In the world of horror games, a lot of titles, be it new IPs or recurring iterations, a lot of emphasis is placed on the scares which will haunt players from beginning to end. While these scares are essentially what has created the horror game genre, it is almost safe to say that what identifies a game as being horror in today’s times is a solid, creepy atmosphere, where almost everything can happen, keeping you on your toes from the first minute into the game. SOMA is a game which oozes tension from the get go, and it doesn’t get prettier from there on out.
SOMA comes from Frictional Games, the same developers behind critically acclaimed Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Amnesia was also a horror game, meaning that the studio may have learnt a couple of tricks from that title to incorporate in their next game, namely SOMA. The game puts you in the unfortunate shoes, or boots while we’re at that, of Simon Jarret, who is presumably a scientist since he wakes up in this sort of laboratory. To make things even worse, this is an underwater research facility, so it is not as if he can just wake up and go home. Why Simon is in this facility is one of the game’s mysteries is not explained at all, but by playing through the game one will start to unravel, bit by bit, the why of all of this.
Gameplay-wise, there is nothing too complicated, but the commands and mechanics are very much suited to the atmosphere of the game. Like Amnesia, the game features a series of prompts on screen, as the little white dot in the middle of the screen changes depending on the situation and the action which it lets you do. As horror games do, there are bad guys roaming the facility, and unlike the majority of other titles, you are defenceless here. This means that staying way, waaaay back is the best option for ensured safety, but finding some box somewhere to cower behind is also a reliable option where to hide. Some of the creatures roaming about the area are some sort of mechanical abominations, similar to Big Daddy in Bioshock, similarly used in underwater scenarios. Instead of being big and friendly though, the ones in Soma are ugly, terrifying and hostile. They make it obvious they do not want humans down there with them, and your only hope of making it out of there alive is to never make contact with these things.
One of the protagonists of this game, as should be in all other game and mostly horror games, is the killer combination of sound and atmosphere. As soon as you begin the game, and I mean literally when you press new game and load the beginning, the eeriness of the title begins to descend on you. The awareness of it being a horror title and that it was produced by the same folks who made Amnesia definitely has a part in all of this, but the mysterious nature of your surroundings, coupled with the awkward feeling which settles in is something rarely felt in other horror games, not even top titles like Resident Evil. If it is comparable to something, it feels like Resident Evil 4, briefly after discovering what is possessing the zombies. Seeing that spider-like thing sprout from the heads of zombies was terrifying, and that same feeling is somehow teleported to Soma. I’d file a lawsuit against you guys if I ever wet my pants! Seriously though, as scary as it is, if one takes his time to observe calmly the game, one truly realizes how much work goes just into creating one scene out of hundreds more, let alone to develop the whole game.
Visually, the game does not leave an impression like the sound does, but it is still aesthetically pleasing. The main reason for this is that there are so many games rendered in HD that is has become difficult to appreciate visuals, while the sound effects featured in Soma are unlike any other game out there. The different landscapes, or should I say seascapes, are brilliantly created, and the insides of the facility make you feel as if you were exploring the place yourself. It almost comes alarming that while beholding all of this, you will also encounter freaky and messed up stuff such as dying robots and creepy growths along walls, among others. This also serves as a reminder of the type of game you are playing, after all.
Soma may go down relatively unnoticed, mostly because almost half of the people I talk to about the game do not even know what it is, but to those who did notice it and have had the courage to play it, it has been a beautiful and massively scary revelation. These reviews will hopefully push it into larger crowds of enthusiasts, although my bet is that those who do love a good horror game or two have probably already played through it all. It is a game which does what it was made for – scare people. And oh boy, how well it does!
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.