SOMA Hands-On Preview - Amneisa's Horror Visits A Sci-Fi Future

Marshall Lemon | 14 Aug 2015 12:00
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Developed by Frictional Games. Published by Frictional Games. Releases on Sept 22., 2015. Available on PC (previewed), PS4, Mac, and Linux. Beta code provided by publisher.


Crawling out of the vent into a dimly lit room, I find a pile of machinery strewn haphazardly beside some computer terminals. What's unexpected is that parts of the machine are moving - and making unusual noises. I try speaking to it, but there's no reply. If this was a semi-functional robot, it's clearly suffered some kind of debilitating injury.

So I turn my attention to the computer terminal instead, which appears to control a radio. Finally! I can call for a way out of this hellhole! But there's some kind of power shortage preventing the radio from functioning properly. I look around and notice that the robot has plugs running into the black technological "growth" I've seen on the walls since arriving here. Hoping for the best, I take hold of a cord and pull it free.

The robot doesn't attack me. It doesn't get up. It doesn't even try to stop me.

It just screams.

Frictional Games already redefined how video games approach horror with games like Penumbra and its masterpiece Amnesia: The Dark Descent. But for SOMA, Frictional has shifted to science fiction as opposed to the magical psychological horror most fans are familiar with. But don't worry: In terms of gameplay, themes, and an overwhelmingly unsettling atmosphere SOMA is a worthy follow-up to Frictional's past work - and might even prove one of its best.

SOMA takes place in a futuristic underwater facility, at least a year after some unspecified disaster forced its operators to seal the doors and abandon it. But this location still had a vital purpose, so the team left minimal power on to run essential systems. In the time since, those systems have taken on life of their own - speaking in human voices, building new bodies, and assembling a robotic ecosystem from abandoned equipment. And you, a protagonist with the worst luck in the universe, have become trapped inside.

Sadly, there's not much else I can share about the story beyond that. The beta provided to The Escapist supposedly covers the first third of the game, but was jam-packed with so many plot twists that I expected the game to climax and finish after two hours. And to be honest, those twists were so good I would've still been happy with that. Instead SOMA just kept going, adding new layers to its detailed world before finally tossing up a "To Be Continued" notice. There's a reason Frictional Games has been remarkably quiet about SOMA's plot for the past two years - everything I could possibly say beyond the above paragraph sounds like spoilers, even though SOMA is incredibly upfront about what's happening. That being said, SOMA is absolutely worth experiencing spoiler-free for the first time.

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