Developer: Frictional Games
Publisher: Frictional Games
Rating: Mature (17+)
Platform: PC (Reviewed), Mac, Linux, and PlayStation 4
Release Date(s): September 22, 2015 (WW)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie
If there is two bad things that was popular during this year in gaming, it’d be Konami and Walking Simulators. We’re not going to be talking about the former, sadly enough, but we are going to be talking about the latter. If you don’t know what Walking Simulators are, you pretty much just heard it. All you do is walk around and listen to a story that is happening with you, around you, or has already happened. Usually, the bad ones have the last two of those, which sucks because, well, you aren’t part of the story, you are just listening to it while doing nothing but walking. The big craze started when Amnesia: A Dark Descent came out back in 2010 by Frictional Games. It was a game that involved you into the story while you walked around hiding from monsters. So when something gets popular, shitty versions of that game come out, either involving you in the story or not. Now today, we’re going to be covering SOMA, Frictional Games’ recent release. Can this Walking Simulator prove that Frictional Games still got it?
As previously stated, 2015’s Walking Simulators have been all about listening to a more interesting story while you are not involved in it, including Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. SOMA, however, decided to actually involve you into the story and I’m happy it does, because the story is probably one of the best I’ve ever heard. It really gives you the feel of Isolation while you are not alone. I wish I could tell you all about it, but since I usually don’t like to spoil story lines, I won’t. I can talk about the game and what you have to do, though. Throughout the game, you have to make tough choices to be able to progress through the game. There are even some tough choices you can do later on in the game that are just optional, which you don’t have to do. The decisions you make throughout the game are very hard to make, especially since most of the time, the choices you make kill somebody else. It really makes you feel like a bad guy because of it, even though you’re helping them by doing so, because they are just suffering and being kept alive by a single thread. Except for one exception, where you have to make somebody suffer so you can progress. That’s about as much as spoilers go. After playing through the whole game, it feels like a sci-fi flick from about a half a century ago. It explores the same concepts as those did. If you take the time to listen to the back story of the game with the actual story being told, you’ll really love it.
In terms of gameplay, it’s mostly walking. You usually just walk around and explore your environment, which isn’t a bad thing if you have other things like obstacles or other game mechanics to explore, which you do in this game. In terms of obstacles, you will be facing against monsters in certain parts of the game, where you have to make sure you don’t get killed by them. If you get hit once, you get a second change. If you get hit again, you die. Luckily, you can heal yourself with health stations that like to suck on your finger all the way to your hand. If you don’t get it, then you’re on the same boat as me. Going back to gameplay, you have multiple things you can do. You can look at items and examine them in a 3D viewer, you can throw items to distract enemies, and you can even listen into past experiences when you have the chance to. You also use an Omnitool you get in about the first hour of the game, where you can open doors or even put it in places to forward your progress. I won’t talk about what happens with the Omnitool later, but let’s just say that something happens to it. I’ve heard some reviewers say that it would’ve been better if it was just a walking simulator with no horror in it, but I must disagree. Yes, the enemies can be a pain in the ass at some point, like, a very big pain in the ass, but I find that having the horror elements in the game actually helps the story a lot more and it makes the game way more interesting. Overall, I like the gameplay. Yes, it is just mostly walking, but having the horror elements and other gameplay features really helps the game become more fun than just that.
If there is one big positive I could give to Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, it was it’s soundtrack. It was beautiful and really helped set the tone for the rest of the game, and I’m happy SOMA does the same. Even though it does not have an amazing soundtrack, it does amazingly in having music at the right time, as well as having no music at the right time as well. When it does have music, you can feel the tension when you’re just running away or sitting there, listening to the story fold. When there’s no music, you can feel the isolation, like you’re hiding from something. The game’s sound is just amazing at how it is, really making you feel emotions that the game wants to make you feel. The music you get to listen to, when you do get to listen to it, that is, it is wonderfully constructed. I don’t know what else to say about the sound other then that it’s amazing with how it sounds and how it’s used.
This game is a mixture of Bioshock and Alien: Isolation. I say Bioshock because of the setting being underwater while also having dark themes. Also, this game has a sci-fi theme with having a similar look to Alien: Isolation. The game is very beautiful in terms of art style. The monsters and the people still with you look amazingly designed, with the monsters having an interesting design in itself. The only big problem I have with the visuals is something I kind of mentioned in the Gameplay section. Whenever you get hit by the enemy, you get another chance. However, during this second chance, your vision is blurred until you restore it. I really don’t like how the game looks when your vision is blurry, it makes the game look visually bad and it’s hard to see anything while you’re in that state. Other than that, I think the visuals look very nice and are clean as well.
In a year of bad Walking Simulators, to where all you do is walk, SOMA is the best out of all of them, even better than Amnesia: A Dark Descent. SOMA is both visually beautiful as well as audibly beautiful with having a very dark story that is very well written. That is the pretty much a summary of a game that has so much more to say. If you have a spare $30 laying around and you want to be scared shitless and watch a great story unfold, SOMA is for you.