening.
The first 30 minutes or so of gameplay consist mostly of mundane tasks such as searching around your apartment, taking a ride on a subway train and exploring Dr. Mushi’s office. But within the first 45 minutes of gameplay Simon finds himself transitioning from his Toronto apartment in 2015 and into an underwater research facility dubbed The PATHOS-II located on the floor of the Atlantic ocean in the year 2104. Simon quickly learns that during his mysterious 89 year slumber, a massive comet plummeted to Earth, ravaging the planet and leaving PATHOS-II as the last outpost of humanity.
But strange things have happened since the cataclysm. The machines in PATHOS-II have begun to develop human characteristics and consciousness, and evil shadows lurk beyond every corner.
“Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters.”
― Stephen King, “The Shining”
Now that you’ve made it onto the PATHOS-II the story begins to unfold. During your investigation of your new sub-aquatic setting you will encounter many complex puzzles and malevolent monsters. The story develops in a linear fashion and should leave you with an understanding of Simon’s surroundings. But along the way you can find much further explanations and tid-bits of backstory. Obtainable notes, audio tapes and more will provide you with this optional information.
- Dangerous Fish
- Mutated scientists
- Zombie-Android Hybrids
- Corrupt Machines
and much more will stand in the way of Simon getting home.
Just as most previous titles from Frictional Games, in SOMA the protagonist you control is utterly helpless. Thrown into a sinister environment he knows nothing about, Simon is ill-prepared to defend himself. So when confronted face-to-face with any of the game’s mechanical monstrosities, Simon’s only option is usually to run and hide. No weapons seem to be usable and your sole ability is being able to move and throw objects. I mean sure you may be able to occasionally cause a distraction but it really doesn’t help much. Making it through this journey will take quick wits and a strong heart.
With that being said, the bulk of the gameplay will be spent either exploring the Pathos or solving puzzles. managing your character’s health and inventory has been streamlined compared to the Amnesia series, complimenting the new story-driven direction well.
SOMA is a well-crafted sci-fi adventure that will leave you questioning exactly what it means to be “Human”.
Soma is a unique survival horror game the revolves around a very original and controversial tale. A few aspects of the world may be familiar to science fiction gamers. But Frictional games presents the story in a way that is truly immersive and convincing. This title boasts a lengthy twelve hours of playtime. Being a mostly exploration centered title, it’s bound to have it’s slow moments. But it never fails to thrill and delight players with brilliant storytelling, refreshing ideas and a dark and surreal atmosphere.
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