After five years in development, Soma was finally released for the PC and PS4 last week. This game was created by horror veterans Frictional Games, and is a first person sci-fi survival horror title. The game follows Simon Jarrett, a man who suffers brain damage after surviving a fatal car accident that kills his best friend. He agrees to participate in an experimental brain scan, and during the procedure blacks out and wakes up alone in an unfamiliar facility that is plauged with robotic monsters. This is where the real story begins. As you make your way through the base, you uncover it’s gruesome past as well as what happened to the former inhabitants.
In this game, the player is able to interact with almost everything in the world around them. Objects in the world actually have weight. For example, a small rock can be picked up quickly and efortlessly, while a large box might be too heavy to be picked up at all, and can only be slowly pushed across the floor. Even though there are hundreds of objects for players to interact with, there are no weapons or tools to help defend against an attacking enemy. When the player encounters a hostile party, the only option is to run and hide. This type of gameplay, while typical of that of a Frictional Games title, hepls to create a more immersive experience for the player.
The atmosphere in this game is excellent. It’s both beautiful and creepy, and really helps to not only create a sense of foreboding , but to also drive the game’s story. The sound is also impressive. It works perfectly with the graphics to create a world that is grim and genuinely scary.
Though fabulous, Soma is not without it’s faults. It’s excellent writing and rich story are occasionally disrupted by the protagonist’s flat voice acting. Even some of the game’s most intense scenes suffer slightly from a lack of vocal dynamics. If Simon’s voice held more emotion, I’m confident that several segments of the game could’ve been scarier.
Enemies are similar to those found in both Amnesia and Penumbra. They wander back and forward on a set path, and only venture out of it if they detect a loud noise. This is how they’re a bit of a let down. They’re initially scary, but eventually become more frustrating than frightening due to their predictable AI. Their shock value dies out and they become just another obstacle.
Unlike Frictional’s other games, Soma is very heavily story driven, and strives to be more than just another survival horror game. It succeeds in telling a story that is not only fascinating, but also thought provoking. There are slow moments, but these are made up for by reveals that are shocking and unsettling. This game is a unique experience that will leave the player both thoroughly spooked and questioning their existence. While I don’t think this game will be as popular as Amnesia, It most definitely deserves to be recognized.