Frictional Games, the geniuses behind the Amnesia and Penumbra series are back with a new title, their first on a console.
SOMA is a first-person survival horror game straight out of science fiction. You play as Simon Jarrett, a recent victim of a car crash that claimed the life of his friend Ashley and damaged Simon’s brain. Working with a doctor, Jarrett plans to get a scan to see if the damage to his brain can be repaired. During the scan however, he blacks out.
Awakening some time later, Jarrett finds himself in a broken down lab on a facility deep under the waves. He learns that a catastrophe befell humanity, effectively wiping out all life on Earth. The location he finds himself in is, or was, the last refuge for humanity and was meant to launch the ARK, a satellite designed to keep humans alive. For an unknown reason, the launch never occurred. Jarrett, alongside a scientist named Catherine, sets out to unravel the mystery of PATHOS-II and secure his place on the ARK.
The gameplay of SOMA is very similar to that of previous titles made by Frictional Games. The game is played in a first-person perspective and relies on player interaction with the environment to push the story along and shed light on the events taking place. A bulk of the gameplay is based around puzzle-solving and exploration, following clues found in notes and documents scattered around the station.
Combat in the game is non-existent and players must rely on their wits to avoid enemies. The creatures in the game are attracted to sound and players must use this to their advantage as they attempt to sneak by. If you’re unfortunate enough to attract the ire of the terrors, it does not always end with you getting killed. Sometimes, you will be left dazed and disoriented, in addition to being set back a little. In these cases, whenever you are caught but do not die, you will still be close to where you were caught and potentially still in danger.
The soundtrack for SOMA is one of the best that I have heard in a long time. It creates this air of tension and fear, immersing players in the pure terror of the game. You can hear the sounds of the creatures echoing around you, and if you are caught, the music picks up and makes it all the more terrifying as you try to escape.
At many points in the game, the tension created by the perfect combination of gameplay and sound was so overwhelming that I was forced to stop for a few minutes to regain composure, only to have it shattered moments later. Many times I would just quit for the night, legitimately being unable to steel myself enough to continue playing.
As a person who enjoys horror games, I have to say this is one of the scariest that I have played. I felt helpless playing, unable to defend myself as I am used to, and this made it all the more scary. I had to be cautious, try to sneak away from and around enemies. Other times, I had no choice but to make a run for it and was terrified beyond all belief.
SOMA has an amazing formula and the execution of the game is absolutely flawless. If you are a fan of survival horror or stealth games, or maybe if you just love a great sci-fi story, check this game out.