Soma: Amnesia in Space! (new horror game from Frictional)


#21

Reviews

Gamespot - 9/10
Eurogamer - Recommended
IGN - 8.1/10
Gamesradar - 3.5/5
RPS


#22

Strong reviews so far. I can’t wait to not play this for weeks as I shuffle ineffectively around the opening area and exit the game every time there’s a jump scare.


#23

The reviews are much better than I was expecting! Cripes, I didn’t realize it was coming to PS4. I have it pre-ordered on PC but I’d much prefer to play this on the big screen.


#24

Do I play this with headphones on a monitor or speakers on plasma ? Decisions decisisons.

Fuck it I will move my PC and use headphones + plasma. After Amnesia it is not possible to play Frictional game without headphones. The sound design they create is insane.


#25

What, after the great Amnesia Dark Descent you were expecting anything bad? :P


#26

This. I pre-ordered Amnesia. Never got past the scary door that blows open.


#27

No first impressions?

The game is really interesting. The start is a bit slow but you can see how establishing who you are and how you were a normal guy in a normal, mundane life helps when eventually the (weird) shit hits the fan, the contrast is higher and the player is more connected to the protagonist.

Overall the immersion and atmosphere is great, though it’s that way looking more at the entire scene, if you look at the individual details, you can see some outdated assets, quality wise. But hey, this isn’t an AAA game and the price also isn’t the same, it’s totally justifiable.
It seems it’s going to be less balls-to-the-wall scary than Amnesia, which was a [I]tour-de-force[/I] of scariness, and more kind of creepy and disquieting, with the true horror in the implications of the story.

Once you are in the station, it’s clear what happened.
first hour and half

[spoiler]You are the copy of the neural scan. Someone, who knows why, found the copy and put it in a robot? or some kind of artificial human. In fact the game occurs 90 years after the neural scan, though the slightly retro-scifi look confused me a bit. It’s kind of funny, from what you read and hear, the data was captured just for a simulation of a few ms in time, and for a sensible reason, to help the patient, it wasn’t a hidden Frankenstein experiment of a crazy doctor. But, they didn’t delete the data. And of course, when they did it they didn’t think that in the future, with more advanced tech, they could “run” the simulated brain for indefinite periods of time, not just miliseconds.
So the copy was forgotten for so many decades until someone put it in a hardware.

The lore is interesting, just reading and investigating a bit you can learn that the “seat” where you awake wasn’t really used for medical stuff, it seems people sit there and controlled remotely (or did they download themselves to?) to “suits” in other words robots to do their normal work. It’s a future where AI/manipulation of concious self is doable, and even common.

It also seems one year before shit hit the fan in the station, and they had to close it down. There is a mention of “psychotic” robots in there, and in fact I’ve met the first one, which clearly believes he is human, and somehow can’t see how obviously he isn’t (even if we are in the future, the robots aren’t exactly very advanced). I suppose the idea is that the work was done by mental remote control, and something happened and some people got trapped in the robots. Maybe.
[/spoiler]


#28

I hate the injured status mechanic. I mean I really detest it. The limping, with the blurry screen, really pisses me off something fierce.


#29

There is an interesting balance they stuck with the MC. He is between the typical silent protagonist and a talkative one. I think they wanted one who could talk, but maybe he was too overbearing except in a few areas he stays silent normally. But it’s a bit strange because if he can talk, he should have used much much more “What the fuck” “where the hell am I?” “shit” “shitshitshit” “fuck me”, etc during the first minutes in the base, because his situation is really mindblowing. Instead he seems incredibly calm to me!

It was funny when

mystery of the flashlight

he used the flashlight for the first time, even when he still thinks of himself as human, and wonder where the magic flashlight came from (even if he didn’t have any on his hands). Like /facepalm, but I understand he is partly in a state of schizophrenia, with a few minutes before seeing himself as fully human.

But somehow I can’t care a lot for his problems, given the

global situation

global situation of the humankind gone to ashes because a comet erased most of life in the planet. Once you establish that, I don’t have a lot of room for an individual drama.


#30

This game is… incredibly nonchalant with what in theory should be revelations or twists for the protagonist.

spoilers after lambda

You are in the future!! Your true life is already over, everyone you knew is dead!
[I]“Ok.”[/I]
You are in a robot body!
[I]“ok”.[/I]
Humanity went extinct!
"[I]ok".[/I]
We have a wild plan to send a satellite with a virtual world full of AI that are copies of humans to the space!!
[I]“ok”. “Can we, like, upload ourselves there too? It isn’t like we have anything better to do”.[/I]


#31

I’m detesting the on screen effect when you look at monsters. It’s much stronger than in Amnesia.


