Zero Punctuation: SOMA

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SOMA

This week, Zero Punctuation reviews SOMA.

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Heeeey, I'm early for this one. Anyway, good review, looks like a good game I will probably play in 3-5 years from now (I don't have the most advanced of gaming machines, so I've mostly kept to games that came out 3-5 years ago.).

And now I kind of want to see one of those overreacting youtubers yell "Arrgh! It's so existential!" on a video...

Personally I think Soma needed some more work before release, Yahtzee is completely right about the monster plot being kind of separate from the main plot and the puzzles... Well I just didn't feel that they were quite as clever as The Dark Descent's ones. It's like they really needed about 2-3 more months to go over the story and make it mesh properly as well as just fiddle with the gameplay that little bit more to make it tighter.

Although, there's not just one button to Resolve Monster Plot. There are actually two choices to that one, one of which isn't really obvious but it's in the same room.

Glad to see Frictional Games trying out future sci-fi stories and leaving Ye Olde Settings. Shame it didn't work out so well, however. (Always gotta have the monsters somehow, huh?)
So much for a more classic type of horror then.

So, on to other things.

Is there any chance Yahtzee will review "Undertale", seeing as it borrows certain elements from Earthbound and Cave Story, or am I just barking up the wrong tree?

vallorn:
And now I kind of want to see one of those overreacting youtubers yell "Arrgh! It's so existential!" on a video...

It kind of feels like that's what Markiplier's been doing in between monsters. Talking about what makes a human and whatnot.

In Amnesia, at least, the monsters were an extension of the story. In Soma, they do feel a bit like an afterthought, or a sidethought. That said, I do appreciate the game revealing early on what would probably have been a twist in a more condensed horror game.

Glad to know I wasn't the only one who didn't find SOMA scary at all.
Also I beat the game, but I for the life of me don't know why the monsters were acting the way they did. They never fully explain why their hostile, just that they are and there's a way to stop it.

Also for a game about "Oh what does it mean to be human! Alas and Alack!" it was actually very predictable. I mean maybe I've seen one too many sci-fi movies, but I guessed the character's true nature(wink wink) while still in the starting apartment. Why? Because I knew the game was about underwater monsters and pseudo-AI/brain scan bullshit and nothing else.

So why the hell would we be in a totally fine apartment, above ground, being totally fine?!

Well, my question is, since it seems to tackle the same questions that The Talos Principle does, how does SOMA stack up against it?

Either Yahtzee didn't die at all playing SOMA or he just forgot to mention the fact that getting 'caught' by one of the monsters doesn't actually kill you unless you either do it several dozen times before getting healed or are in one of the chase sequences.

Otherwise it just knocks you out for a little bit and you wake up later in the exact same spot and the monster's just wandered off a bit.

Silentpony:
*snip*

Y'know if you're going to toss out spoilers and even use a spoiler function, well use the thing correctly. Yahtzee managed to say his piece without spoiling anything, at least you could have the grace to do so as well. I mean good for you, you figured out the plot and all, whatever, but there are some people who haven't even played it yet and probably want to. And please don't give me "this is the internet, spoilers happen" bs, have some restraint.

To be honest, the existential elements were kind of scarier that the monster ones. Especially since what really makes some of the monsters scary are the existential bits about "what they are" and what not.

Over all I think the game did it's job. Gave a lot of food for thought.

Imperioratorex Caprae:

Silentpony:
*snip*

SNIP

Actually what I 'spoiled' is literally the first 3mins. Really. The whole apartment, above ground, brain scan thing? Literally the first playable level.
Its not really spoilers if its the opening, is it?

Nice to see him praising the story for once. All the way to the ending, too.

Imp Emissary:
To be honest, the existential elements were kind of scarier that the monster ones. Especially since what really makes some of the monsters scary are the existential bits about "what they are" and what not.

Over all I think the game did it's job. Gave a lot of food for thought.

All the best horror does that, I think. The ideas in Silent Hill 2 were the scariest thing in the game. The monster in Alien was probably the least scary thing in a rather terrifying movie. Hell, Spec-Ops scared me shitless, and there wasn't a single monster. It's a mark of good writing, I think.

But maybe I'm weird. I probably would be the one screaming "Auuh, it's so existential! Don't go in that room, there themes about nihilism in there!"

I think Frictional shot themselves in the foot early on with the monster plot:

And as far as Simon's inability to recognize the impact of what happened at the end:

Oh god, I've gone and done it. I'm one of those posters that puts up big discussion points in spoilers. Sorry.

Anyway, I really liked the game. The conventional horror was a little flat, but I think the game mostly made up for it with sheer depth and existential horror. I thought it was a massive step up in Frictional's story telling.

I guess Yahtzee has joined the crowd of "Some people on YouTube play scary games and overreact to them, therefore all scary games only exist to keep those people in business now".

And honestly that is the biggest pile of bullshit I've heard in a while. Come on, dude, you're smarter than that.

Malbourne:

vallorn:
And now I kind of want to see one of those overreacting youtubers yell "Arrgh! It's so existential!" on a video...

