Disoriented, lost and hunted I made my way through the dark corridor of some facility straight of science fiction movie. The morning was usual. The same as many other mornings in Toronto, Canada, 2015. I woke up, exit my apartment and took a subway. Well, maybe my destination was a bit unusual - a makeshift lab in which medical brain scan was to be conducted. That procedure was supposed to give doctors information about my head trauma so they can cure it. The method was still highly experimental. But I had that accident and I needed the treatment badly. So I agreed. Only to move inexplicably in space and, maybe, time (is it even possible?!) to this God-forgotten place. What happened? Where am I? Why do I hear voices? Where is everybody? All those questions are burning in my mind while I wade through the maze of strange machinery and metal walls oozing with black goo. My world narrowed to this place, illuminated by emergency lighting and occasional flashes of shorting out devices. I understand that it can’t be real, but all my senses are screaming that this is my new reality.
Frictional Game’s SOMA is the game that I was waiting for a long time. I watched the trailers, read interviews, digging for every bit of information about upcoming title. I loved their previous games – Penumbra Trilogy, Amnesia. Also, enjoyed Machine for Pigs despite it is a title developed by another team. When SOMA was released I found out that the game is very different from what I anticipated and even from what I saw in trailers. Here is a breakdown:
· SOMA is not scary. It doesn’t use scare-jumps tactics, it doesn’t have much shocking imagery, compared to other horror video games. What it does it build an atmosphere. Heavy, claustrophobic, dark. But not hopeless. I’d call the game interesting, thought provoking and atmospheric rather than scary.
· SOMA’s plot is deeper than usual “experiment-gone-wrong”. It asks the questions many people asked before in sci-fi books, academic essays, movies and some other video games. But I never saw those questions asked in high profile, genre, almost mainstream video game. What is reality? What is body? Who I am? What is existence?
· SOMA has a great story and tells it in a right way, using methods unique to a video game medium. It was not just a protagonist who was walking around the facility, solving puzzles, talking to NPCs. Partially, it was me, the Player. It can be said about almost every game, but this time, experience was very reflective. Sometimes Stanley Parable type of reflective – I didn’t expect that.
· I honestly expected better graphics from SOMA – in my eyes, this is a minor drawback. Developers used their own HPL Engine 3 (H. P. Lovecraft’s own engine – I LOVE the idea!). But using Unreal or CryEngine could have added to immersion.
Summarizing, I can tell that despite of not being what I expected it to be, SOMA is a great game. Cyberpunk done right. It reminded me about System Shock series (which I’m a huge fan of). SOMA is very different from previous Frictional Game’s titles and it’s a good thing.
Is it worth it?
Definitely yes! If you want something more than just shooting things in the face, play SOMA. As a bonus, if you have a huge armchair that you can lie in while playing (dentist style) – do it. Adds immersion. :)
Also Oculus Rift. Hope there will be a patch with native VR support in future...