Edit: cool pc

The game is actually less… video game than Amnesia, which had a journal, an inventory, you had to use consumables to recover sanity, health or light for the lantern, there were more stealth and more puzzles.
For now I had two or three stealth moments and a pair of small puzzles, but overall most of the time I’ve been walking, looking around, opening things and hearing conversations/audiologs. It feels more like a horror scifi Gone Home, more a ‘walking simulator’ than Amnesia.

About the story, I wonder…

speculation

If I should take it all in a straightforward way. There was a moment where they talk about the brain compensating in certain ways to cope with reality, that reminded me how the protagonist at the start of everything had a brain injury, something which can provoke certain coping mechanisms. Imagine the entire game is a figment of his imagination, a way to show how his brain doesn’t associate anymore with normal reality :P. Ok, I don’t think it’s that, but for example give he is a simulation of someone with a brain injury, the simulation itself could suffer of the same coping system, somehow.


#32

Finished. It was decent-ish, but really it isn’t what I hoped.

I can’t recommend it strongly. The game has scaled back in gameplay since Amnesia, leaving you with the story, which is ok in places but it isn’t solved as well as I would liked. It lacks the gravitas for the themes, it introduces some concepts in a very plain way, one of the plot threads isn’t solved at all (at least in my game) and the end is eeh.

what the game is about

Dealing with the problem of consciousness (continuity of self, duplication of consciousness, etc) has been dealt before in other fiction works, from movies to books to comics, and imo in some of these works better than here.

And apart from that there isn’t a lot more. The game isn’t terribly insightful or shows a new perspective in the issue, or makes it more shocking. It didn’t make me think more than I already thought about it years ago.
The horror is also much less intense, preferring to bask in the implications of the story to give you some horror vibes.

In fact, now that I think about it, this is much closer to Amnesia: A Machine for pigs, than the first one. Both have less gameplay and more walking and hearing and reading, both have less direct horror and relay more in the plot and the meanings behind it to create something creepy.


#33

I agree with this as well. I’m puzzled by the reviews praising this specifically for the concepts and story. So many of them found the concepts emotionally shattering. I found it a bit simple, really. As it unfolded I wondered if the reviewers ever watched or read any sci-fi at all. I wasn’t dazzled.

That said, the atmosphere in the game was superb. The environments and sound are excellent.

I was more annoyed than scared by the enemies. I want to get over there, dammit! Just leave me the heck alone!


#34

I didn’t want to go there but… maybe it was emotionally shattering if this is their BABBY FIRST MIND SCIFI. :P :P

Hell, I think
movie

The Prestige

impacted me more with the twist and the consequences left unsaid. And
another video game

The Talos Principle tells a better tale about AI and what’s a human and a project beyond the end of humanity.


#35

Jeez, you guys are tough to please. I’m loving the heck out of this so far. Amnesia scared me witless, this is a little more enjoyable to play frankly because I can appreciate the setting and story more without worrying about death around every corner. Although, when the danger comes, you’ll still find me cowering in a corner like a baby. I’ve just left Theta and I’m in a flooded base with a… thing… wandering around. Way too damn scary. But then I am playing in the dark with headphones and the sound turned up very loud, which scares the shit out of me whenever something happens. I love it. The sound design here is exceptional.

I’m also reminded that nobody really does tactile physics in first person quite like Frictional, the picking up of objects, sliding doors, flicking switches and pressing buttons, I could play with some of these toys all day. Anyway, it’ll take me another week to play this to completion at this rate; I can manage about an hour each night before I need a break from the stress.


#36

The “tactile” thing is very well done. Lots of levels, sliders, buttons, sticks and computers to handle.

Funnily, there is the A plot, and the B plot. The B plot is just teased in the background and it is never explained, but actually it’s the more interesting part of the game.

final spoilers

[spoiler]
The A plot is you meeting with Cath, and searching and trying to launch the Ark. You do it, yay! end game. Well, not exactly yay, it leaves you with the copy/continuity problem.

One of my disappointments is how I believed the B plot, this is what was the deal with WAU, Dr. Ross and your origins would be a bigger issue near the end, maybe even having some big reveal Bioshock style, but the game doesn’t really focus on it, it leaves it always as a B-plot.
But now I’m thinking maybe leaving that way, just teasing the players instead of answering everything was the better choice.

