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SOMA Review

A deep sea sci-fi horror from the team that brought you Amnesia: The Dark Descent.


Frictional Games, developers of the hit horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent and its later sequel, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, are back on the scene with their latest dark reality with SOMA. A departure from their prior games, SOMA is a science-fiction tale of a derelict and terror-riddled deep-sea station called Pathos-II. As one of the only remaining sentient inhabitants of the station, players must scour their way through ruined hallways, sunken ships, and even the depths of the ocean’s abyss to uncover the truth behind the mysterious projects underway.

SOMA is purely a game of survival and problem-solving. With no combat to speak of, and limited means of protecting himself, our protagonist, Simon Jarrett, must use wits, stealth, and knowing when to run in order to stay alive. While many objects around the environments of Pathos-II can be interacted with, most are simple static objects that can be picked up and thrown. The things that matter to the story, of course, are largely made up of recordings, intercom transmissions, and written communications between those working at the station. The story itself is a bit slow to start as Simon adjusts to the ruin around him and tries to find his way through the rubble.

Once SOMA‘s story begins to take shape, though, it’s one that can pull you in. The writing, voice acting, and overall theme of the game are all on point. Simon’s slow but steady uncovering of what exactly was happening beneath the waves of the Atlantic is well-paced, and the philosophical theme fits well with the events as they unfold. Far from the typical hero figure, Simon spends nearly as much time questioning both the ethics and the futility of his actions. Questions regarding what it means to be human come up frequently, including in the form of multiple crew personality tests on consoles around Pathos-II’s complex.

It doesn’t hurt that SOMA is wrapped up in a gorgeous package, either. Richly detailed in both visuals and audio, the level of detail put into this horror in the deeps is phenomenal. The sound design is of special note, given the task of creating an immersive world that sounds as natural in the cramped steel halls of a manmade station as it does in the wide expanses of the ocean floor. The beautiful graphics used to bring the varied environments to life only make it that much better, and while some areas are easy to get lost in, most spaces can be navigated with relative ease.

Of course, I can’t talk about SOMA without making some mention of the monsters. After all, what’s a horror game if you have nothing to be afraid of as you make your way through? Most of the creatures players will come to loathe are shambling, humanoid figures. Simply being in the vicinity of one of these is enough to cause visual distortion around your field of view, and it worsens if you get nearer or look directly at them. In fact, many of these surprisingly quick foes will notice you if you let your gaze linger, so it’s best to keep completely out of sight, or to watch them furtively on the periphery.

With the solidly written story, fantastic graphics, and terrifying inhabitants, SOMA has a lot going for it. I did find a few moments of frustration during certain missions that required going back and forth between certain areas, and found myself entirely lost on how to proceed once or twice. I always managed to sort things out, but there were just a few of these spots where the path forward was remarkably murky. Thorough scouring of an area usually finds the missing piece you’ll need to get yourself pointed in the right direction.

I will admit, SOMA is a bit outside of my normal scope. I haven’t really taken much interest over the years in horror games as a whole, so finding one that can grab my attention like SOMA is great. Players will find themselves drawn into the vivid world that it paints, and stepping away from another playthrough would’ve been very difficult for me if it weren’t for the fact that I had to pen this review. The only real problem with the game’s story was its ending, although, in a way, that probably had more to do with the fact that it had one than that it didn’t fit well with the rest of the game. A post-credits scene adds a bit more flavor as well, so don’t let that discourage you — this is a game I’d not hesitate to recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in the horror genre.

All in all, SOMA is a fantastic game. From the detailed world in which it takes place, the engaging plot, and the perfect amount of creeping terror and suspense, there’s a lot to love if you’re into horror. Speaking as someone who hasn’t delved as much into the genre, I still found myself fascinated and not wanting to pull away. There are a few player decisions peppered in, as well, tasking players with either answering or ignoring the question of ethics. I have no hesitation in saying that SOMA is easily worth the $29.99 price on Steam. PlayStation 4 owners can also head over to the PSN Store to pick it up, and I’d certainly recommend that they do.

Score: 5/5

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