Game Review: SOMA (Xbox One)
I’ve long known about SOMA. I fondly remember watching some gameplay a few years ago. When it released, it was only available on PC or PS4. However, in December last year it finally came to Xbox One. It took me some time but I’ve finally experienced the game for myself. Soma is a science fiction survival horror-adventure game that was developed & published by Frictional Games.
The game takes place in an underwater research facility known as PATHOS-II. Unexpectedly, the crew of PATHOS-II became the last people to exist on Earth after a comet impact caused a major extinction event. There, the last humans survive on a day-to-day basis, attempting to fight the negative effects of their collective isolation. During this period, the machines in PATHOS-II begin to develop human characteristics and a consciousness.
In 2015, protagonist Simon Jarrett is involved in a car crash in Toronto that claimed the life of his friend Ashley and leaves him with severe brain damage. Due to his injuries, Simon agrees to an experimental brain scan under the control of David Munshi, who is working on ways of reversing brain damage. During the scan, Simon appears to black out.
Simon regains consciousness in Site Upsilon of PATHOS-II. He learns that he has awoken in the year 2104, and that on January 5, 2103, a massive comet impact devastated Earth’s surface. While exploring Upsilon, Simon remotely contacts someone named Catherine Chun, who instructs him to come to her location at Site Lambda. While trying to reach Catherine, Simon crosses paths with a number of mutated, hostile robots with human behaviours. I really can’t say much more than that, this isn’t a game you want spoiled.
In Soma, you play in a first-person perspective. Throughout the game, the player will find a large array of clues, such as notes and audio tapes, which builds atmosphere and furthers the plot. Similar to most titles by Frictional Games, there is no combat, and instead the player progresses through puzzle-solving, exploration and the use of stealth.
I won’t beat around the bush, Soma is one of the best video games that I have ever played. There are so many reasons as to why this is, I’ll do my best to explain. Firstly, it delivers a really compelling narrative. It is extremely well written and constantly had my mind racing with thoughts on what might be happening. In my mind it feels unfair to compare Soma to games like Bioshock but that’s not the worst comparison to make. Soma may lack the action of such games but it makes up for it in every other department.
Something that really impressed me in the game was the scale of PATHOS-II. There are so many locations to explore and almost all of them contain a fascinating story of their own. Frictional Games went to great length to make the stations feel lived in. Each room has been crafted with care to make them feel personalized to different crew members. The attention to detail in Soma is fantastic.
Visually, the game looks like something that released in 2015. It’s a little rough around the edges, plenty of choppy textures. I experienced quite a number of framerate drops and even a crash. Still, on the whole the game looks great and performs well.
You’ll find yourself in a number of claustrophobic environments. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are a couple of horrifically designed monsters in there with you. Stealthily avoiding them delivers moments of genuine tension that really had my heartrate increasing. Patience is the key in these sections. Nothing about it felt cheap, it is authentically scary in the best ways possible. Soma is impressively cinematic and wonderfully atmospheric.
There is an option for those that don’t feel like getting bogged down with deaths or struggling on the well-designed puzzles. You can play in “safe mode” which is for those that want to enjoy the story without the stress.
The story in Soma surpassed my high expectations. Not only is the voice acting tremendous but the narrative is as well. It raises many absorbing questions about life, death and the morality of consciousness. It is a truly thought-provoking experience that will leave you debating the definition of existence itself. The end is simply beautiful, it filled me with both happiness and sadness at the same time.
Overall, Soma is an underrated Sci-Fi masterpiece.
The Final Score - 9.5/10