Developer: Frictional Games
Publisher: Frictional Games
Released: 22, September 2015 (PC & PS4) 1, December 2017 (Xbox One)
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewed on: Xbox One
This terrifying puzzle game called SOMA returns once more for Xbox One owners. SOMA was originally released back in 2015 for PC & PlayStation 4 owners, but now Xbox owners can enter this “mindfuck” with the introduction of a “soft difficulty”.
It’s not easy to explain the story in SOMA, as questions such as (…) have we been in a coma all the time?, Is the world we left behind really the real world? Am I dead?
Simon Jarrett, our antagonist, have been through a car crash and he suffers from a severe head injury. The loss of his partner might not have helped with the regeneration of his mind either. With just a few months left to live, Simon decides to help a doctor with a experimental project where he was supposed to scan Simon’s head to create a blueprint. But after Simon sat down, and the scanner went on, everything changed. And this new world or setting, depends on what you want to call it, isn’t a happy place of course. Dark and terrifying suits the description just fine.
I can’t really go into more detail about the story in SOMA, but I can say that the lore and tension for details is humongous. Collectible documents and tapes helps telling our story as well. I could talk for hours about the story, but that’s spoiling and ruining your fun. The story as many other big TV series or other video games is slow burn at first, but well written.
The main aspects of SOMA is storytelling and puzzle solving with a touch of stealth to survive. You are supposed to get from point A to point B by opening new doors to get to new areas, but that isn’t that easy as the doors have their own puzzle to be opened with. And if that isn’t enough, there are murderous machines out there who wants you dead, and you got nothing to protect yourself with. They have added a new difficulty with the launch of the Xbox One version who allows you to play SOMA without the murderous machines, but that is challenging itself as the puzzles are bit challenging.
One of the “best” parts is that there isn’t any jump scares in SOMA. The whole terrifying feeling goes “under your skin”. We never get a good look at the machines who hunts us, as our screen tears and stutters as we try to look at it. So the tension is pretty high and we never know how close they are to kill us. If they manage to kill you the screen goes black, without any loading you wake up at the same spot and the machine / monster have gone another way. That might sound like a bad or boring thing, but I say this (…) You’re going to love that mechanic, as the progress of your puzzle solving isn’t gone, so you can proceed where you left off.
GRAPHICS & SOUND
SOMA isn’t the best looking game even from a game back in 2015. The character design / model is a bit rushly made or tweak as you might say. But the level of high details in smaller objects is present, maybe not necessary as the main treat for your eyes is in the presentation of Pathos II. This underwater facility with different rooms connected with underwater tramways is gorgeous to look at, the whole design is massive and impressive. You can tell that the developers have been utterly cautious on the feeling of their environment. Have you seen the movie called Ghost Ship? No? The whole underwater facility feels like a ghost town, computers left off with programs and emails opened, laundry laying around etc.
The negative part is a few performance drops sometimes, a split second the screen frezzes, and the loading can be a bit long. The loading part is fine, as there isn’t many “checkpoints” where they have to load in a new scenario. But the performance loss is annoying.
The sound design is carefully placed correctly to give you the rightfeeling in the game, and with a home theater installed as well gives this an extra boost. There is of course settings to be changed if you use headphones, smaller TV’s etc so all of you guys that are extremely interested in the sound might enjoy this. The voice acting is surprisingly good for an independent developer team. From the way our antagonist panics, to the way he talks in general and the way he talks about he won’t survive is well acted and written.
The control layout on the Xbox One version is easy to learn, and by no means “stupidly” laid out. The response time from when I push the menu button to the game reacts might take up to one second response sometimes. Other than that I got nothing more negative to say.
The replay value isn’t very high in SOMA, but you can of course try a second run of the game with higher difficulty. But I believe the whole good experience lay in the first run and story.
If you haven’t tried out SOMA before and love puzzle games, I will recommend you to try out this one. SOMA is a rare “gem”, with changeable optimized sound settings, well written and acted story, great graphics and challenging puzzles gives you tons of hours. And the option to turn off “the enemies” is a great option if you just want to try out the puzzle part.
Storytelling & Script
Some performance loss