It kind of feels like that's what Markiplier's been doing in between monsters. Talking about what makes a human and whatnot.

In Amnesia, at least, the monsters were an extension of the story. In Soma, they do feel a bit like an afterthought, or a sidethought. That said, I do appreciate the game revealing early on what would probably have been a twist in a more condensed horror game.

At least Markiplier can sometimes be bothered to share his experience with the game or the thoughts he has regarding his experience. He does lose to Gopher, though, who's pretty much the polar opposite of the typical reaction-cam YouTuber, and who actually lets himself be immersed.

That makes for a really tonally appropriate Let's Play series - but also a long-ass one. If you're the type who groans when the broadcaster misses an obvious button or doesn't make the correct logical inferences in the plot, then don't bother. His Alien: Isolation playthrough is in perfect synch with the game's tone and atmosphere, but there's tons of wandering about and figuring out where to go.

https://www.youtube.com/user/GophersVids

As far as the game is concerned, I had the feeling SOMA was more concerned with its existential dread than with finding ways to have uglies go boogity-boo in your face. It feels like the right call, seeing as the game's plot makes the monsters an ancillary concept.

I'm not really big on Frictional Games, I just don't find them scary or compelling, so i'm likely going to pass on this one.

Steve the Pocket:
I guess Yahtzee has joined the crowd of "Some people on YouTube play scary games and overreact to them, therefore all scary games only exist to keep those people in business now".

And honestly that is the biggest pile of bullshit I've heard in a while. Come on, dude, you're smarter than that.

He never said that, but there are plenty of games like Daylight that seem to be solely for the purpose for streamers on Twitch to overreact to(like Jim Sterling said in his video "The Rise of Youtube Fodder).

Michael Prymula:

Steve the Pocket:
I guess Yahtzee has joined the crowd of "Some people on YouTube play scary games and overreact to them, therefore all scary games only exist to keep those people in business now".

And honestly that is the biggest pile of bullshit I've heard in a while. Come on, dude, you're smarter than that.

He never said that, but there are plenty of games like Daylight that seem to be solely for the purpose for streamers on Twitch to overreact to(like Jim Sterling said in his video "The Rise of Youtube Fodder).

I'd say when he's willing to write off a game by Frictional, his favorite horror game developer ever (after maybe the team that made Silent Hill 2), as Pewdiepie bait, it's probably safe to say he's written off the whole genre.

I usually love Yahtzee's accent, but hearing him try to pronounce "Antoine de Saint-Exupery" was excruciating. Seriously, man, could have used a couple more takes.

When he said "Bay Area traffic", I can't help but wonder which Bay Area. I assume it's wherever in Australia he lives, but where I live, the San Francisco Bay Area has legendarily awful traffic on Thursday and Friday afternoons.
What I don't get is why and how you're not even supposed to LOOK at the monsters you're trying to avoid.

So I'm guessing horror games only exist to pander to the Pewdiepie clones' audience?

Steve the Pocket:
I'd say when he's willing to write off a game by Frictional, his favorite horror game developer ever (after maybe the team that made Silent Hill 2), as Pewdiepie bait, it's probably safe to say he's written off the whole genre.

Did you even watch the same video as everyone else? Based on your comment, it seems like you saw the title of the video then fell into some sort of coma and had a dream about it, and when you woke up, you went here to discuss your fictional dream-video.

He by no means wrote-off Soma, and even if Frictional was his favorite horror developer (which I highly doubt until I hear him say otherwise) that doesn't mean he has to blindly love every aspect of every game they make. He also never calls the game Pewdiebait.

There's no reason to say that he's written-off the whole horror genre, that statement makes literally no sense because it's just something you made up in your mind when you heard him mention overreacting streamers/lp'ers.

Overreacting YouTuber's is an inevitability, it's not indicative of the culture as a whole, but there's no denying it's prevalence.

Darth_Payn:
When he said "Bay Area traffic", I can't help but wonder which Bay Area. I assume it's wherever in Australia he lives, but where I live, the San Francisco Bay Area has legendarily awful traffic on Thursday and Friday afternoons.
What I don't get is why and how you're not even supposed to LOOK at the monsters you're trying to avoid.

Yeah that does sound like an incredibly stupid gameplay element, I didn't like that aspect in Amnesia but at least it gave you a meter so you knew how much you could look at something before it fill the meter all the way up, but not having a meter at all in this game makes it sound very much like fake difficulty.

Malbourne:

SNIP

Mark has done a shit job with his SOMA play-through. At least in the 3 videos I've seen he's missed half the audio-logs and barely interacts with the setting or characters.
He's so used to Amnesia where every character is trying to kill you and your only objective is to make it to the next part.
He's doing his whole "Oh no, no-no-no-no!" shtick but he's doing the absolute bare-minimum when it comes to the plot. He did the same thing in A Machine for Pigs where he judged the game for "Never explaining what the machine did!" when it does. He just missed half the content.

