Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I am reviewing the game SOMA. Warning: there are some spoilers in this review. If you plan on playing this game, I recommend that you do so with a clean slate since that will offer you the best possible playing experience.
The visuals presented in SOMA are dark and a bit raw. The game presents us with body horror by allowing us to see the ways that the structure gel has been merged with the human body as the WAU has struggled to save humanity. The mangled and twisted forms of the organic within the machine helps further blur the line between what is human and what is a construct. The low lighting goes a long way to increase the game’s tension and dread. But despite the fact that most of what we are seeing is rather horrific, the graphics are beautiful. This is a visually stunning game.
Music and Sound Effects
The music masterfully augments the tone of dread and tension within the game. There are times that nothing happens but a music change and you find yourself feeling filled with anticipation for what could be lurking around that next corner. The ambient sounds within the game are brilliant. The creaks and groans of the station make you constantly question what you are hearing. Is that something moving about or is that just the shifting station noises? The subtle organic sounds of the structure gel infested humans who are now fully merged with the machine add another layer to convince you that there is no separating them now. And when you hear the foot steps of the murderous robot around the corner? Well, you definitely appreciate the sound effects of the game in those moments.
The story in this game is intense. It takes on big questions like: “What does it mean to be human?” and “Do the ends justify the means?” The numerous mysteries slowly and masterfully unfold to reveal the true nature of the world and the events that you find yourself caught up in. There are plenty of additional story bits embedded into the game for you to discover. There are tapes to listen to, computer files to browse, paper files to read, art work to view, photos to see, dead bodies to find, buffered data to listen to and locations to explore that all further expand upon the story of the game. Each piece that you discover increases the depth of the story, making finding these story gems a major motivation for exploring every nook and cranny within the game.
World or Setting
This game offers a large world that is clearly bigger then what is presented in the game itself. All the history that is woven into the game through the various story bits further reinforces the sense that this is complete world with a full history and full compliment of characters to populate it. Everything about the world setting enriches the tone and themes that are presented in the game. It is clearly a world that has fallen into a state of decay, but within it there are remaining fragments that suggest there is a little hope to save something of humanity.
The setting is built in a labyrinth style format that forces the player to wander around in order to find what they need to get into the next part of the game. I frequently found myself getting lost while I was wandering in this game as I have a poor sense of direction and was often trying to navigate while there was pressure being applied by a murder bot. There were numerous times in the game that I didn’t feel it was clear what I was supposed to be doing next to move the action forward or to get to the next part of the world. I felt this was a point of frustration for me and detracted from the overall game experience.
The player character, Simon, is a relatable person. He is just an every day guy that has been pulled into this chaotic world and now has to decide if saving a scrap of humanity is worth all the suffering he must endure. He is naïve and perhaps in a constant state of denial through out the game. As he discovers more about the state of his existence, he has to struggle with what it means to be human and has an existential crisis. What purpose and meaning can there be in a world that is nothing but the remnants of a dead race?
The primary non player character of the game, Catherine, accompanies and guides Simon as he journeys through this world. She is even less human than Simon; possessing no body and being rather removed from her emotions. She holds a great deal of knowledge that Simon lacks, but often fails to provide that information to him until he has already come upon in some fashion himself. Catherine is calculating and manipulative, using Simon to reach her objective of launching the ark. Like everything else, he is just another means to an end.
The remaining cast of characters that Simon interacts with are the various other machine-human hybrids that populate the world. Some are hostile and attempt to harm Simon, but most are indifferent of his existence. There are also those that present him with moral struggle as he must decide who lives and dies. There is also an entire cast of characters that is presented through the history of the story that you discover along the way. Simon bears witness as they struggle and fail to save humanity.
Level of Challenge
The level of challenge in this game felt appropriate to the style of game. Additionally, it offers the option of changing the level of difficulty at the start of the game so that you can tailor your gaming experience to your style of play. The challenges presented in this game are in the form of the puzzles and the murderous inhabitants wandering within the world. You are given no means with which you fight them, so your only option is to effectively run and hide from them all while you scramble to figure out how to get into the next section of the station.
The controls were easy to use and well set up. Within the settings there are options that allow you to modify the key bindings for a better playing experience. It is also compatible with both the key board and a controller. Having all of these options available makes it so that there is likely a comfortable way for you to control your character through the game. In the beginning of the game, there is a scene that allows you to learn how to navigate the world and control your character without being presented with any threats. This is a great opportunity to get the controls set up in an ideal format.
Novelty or Unique Qualities
This game is a hide and seek horror game. There are numerous other games in the same genre. What this game brings to the table that makes it stand out is ethical dilemmas that the game presents you with. There are numerous times that Simon must decide what to do with the possibility of causing another being harm or even killing them. There are no clear right or wrong answers offered by the game. Making these choices one way verse the other has no impact on the way that the story progresses. Rather, these ethical dilemmas are presented as being a fundamental part of human life and a necessary part of living. They further reinforce the themes that the game presents.
This game is a heavy hitter when it comes to emotional impact. The ethical dilemmas and questions that it presents further that emotional impact. We see and hear characters dying. We discover numerous dead bodies. There are many creatures that were once human who are now to some degree also a machine. All the running and hiding from the creatures that would harm you also serves to heighten the emotional response to this game.
For me, the replay value of this game is in the story itself. The story presented in this game is rich and complex with numerous additional bits to be discovered or missed as you move through the game. Playing the game additional times offers the same benefit as rereading a great book. Moving through the story a second time allows you to see the story unfold with the perspective of the conclusion. Each time you play through the game there is the possibility of gathering up bits of story that you missed on previous plays.
There is also the option to play the game at an increased difficulty, making the creatures you face more deadly and pursue you more heatedly. This doesn’t appeal to me personally, but it is there for some as a replay value.
Do I Recommend It?
Yes, I recommend this game to anyone who loves horror and who enjoys complex story telling. I give the game 9/10 stars, loosing the one star only because of the navigational issues the game presented that seemed completely unnecessary to me.
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!