If you’ve never been in a situation where you’ve questioned your existence, had an identity crisis, struggled with the head-splitting thought about your own consciousness, and intricate connection between the mind, body and soul, then SOMA will undoubtedly illustrate this in a unique and ambitious way. With an engaging and thought-provoking story and ominous sections leaving you to take a minute to think about everything you encounter and how you yourself would respond or feel in that very situation, you never feel like trudging through the alien environment as a chore or any obstacle as an annoyance.
This idiosyncratic survival horror has some intense scares and can leave you whimpering in terror, but it’s still a voyage of discovery. Something you’d expect from the producers of Amnesia, this is one of those games that will leave you pondering during and after you’ve completed it
You’re not in Vancouver anymore
Simon Jarret’s life takes a turn for the worst after being in a car crash that leaves him with severe brain damage and a few months left, along with taking away his best friend in the process. From the start, there’s a level of ambiguity that makes you question everything and everyone you come into contact with. You’re then invited to participate in an experimental procedure to try and repair the damage done to your head by an unregulated practice. With nothing left to lose, you make your way to your first scan to try and figure out what exactly went wrong and how to fix it. But, things seem to just get worse, and on top of that, you’re somehow transported to the future strapped to a chair in a dilapidated underwater facility.
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” A quote by Philip K. Dick paints a vivid picture of the uncertainty and self-doubt as you come across malfunctioning machines who believe that they are in fact still very much human. This is due to the machines being brought to life by the introduction of real human minds downloaded and transferred to them. One instance gets you thinking that perhaps these machines are merely being controlled by someone else remotely, but the more you investigate, the more you come to understand the depressing revelation that these poor souls are trapped and don’t even know it.
These machines appear as botched backyard droids built with pieces of scrap and very few functioning parts, but in some way constructed to mirror human forms. SOMA drudges up so many questions we have about humanity’s preservation as if the world that the game was built on is something that could very soon be a reality. It uses certain game conventions very effectively to add to the mysterious world you have subsequently been asked to explore against your will.
SOMA drudges up so many questions we have about humanity’s preservation as if the world that the game was built on is something that could very soon be a reality.
No fighting chance
The gameplay and character movement is sluggish and hampered with qhat seems to point to the idea that you’re learning typical human motive functions, which become even more evident once you realise you’ve been catapulted over a hundred years into the future after having been “asleep”. The story is fascinating, but the puzzles and scares are akin to those which you’d find in run of the mill horror survival games.
From the get go you feel an overwhelming sense of powerlessness as you are unable to equip weapons to fend off the predatory machines lurking about. The only thing you have at your disposal is an Omnitool with which you’ll open doors and reconnect power for certain areas with the help from the AI you encounter by the name of Catherine, a researcher you’ll stumble across during your horrific experience. She’ll help you to locate items to achieve a goal throughout your time together, but that’s about it. This leaves you with only two options: Run or Hide.
The creatures are intimidating and will make your hair stand on end no matter how hardcore you think you are. This is simply because if you see one, they see you. The machines have this uncanny ability to know exactly where you are peeping from, which can make avoiding them tedious at times and they simply stick close to the vicinity you are in, leaving very little room for escape. Even though you are able to pick up random small objects and toss them in any which direction, the machines don’t react to it. It’s as if they are only capable of seeing and feeling vibrations from slamming doors and your cowering physique behind that box over there. Luckily there are many checkpoints scattered throughout the maze 20,000 leagues under the sea. This helps when you’ve run out of ideas of how to evade the mechanical creatures as you can respawn right before the attack, giving you time to haul ass in a different direction.
The creatures are intimidating and will make your hair stand on end no matter how hardcore you think you are. This is simply because if you see one, they see you.
If only Simon had Google down there…
You’ll find that the environment you’ll be doing most of the other game mechanics like exploring and puzzle solving, has certain elements identical to some horror survival games that came before it. With that, there are still distinct variations to be uncovered. Each level as you progress introduces different hazards and specific inhabitants that have taken over each area. From narrow, dark corridors and dimly lit cubicles, to the eerie sea floor with facilities covered in underwater vegetation stretching for miles.
The puzzles in some cases won’t have you scratching your head or hopping on to the internet for clues and walkthroughs, but there are some interesting ones to keep you entertained, especially if there are deformed anthropomorphic beings treading about. Puzzles such as reconfiguring comm antennas in order to locate and recall vehicles, unlocking parts you require for your Omnitool with numeric sequences, and tuning frequencies to activate transference processes are some of the more engaging puzzles. Other than that, it’s finding the login details of certain deceased inhabitants of the facilities you’ll be stuck in.
SOMA delivers an experience leaving you to think about consciousness, the human mind-body relationship and our existence from now into the future and the lengths we would take to preserve what we perceive to be what makes us human. An explorative and sometimes intense journey that you never thought could come from a game where all you have to defend yourself with is your sheer will to survive.