Did you kill the WAU? I didn’t. Because my theory is that isn’t so bad. Or at least, it was really doing the equivalent of the ARK, so if we are fighting to send and activate the ark, then the WAU can’t be that bad.
It was the WAU who did the first mental transfer with the control-pilot hardware, the ARK was created as inspiration of that technology, copying what WAU did first. WAU also did one of the virtual scenarios you find in one computer, called Versailles. It makes me believe that the WAU, after its first tries trying to revive people or putting their minds in robots (which wasn’t a bad idea at all to survive in the new Earth, I mean you are already leaving normal humanity with the whole virtual world-AIs, and the MC seemed normal enough), is doing then a ARK-like project, and that’s why you find people connected to tentacles and shit. The game tries to intimidate the player with the creepy visuals, with black ooze and tubes and all that, but that’s the hardware, from what we know the “software” side is all perfect and dream-like.
Hell, its drones never kill you, the ones who can kill you are the psychotic robots. Finally, it would be a good twist and the game in fact lets you finish it without killing it.

Oh, and I almost forget; The Carthage corp had someone in there with classified orders about the WAU, and the Alpha base where WAU resided was secret, so it may be that it was all planned by the government as the comet closed in. A submarine geothermal plat is in fact one of the better places to start anew in that situation.

So the thing helping you and talking to you was Dr. Ross. That was my main guess. But I wonder if that’s the case really. Like, how he did it? It seems he got turned into a WAU-like being. Or maybe he was absorbed into WAU when it killed him, but somehow conserved his self and was interacting with the outside world.
Because, how he could provoke you hallucinations? Like him whispering words in your mind, or how he could put some info into computers. Cath mentions you were connecting to the WAU every time you connect to heal. Apart that you are partly built with the gel WAU can control so… it makes sense for the WAU being the one behind everything? That’s why I wonder if he was part of the WAU and was rebelling or some shit like that.
Finally, who built you, The WAU? or Dr. Ross?
And for what purpose? Or it was just another experiment and there was no further intentions with it.

That’s the part of the puzzle I couldn’t solve.[/spoiler]


#37

The “Color Separation” effect can be turned off in the menu under “Game”. Not “Video” settings like you’d think.

It drove me absolutely nuts. I was so certain there must be something wrong with my computer, that I spent an hour re-installing drivers, checking video cables, shutting off second monitor, etc., all to no avail. Then I found the check-box in the Options menu. Damn. That effect seriously looks like a video card problem to me.


#38

Once you realise that it can be eliminated by healing yourself at one of those pods (one of which is never far away) it turns into a temporary inconvenience. The first time, though, when you have no idea what’s going on is very disconcerting. Frictional would have been better off making it much clearer that it was a condition, not a GPU issue.


#39

True, but even as a condition, it made me cross-eyed, and I’d have still shut it off. And at the beginning of the game, there are no pods. I just wanted to have a clean look around the apartment.
I do give them points for having a way to shut it off, however.


#40

From their FB page

SOMA has now been out in the wild for 10 day so it felt fitting to write a summary of how things have gone so far. But first a little trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9z0Yz-cP73U

  • Sales
    I’m going to start with what I think most people are interested in: how much has the game sold? [B]The current number now is at about 92,000 copies across all platforms[/B] (due to legal reasons we can’t give a per-platform breakdown). This is quite good for 10 days (+ preorder time) of sales! The money that we’ve got from this will [B]pretty much pay our company expenses for another 2 years[/B]. Sales are still going pretty strongly too, with a total of around 2,000 copies sold per day. This number is bound to drop over time, and it’ll be interesting to see just how fast and where it stabilizes. While a lot of sales obviously come close to launch, a big part of our normal earnings comes from a slow daily trickle over the years of our existing titles. So our average daily sales a month or so from now on is actually more important than all of the units sold up to this point.

How does this compare to our other releases? Well, Amnesia: The Dark Descent sold 30,000 copies in the first month (and around 20,000 the first week). So SOMA’s launch is obviously a lot better than that. [B]Compared to Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, though, the launch is a little bit worse. That game sold about 120,000 copies the first week.[/B]

Our goal for SOMA’s sales is 100,000 after a month, and at the current pace it should be able to reach pretty much exactly that with a few units to spare. However, [B]this doesn’t mean that we’ve come close to recouping all our costs. We need to sell almost 3 times that amount to do that[/B]. But given that it took us 5 years to make the project, there’s no immediate stress to do so. One of the great things about funding SOMA 100% ourselves is that all money earned goes into our own pockets and is directly used to fund our upcoming projects. So we are under no pressure to recoup immediately so long as we get enough to keep going - which we certainly have now.

