I can proudly say that I played and finished (multiple times) each game from Frictional Games. That means Penumbra: Overture, Penumbra: Black Plague, Penumbra: Requiem, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs and SOMA.
It is not the first time I write about these game. In articles like Penumbra, Shadows, Screams and Infernal Fears: The Penumbra Catalogue, Gaming 101: Penumbra Overture, Symphonious Convectors, A Letter For Red, Gaming 101: Amnesia The Dark Descent I expressed my joy of playing these games, immersing into worlds of doubt, fear and sadness. All these games are great. Are exceptional. Are well written and have a unique style of story-telling.
SOMA, the latest game from Frictional Games is a First Person Survival Horror Science Fiction Puzzle-Solving game. Set into a world where humankind is no longer an existing entity, after a comet destroyed almost the entire planet, SOMA takes you into the abyss of the North Atlantic Ocean where you wake up in a research facility called Pathos-II. Excerpt from SOMA Wiki says:
It was initially built to conduct thermal mining during the 2060s and, later, developed the Omega Space Gun. It has a diverse staff of scientists and engineers involved in multiple research projects such as marine sciences, hydro-culture, and deep sea construction. An artificial intelligence known as the WAU was used to oversee primary operations of the facility.
When a Comet impact in January 2103 rendered the surface of the Earth barren and killed all surface life, the staff of PATHOS-II became the last living humans on the planet. Knowing they would not be able to survive indefinitely, they began searching for alternative ways to extend their lives and ultimately, save what remains of the human race – the ARK program being among them. Not much is known about the events that followed, but eventually machines previously operated remotely by humans began to become self-aware and started to exhibit human traits. The facility eventually descended into the nightmarish state seen during the events of the game.
The main character, Simon Jarrett experienced a trauma to the head after being involved a car accident. He decides to take some brain scans and medical treatment for eventually getting better, but the treatment and the solutions for his condition are nowhere to be found.
He wakes up after almost 100 years from the moment he first gets scanned, in a chamber on Pathos-II, having no idea what is going on and that he will undertake the mission of saving humanity, digitalized as scans on a virtual world called the Ark.
He travels from site to site, from one laboratory to another just to discover the horrifying truth that went on this facility. At certain points the story gets really dramatic, you have dialogues with deeper meanings, you have to take the lives of certain robots who don’t even realize that are not human anymore, you kill the last human that was alive at that time.
SOMA maintains the well-known atmosphere from all the Frictional games, an eerie, creepy, dark and sad atmosphere. But apart from the rest of the games, SOMA deals with more surreal elements, metal being mingled with organic material and having the ability to grow and infest beings and objects.
The soundtrack was composed by Mikko Tarmia and it is very beautiful. From dark themes to very pleasant ones they help developing SOMA’s story. He also did the soundtrack for the Penumbra Trilogy and Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
The puzzles are very easy to solve. I only got blocked once at some laboratory where you start an Ark simulation and I wasn’t paying enough attention when loading the Dummy, but eventually I got it. I really try not to use walk-throughs when playing games. Last time I went into one was when I was blocked in Metro 2033 and I really hated after seeing how simple it was to move on with the game. Also I needed a walk-through back when I played Syberia. And that’s it with the walk-throughs :)))
The game uses a lot of dark tones and some bright lights and colors to define your direction or interaction points. You can listen to various radio transmissions or recordings, you can read journals, e-mails and notes from the staff of Pathos-II that really help making the story incredible. The voice acting is well-done, especially at moments when Simon gets really frustrated or annoyed by what is happening.
All-in-all SOMA is a very good, dramatic, bone-chilling experience. I played it twice, once because I was just mesmerized by it being released and the second time to save screenshots and carefully listen to all the story, for details, since I am into knowing all about the games I play.
I highly recommend it.