Holy crap. That’s the words that are left coming out of my mouth after finishing this game, but I truly mean that in the best way possible. When I think of SOMA after playing I am constantly reminded why Fractional Games is so well known for their talent of making amazing horror games. While this game does not exactly focus too much on scares, just the ideas and concepts put into your head by SOMA are terrifying enough.
You are Simon Jarret, a young relaxed Canadian man living in Toronto. In events prior to the game, you have suffered severe brain trauma from a car accident, and after going in for a brain scan looking for treatment, everything doesn’t seem to go as planned. You then wake up in a large abandoned underwater facility stuck with only your wits and an electronic key card device called an Omnitool to survive.
As you learn about the fate of the world around you (as well as its people), you find out that you aren’t alone. Pulling parallels with the Terminator franchise, robots have seem to taken over in your new crazy underwater environment. Mostly insane ones to add to that. You are then left to explore and discover what has happened to your new found world as you explore, talk to the inhabitant robots, and solve mysterious puzzles.
The game also does a great job on pulling you into the story. Soon enough I was remembering everyone’s names and what they do in the world. Every character now had a purpose that was important and interesting. Usually when I play games I remember characters because I have to, but in SOMA, I want to remember their names. It invests you through great pacing and feeding of lore throughout the story.
I wish I could say more, but SOMA’s story is so good that I can’t say another word. Not only does this game put you in an already dark environment full of scary bad guys, but it also deals with a lot of heavy subject matter. I’m not talking about just gore and violence (which trust me there is), but also some mental and philosophical concepts like morality and what it truly means to be human. Some really deep stuff I’d say! Get it? Because you’re underwater? It was funny in my head, I swear. But the world is set up in such a way that is perfect for toying with your mind as you are constantly put into deep thought by the themes presented to you throughout the game. I wish I could tell the whole story here, but it is really something you need to experience for yourself.
GAME PLAY/SCARE FACTOR
As SOMA is a first person horror game, it respectively plays as one. You move with the WASD keys and you also have a crouch, sprint, and a flashlight key, but these of course are all rebindable. You can also lean around corners with Q & E to get a better sense of your surroundings. There is also controller support as well, but I’d personally recommend playing with keyboard and mouse as it feels more natural. Like Fractional Games earlier title, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, you are also able to pick up objects and observe them as you please. Although most objects become repetitive in the midst of your journey, it still never grows old picking them up and throwing them at everything to your heart’s content. The controls never were an issue with me, and the game ran fine other than some slight lag when a lot of stuff was going on at once.
SOMA asks lots of patience with you. Most of the game you’re exploring or hiding in a corner hoping not to get spotted by a foe. If you’re a bit more courageous then you may be doing a lot of sprinting as well, for stealth just may not be your thing. Enemy AI is mostly good as they will hang around the area you’re in, but they won’t magically find you through the ancient art of bull crap. Most locked and closed doors and obstacles you run into you’ll need to use your Omnitool to get past. The Omnitool is your key to everything in SOMA. Locked door? Omnitool. Need to lower water pressure? Omnitool. Need to harvest a robot companion? The Omnitool has you covered. Speaking of that, the game is also quite puzzle heavy. Most of said puzzles will be solved by just simple exploration and putting all the evidence you find in your surroundings together in your head like an Atlantic detective.
SOMA is just a beautiful game on top of that. Even though the most of the time you’ll be looking at rusty mossy pipes and gazing out into the depths of the bottom of the ocean, it still manages to immerse you and make you feel isolated below the depths of the sea.
Sound design is also another stand out feature of the game. Voice acting is for the most part is very good quality. Simon’s voice matches his character and attitude, and the robots scattered throughout the facility are all believable and on par. On very few occasions, the dialogue can seem just the slightest of stale through the middle portions of the game, but it’s a very small gripe compared to the rest of the game. The loud cranks and crashing of running machinery, the lonely isolated breathing of Simon, and the screeches of the foul creatures the lie below the deep set the mood of the environment perfectly. It’s obvious much work was put into the aesthetics of SOMA as it clearly shows itself throughout the entire game.
Now as SOMA is a horror game, you’d expect it to be scary, right? WRONG, kinda. Actually not wrong, but not nearly as scary as some other popular horror games out there. Most of the game you will be alone exploring, and only very rarely will you encounter an enemy that will actually threaten your life. Enemies are usually stuck their own small areas throughout the game, so as long as you know you aren’t in one of those areas, the game doesn’t feel that scary. Instead of a horror game, it’s almost more as a detective adventure game, which isn’t a bad thing in the slightest.
SOMA is truly a testament to Fractional Games ability to make an interesting and overall satisfying game after all these years. SOMA is new, refreshing and a great addition to my game library that I wouldn’t mind revisiting to see the characters and witnessing their stories one more time soon. This game makes you feel emotions all around the board from fear straight to sadness and then to happiness withing minutes. All in that order. And although the game may not focus so much on scares, that doesn’t discredit it from what it sets out to do by making you think, and not many other games are able to do that.
SOMA is a fantastic game that I highly recommend even to people that don’t like horror games. It really questions your morals and beliefs and makes you ask some really meaningful questions that only a game in this particular setting could. It a roller coaster that will last you a good 9 to 12 hours and at a low price as well. Pick it up when you get the chance. I guarantee you you won’t regret it.