It was only a few years ago when it was genuinely hard to find a good video game in the horror genre. The AAA publishers had all but decided they were done making them, and the indie scene was almost nonexistent. Then along came a game called Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
Finding immediate success, Amnesia propelled a new breed of survival horror into the spotlight and may have almost single handedly revitalized the genre. Now, the people behind Amnesia have released a brand new experience even more terrifying than the last in the form of Soma.
In this article, we’ll break down the different aspects of Soma, highlighting pros and cons with the story, gameplay, atmosphere, and more.
|Type of game:||Survival Horror|
|Total Play Time:||10 hours|
|System Requirements:||CPU: Intel® Core i3 / AMD A6 2.4Ghz
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 / AMD Radeon HD 5750. OpenGL 3.3
RAM: 4 GB
OS: 64-bit Windows Vista or newer
HDD Space: 25 GB
The World of Soma
In this section, we’ll be taking a look at the various parts that make up the whole that is Soma. We’ll examine the game’s atmosphere and location, the protagonists, the overall storyline, and any DLC or expansions it may have. By the end, we’ll make a judgement on how well the game performed overall, and whether or not it truly lives up to the praise it’s received since release.
Atmosphere & Location
Soma is set in a collection of derelict scientific research bases located across the bottom of the ocean. From the moment the real story starts, you can already get a sense that something bad has happened before you’ve even had a chance to begin your adventure. Between the dimly lit hallways, the ever-present dampness of the environment, robotic scrap littered about, and an oily black goop of mysterious origin, everything about the visuals tells you you’re about to have a bad time.
Despite being set in essentially the same type of location each time (besides some truly chilling segments set outside on the bottom of the ocean and inside a submarine), Frictional Games does a good job of distinguishing the different bases your character finds himself in over the course of Soma. While similar, all of them have a uniqueness in design and enemies encountered that keeps them from feeling too similar, all tied together with the same sort of oppressive darkness the developers perfected in Amnesia.
As far as music goes, Soma rarely lets us indulge. While there are plenty of scare cords and a few stand out tracks in key story bits, most of your experience will be punctuated by the extremely realistic and unsettling sounds of the ocean and the creatures that inhabit it.
In Soma, you play as a man named Simon Jarrett, a seemingly average and mild-mannered Canadian. The survivor of a car accident that claimed the life of his close friend, Simon has been living with a permanent brain injury since that day, frequently going to appointments to monitor the status of his injury. After beginning a new treatment using an experimental form of brain scanning technology, Simon finds himself abruptly plunged into the dark depths of PATHOS-II, a dilapidated group of research bases at the bottom of the sea.
With no idea how he got there or what caused PATHOS-II to fall into such disarray, Simon embarks on a journey through the base and others like it trying to find any remaining signs of humanity. Through it all, Simon must overcome his fears and plunge headfirst into the unknown, grappling with the state of the world as well as facing the harsh reality of what’s become of him while attempting to survive.
Along the way, Simon meets and befriends Catherine Chun, an antisocial scientist and one of the former researchers working at PATHOS-II. Having left her human body behind in favor of transferring her consciousness to a digital form, she acts as a guide and support throughout most of the story. Together, they hope to reach her final creation at the deepest reaches of PATHOS-II, wishing to preserve some last remnants of humanity before it’s too late.
In Soma, Simon must navigate the increasingly more dangerous research bases that comprise PATHOS-II, escaping from the various mechanical enemies that wish to do him harm. Though initially thinking of only survival and trying to learn how it was he got there, his mission soon turns to assisting Catherine in her endeavor to launch the ARK, a satellite loaded with the digitally preserved consciousness of various scientists who worked at PATHOS-II.
As Simon and Catherine travel deeper into the remains of the compound, they’re forced to confront the forces of the WAU, an rogue artificial intelligence employed by PATHOS-II’s creators. Though originally tasked with protecting and preserving the last of human civilization with the scientists of PATHOS-II, it quickly went rogue and began to murder the people in its care, turning their bodies into horrific mechanical monstrosities and implanting digital copies of their consciousness into artificial machine bodies. Seeing the two as enemies to its goal of “saving” humanity, the WAU sends its minions to track down the duo to prevent them from potentially harming it.
With numerous twists and turns that keep the player reeling the entire time, it’s difficult to talk about the fine details of Soma’s excellently crafted story without giving away several key spoilers. Uncovering all of this is the best part, though, as there are plenty of collectibles and bits of information scattered throughout the environment across the entire game that give you a deep insight into not just the world of Soma, but the people who used to live there, as well.
Through their mission to send the ARK into space and encounters with the remnants of the people who used to live in the bases, Simon and the player are forced to question the true nature of humanity and what we may leave behind once we’re gone. Without their bodies, are the “people” within the ARK truly people at all? What makes the machines who roam the halls of PATHOS-II all that different from Catherine herself now that she’s simply a digital consciousness? And, in the end, does life even have any value at all?
DLC & Expansion Packs
Soma has no form of DLC or any planned expansion packs. The developers have not mentioned any plans to develop this content in the future.
Soma tells a haunting and deeply compelling story about the nature of personhood and the value we place on life. Beautiful yet disturbing to look at with immersive sound and game design, there’s truly a reason people still speak about it all these years later. Any fans of Frictional Games’ other titles or survival horror in general will be more than pleased with Soma, likely finding it to be one of their favorite entries in the genre in recent memory.
If you’ve played Soma before, tell us what you think of it in the comments below. Share your thoughts and any questions you have regarding the game, too.