In Loving Memory of Philip K. Dick
SOMA is a sci-fi Horror experience developed by Frictional Games. They are the developers responsible for creating Amnesia: The Dark Descent and the Penumbra series. I don’t typically play games that are in the Horror genre, and this is the first game I’ve played by this particular developer. Now sci-fi games, that’s completely different. I can deal with a little bit of horror in that case. At first, I thought I was stepping into a space station. It was a very metallic environment, I felt encased, protected from the outside world, which I thought had to be space. I eventually got to a point where I was presented with the fact that I was going to drown. I was confused, wondering where all of this water was coming from. Turns out, I wasn’t in space after all. I was under the Atlantic Ocean.
The atmosphere of SOMA is insane. I began to question everything. Am I real? Is this happening? Am I dreaming? Who is human? Who is not? Am I human, or am I robot? Early on in the game, I also wondered if I was the sole survivor or if there were others. Everything was so confusing. What I knew of the world just made everything feel upside down, and even as I began to gather more information I just felt further confused, and everything became even more complicated. It was like the more that was revealed, the more questions I had. Then, to top that off, you have the sounds of the environment and the fear that you are being hunted. Hunted by what though?
SOMA presented me with strange choices. Either I was a survivor and I was going to do whatever it takes to survive, or I was something else. The station was suffering from a loss of power, and I played God by deciding what power sources I was going to use in order to restore that power and which ones I was not. I was not only shaping my destiny, but I was also shaping the destiny for the facility as well. My actions always had an effect whether I was aware of it at the time or not.
As if heavy clanging metallic robots with floodlights was not enough to worry about, there is also something organic and alien happening around the facility. Nowhere feels safe, and hiding in tight corners offers little or no protection. I felt like I was playing extreme hide and go seek. Many times, I wound up talking to myself as I heard my approaching and impending doom. I was practically begging not to be seen, praying that whatever it was would go away. There were times I even faced the corner or a wall, with my back to the threat in hopes that I would go unnoticed. There was no reason for me to hold my breath, but it didn’t stop me from doing so. Even with what SOMA was doing to me at this point, I was in for even more terrifying monsters to come, I just didn’t know it yet.
The game has no combat. The player will either use objects in the environment to create noises to distract, outthink, or basically run from their opponents. Running for your life is always a valid option. It feels better than waiting in a corner to die. The controls are great, the gameplay is great, the atmosphere is freaky, the sounds made me physically cringe, the voice acting is above and beyond what I expected. I still can’t get over the environment. Even as I’m writing this, all I want to do is step back into the world of SOMA.
Now that we’ve gotten my personal thoughts and feelings out of the way, I want to share with you a bit of the opening story to help give the game some context. The story is unsettling as the player comes to terms with the concepts of identity, consciousness, and the core reasoning of what it means to be human. The player will find itself in the underwater facility PATHOS-II. This facility serves as a base for scientific research, military applications, and possibly something a bit more sinister and top secret. Communications are down, the food supply is low, and the machines have taken on a very human personality of their own. You are isolated, and feel completely alone, but what can you do about it? Can logic and reason prevail? Has everything unraveled around you, or is there still something worth fighting for?
SOMA is available on Steam and the PlayStation 4 for $29.99. There is a 10% discount for pre-ordering the game. I usually advise people against pre-ordering, but in this case, if this is something you think you may want to experience, then by all means go ahead and pre-order it. SOMA is one of the best games that I’ve played during 2015.