So.. I decided to play S.O.M.A. again. A taste of survival horror, elements of cyberpunk, a game filled with puzzles, interesting dialogues and a profound exploration of the human and non-human intellect.
After a car crash – Simon Jarrett – deals with brain damage, his brain starts bleeding now and then. Seems that various treatments do not work for his condition so he decides to seek further available options for prolonging his life. His condition could be fatal if a cure is not found. So – he gets in contact with a facility that could scan his brain in order to develop a more suitable treatment. Unfortunately this treatment has no efficiency and as later told in the game, Simon finds out he died almost 100 years ago and that he is able once again to function because the brain scan he did was used as a template for an A.I. model – him waking up on Pathos-II facility.
PATHOS-II is an underwater research facility located in the Atlantic Ocean during the 2100s. It is the primary setting of both SOMA and the live-action prequel mini-series and film Transmission and Depth.
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, hydroculture, 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.
Opening your eyes, waking up alone, trapped in darkness. That is how the horrifying story of SOMA really starts. You wake up in the Upsilon site – which contains the facility’s primary power generation plant. Geothermal boreholes are used to generate electricity. Upsilon also contains extensive facilities used to service and maintain PATHOS-II’s collection of robots and Universal Helpers.
You start exploring these dark rooms, hearing distant weird noises and seeing shadows that disappear an re-appear. You find how to work with the Omnitool.
The Omnitool is a small handheld computer, originally used by PATHOS-II’s staff to open doors and access areas requiring maintenance. It has two chip slots: one for a Tool Chip, which grants additional functions and security clearances, and one for a Cortex Chip, which is used to download an A.I. into the Omnitool. If no Cortex Chip is inserted, the Omnitool has a pre-loaded AI (“Helper Jane”).
The cortex chip can also contain a brain scan, granting it the personality and memories of the person scanned. The Omnitool lacks the necessary computational resources to run brain scan simulations on its own, and must be docked to a terminal in order to do so. Catherine Chun describes this experience as a continuous, but disjointed consciousness with no perception or awareness of the time that passes in between simulations.
The Omnitool cannot be used to override security protocols that it lacks the clearance to access. In these cases, a new Tool Chip must be inserted to update the Omnitool’s security clearances.
The Omnitool can be operated either by swiping it in front of a sensor or by directly docking it to a computer terminal. The latter option allows the brain scan on the device’s Cortex Chip, if present, to directly interface with the PATHOS-II mainframe.
Moving further in the game you make contact with several robots who don’t even realize they are robots. At first, even Simon sees himself as being human, being normal. But slowly things start to change perspectives. He first makes contact with Catherine Chun who will direct him from site Upsilon to site Lambda, in order to discover further truths about this research facility. You are being attacked by a Construct.
This creature appears to be a horrific jumbled mess of a UH3 Universal Helper maintenance unit and WAU techno-organic growth. Structure Gel mutations have given the Helper a much bulkier build, with a bigger backside and more reinforced structure, as well as added functionality, allowing the Helper to make use of a pair of legs to navigate. Along with the small lights emitting from the numerous bulbous growths on its body, the Helper casts a bright beam from the front of its face, acting as a spotlight to assist with navigation through dark areas.
You get to explore the bottom of the ocean – wondering how are you going to find the right way to the next checkpoint. You rescue a little Universal Helper which will show his gratitude by offering you access to a block door in order to continue. You discover that the machines are taking control over the humans lost in this abandoned place and they will not let them die. It is a sign that the A.I. in this place, the master brain of the disaster wants everything to be fully functional, no matter what.
Finally you get to site Lambda only to discover that Catherine is also a brain scan trapped into a computer. But will all that, she will be the protagonist’s companion and will offer useful tips and information.
For a full written walkthrough, you can access these links if you have problems in finishing any of the game’s levels.
[next article – S.O.M.A. Guide – Part 2 – Lambda Atrocities]