Thank God I actually played the game or I'd be just as confused as he is as to what's going on.

It looks a good game from what I can see, I personally how ever don't believe that it should score points for that as games now a days all look pretty they just seem to struggle with the whole; 'delivering on to the promised land thing'.

Still nice video and I like that there at least trying to change up there games more than Ubisoft are.

Steve the Pocket:

Michael Prymula:

Steve the Pocket:
I guess Yahtzee has joined the crowd of "Some people on YouTube play scary games and overreact to them, therefore all scary games only exist to keep those people in business now".

And honestly that is the biggest pile of bullshit I've heard in a while. Come on, dude, you're smarter than that.

He never said that, but there are plenty of games like Daylight that seem to be solely for the purpose for streamers on Twitch to overreact to(like Jim Sterling said in his video "The Rise of Youtube Fodder).

I'd say when he's willing to write off a game by Frictional, his favorite horror game developer ever (after maybe the team that made Silent Hill 2), as Pewdiepie bait, it's probably safe to say he's written off the whole genre.

Did you watch the video? He says that aspect of the game which seems included for Youtube fodder detracted from the game which would have worked perfectly fine without it. And that the rest of the game was good.

I really liked SOMA, but Yahtzee is fucking spot on when he says the monsters hardly fit into the story at all, and the premise of the games AI is barely touched upon. We don't even really get to SEE what it's done to the underwater facility. The story of SOMA definitely struggles with balancing way too many ideas for a 10-11 hour game.

That said, the writing is still really good, as is the acting, and some of the horror set pieces are very well put together (I think the final stretch on the ocean floor really kicks up the gameplay and makes it refreshing again).

But while it serves as an interesting world to set the story in, a lot of ideas come out half baked. It's almost like Frictional is actively encouraging its audience to try to make mods set in the game's world and flesh it out for themselves. Which is kinda cool if that's true.

If you like a good science fiction story with many of the similar core elements of Amnesia's gameplay, than I still recommend SOMA. It tackles the philosophical conundrums of being "alive" which a surprising intelligence and effectiveness. The ending is exceptionally fucked.

EDIT: Oh, and if I could give one piece of constructive criticism to Frictional (in agreement with Yahtzee), I really think you guys should find a better mechanic than distorting the players vision when they see something scary. Hell, A Machine for Pigs had a LOT of problems mechanically, but at least they got rid of that damn sanity meter (and I also still kinda like AMFP so judge my taste in games accordingly).

I think it is rather unfair to lump them together with Ubisoft. Yeah they stick slavishly to a formula but they don't gouge their customers.

Silentpony:

Malbourne:

SNIP

Mark has done a shit job with his SOMA play-through. At least in the 3 videos I've seen he's missed half the audio-logs and barely interacts with the setting or characters.
He's so used to Amnesia where every character is trying to kill you and your only objective is to make it to the next part.
He's doing his whole "Oh no, no-no-no-no!" shtick but he's doing the absolute bare-minimum when it comes to the plot. He did the same thing in A Machine for Pigs where he judged the game for "Never explaining what the machine did!" when it does. He just missed half the content.

Thank God I actually played the game or I'd be just as confused as he is as to what's going on.

Try ChristopherOdd, he's done a good job and his completed about a month ago. Plenty of exploring the environments looking for things like logs as well as talking about the themes of the game. The start of his first episode should give you a good idea of how he approached the game.

I played SOMA, and while it's true that the monsters struggled to find their place in the plot, the story held the experience together for me.

The game doesn't resonate as horror to me, mostly because it doesn't seem to for the characters either. Both the protagonist and Catherine are remarkably calm considering their situation. For the majority of the game they move along with contemplative detachment, which mirrored my own. The monsters only served to impede those moments.

I wouldn't go so far as to say the game would be better without monsters at all, but maybe cut down on their usage or at the very least give players a way to proactively deal with them. Being able to throw one of the various physics objects you get access to to distract monsters with the noise would've been great.

So... Game isn't about pineapples in sunglasses then?

I was momentarily delighted by the prospect that maybe Yahtzee had been exposed to Telefrancais.
image
http://telefrancaispineapple.tumblr.com/

getting a feeling you don't like let's players too well Yahtzee. Which is weird given the type of videos you put out on sundays through your youtube channel...

Sooooo basically it's more a "spiritual successor" to Machine for Pigs rather than Dark Descent, eh? Got it.

Silentpony:
Glad to know I wasn't the only one who didn't find SOMA scary at all.
Also I beat the game, but I for the life of me don't know why the monsters were acting the way they did. They never fully explain why their hostile, just that they are and there's a way to stop it.

Also for a game about "Oh what does it mean to be human! Alas and Alack!" it was actually very predictable. I mean maybe I've seen one too many sci-fi movies, but I guessed the character's true nature(wink wink) while still in the starting apartment. Why? Because I knew the game was about underwater monsters and pseudo-AI/brain scan bullshit and nothing else.

So why the hell would we be in a totally fine apartment, above ground, being totally fine?!

Spoilering this whole thing just in case.

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