Developed by:Frictional Games Published by:Frictional Games Genre(s):
  • Survival Horror
  • Platform:
  • Microsoft
  • PC
  • Sony
  • Cost:$29.99 ESRB Rating:MATURE Players:1 Release date:September 22, 2015 Reviewed on:PC


    Having a proven track record can be beneficial for a developer. I mean, selling a new IP is made easier with a “made by the developers of so and so” tag line. This is especially true for Frictional Games, who are known for single handily rejuvenated the survival horror genre by creating new industry staples – all with one game…

    Amnesia: The Dark Decent changed the rules; elements like the first person view and inability to defend yourself have replaced static camera angles and the limited ammo of yesteryear. Most importantly, it brought back the fear. Gamers were genuinely afraid to venture into the depths of the Brennenburg castle. Fast forward five years later – past an interesting sequel made by another developer – and we’re presented with Frictional’s newest game, SOMA. It tells the tale of one Mr. Simon Jerrett, the survivor of a horrible car accident who suffers from cranial bleeding. Due to the grim realization that he only has a few months to live, Simon agrees to an experimental brain scan that could better his condition. Unfortunately, when he wakes up from the scan, he is in a different place. A dark, dreary research facility located somewhere under the sea.

    I don’t want to go too far past that point in the story, as I’d be entering spoiler territory. And as these types of games go, the mystery of what happened to who is a major draw. Aside from the thrill that comes from surviving in an environment where death literally shambles down the corridors, just waiting to bump into our hero. I can however, talk about a certain theme presented throughout the story that deals with what it means to be human or at the very least alive. Encountering a being that swears it’s human while missing certain humanistic features (like flesh and bones) is a certainly an odd experience. Things get downright disturbing when such a being ends up suffering due to their proximity to Simon’s current objective. Was it really human…maybe at one point in time? Did it have real feelings or just simulated emotions? Was it even alive? These are questions that’ll pop in Simon’s/your head hours after their screams have faded into the ether.

    Self-awareness – what is or isn’t alive isn’t only reserved for the random “people” Simon finds along the way. Because he’s in an unfamiliar place, he has a hard time with his own identity. How is it that he’s come to a place like this and why does he not recognize any of the instruments strewn about the labs? Just the opening of doors proves to be tricky at first. It’s like he’s Dorothy except this isn’t Oz and he isn’t dreaming. What’s worse is that there are frightful creatures that seem to be hunting him. He can’t trust that they’d have positive intentions, not with all of the bodies he’s had to step over. That said, there is something eerily familiar about them…

    Psychological assaults and misgivings about what’s happening aside, SOMA also addresses the notion of hope. As Simon traverses the undersea facility, he’ll find notes, audio recordings, and computer logs. It’s in these instances that he’ll learn how bad things got and just how desperate people became. Some of them did horrible things. Though looking at the current state of affairs, one could understand how they came to these certain decisions. The real strain on Simon was how he could hope to accomplish what others who were seemingly smarter than him couldn’t.

    Moving past the story, Frictional Games surprised me when it came to the gameplay. The pacing, for one, is excellent. There weren’t any bloated sections, crazy time consuming puzzles, or ill-placed set pieces. Heck, I don’t even think there was any backtracking, the bane of this genre; there was the occasional door that needed a security code to unlock, which was normally found in the same general area as the door. There was a brief moment where I thought that the game revealed particular plot twists a bit early. But after finishing the game, I now feel that they were appropriately emphasized.

    Also streamlined was the player’s ability to interact with the world around him or her. Picking up objects and spinning them around to get a better look at a clue is possible. That said, you won’t need to combine a lot of items or be burdened with finding supplies that you might utilize later.  The focus on the here and now removes a lot of unnecessary “gamey” mechanics that tend to pull the player out of the experience. You’ll never have to carry a crank for half the game just to raise an oddly placed gate blocking your path.

    The only place where I could criticize the gameplay would have to be in the horror department. Namely, I wasn’t really afraid after an hour or so in. Now this wasn’t because of poor implementation as the game is inherently scary. For SOMA, Frictional Games limited the jump scares in favor of a more lingering, haunting-type feeling. This in turn with the psychological stuff, unsettling monsters, and bleak atmosphere creates a true sense of dread. Tense moments (like when you’re forced to flee from something) are sprinkled in as well. That said, I just wasn’t shaken as much as I’d anticipated with a title coming from Frictional. Maybe it’s because I’ve played tons of survival horror games in the past. I doubt that SOMA would let Amnesia fans down, but it is much easier to get through than one might expect.

    All and all, I think Frictional Games has outdone themselves once again. Even though SOMA isn’t going to give anyone nightmares, it is a proper evolution of what Frictional started way back when. The story is well placed, well written and well voiced (there’s only a hint of cheese). And it forgoes a lot of bad gameplay mechanics that developers have used for years; some of which were present in Amnesia. If you’re a fan of this genre and have yet to take the plunge, I implore you to give SOMA a chance. You won’t be disappointed!



    Though it didn’t scare my pants off, SOMA is a worthy survival horror title.



    A visual upgrade from Frictional’s past games.



    The voice work is solid and the music works. The ambient noise pushes the “realism” (and scare potential) to another level.

    Replay Value:


    As great as SOMA is, I don’t see myself revisiting its world. That by no means mean that you should shy away from it though!

    Final Score:


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