Finally, another very interesting aspect is how [B]new titles tend to cannibalize on the previous ones. We saw this with A Machine for Pigs; after it launched the daily sales of The Dark Descent were almost cut in half. [/B]That was not that unexpected though, given that they are both from the same franchise, but still a bit weird that the games’ combined sales ended up being pretty much what The Dark Descent sold on its own before. What we didn’t expect was for SOMA to do the same. When the pre-orders for SOMA started, Amnesia sales dropped by about 30% or so and this drop still remains. This feels strange as the two games are not connected apart from being made by the same company, so we wonder what mechanism it is that causes this. It might be that Amnesia’s sales will rise again a bit later on though, so it’s too soon to tell yet just what the effects are.

  • Reception
    The critical reception of SOMA has been, overall, really, really great. MetaCritic is currently at 85 and the Steam reviews are 94% positive.

The thing that I worried most about personally was how the themes would be received. It turns out that I needn’t have worried - that’s the thing we have fewest problems with. Even reviews that gave us so-so scores lauded the game for the thought-provoking narrative. This feels awesome, as this has been the core focus during our five years of development.

The most common issue people have had is that they’ve felt the game wasn’t scary enough. This is quite interesting, so I’d like to take a little time to discuss this.

One reason this was so is probably due to expectations. While we’ve tried to be very clear that SOMA will be a different game from Amnesia: The Dark Descent, we have still used the name “Amnesia” as a way to grab attention. This sends a bit of a mixed message, as people might simply assume that because we say “from the creators of Amnesia”, a similar experience will be provided. One idea would have been not to mention the studio’s heritage, but that feels stupid from a PR perspective. Another idea would have been to tone it down a bit, but it’s hard to say exactly how to do that. The fact of the matter is that SOMA, just like Amnesia, is very much a horror game. It’s just that it is presented in a different manner, using slower build-up and more focus on the psychological aspects.

Another reason why some people felt it was not scary enough is because horror is extremely subjective. The reactions to how scary SOMA is range from “not at all” to “the scariest game I have played”, and some of the people in the latter camp are survival horror veterans. We had this sort of reaction to Amnesia: TDD as well, but it feels even more spread out for SOMA. When we released The Dark Descent, horror with no combat was still a very fresh concept, but five years later that is no longer the case, and it has lost its impact for some people. SOMA also employs a riskier approach to monster AI that assumes the player will act in certain ways and reach a certain understanding about how the creatures work. If players don’t do this the experience might suffer. Above all, the main horror in SOMA is supposed to come from the existential dread that’s slowly unveiled as the game progresses. And in order for this to work properly, a lot of pieces need to align, and it will not work for everyone.
[…]

  • Piracy
    It is so interesting that this is no longer a subject brought up much any longer. So I thought I would quickly get into it. And the first thing to note is that SOMA is the first game we have launched without having a pirated version out before release!

Another thing I have noticed is that we get fewer tech support requests from people with pirated versions than we used to have. It’s often pretty easy to spot these people as we issue new patches frequently, so there are lots of telltale signs in the log files. I’m not sure if this means piracy has decreased for SOMA, or if these people find tech support elsewhere, but I felt it worth mentioning.

As for us personally, we haven’t even talked about piracy. The only time it matters to us is when sending out review copies. Amnesia had a pirated version leaked before release, so now we make sure that we at least send out a DRM-protected version of the game to reviewers. But other than that, I don’t think we’ve discussed it for even a second. This is quite different from back in 2007 when I know me and Jens had hours of discussions on the subject.

  • Marketing
    I’ve already touched upon this above when discussing the game’s reception. However, how to market SOMA in terms of horror was the easy part. The hard part was to explain what makes the game special. When we released Amnesia, showing off the physics and explaining that you couldn’t fight back was more than a enough for the game to stand out. But now the market is filled with these types of games, and more is needed to get people excited.

The main unique feature of SOMA is its exploration of consciousness and what it means to be human. This is also what has been the most celebrated feature of the game after launch. But explaining this to press and gamers prior to release has been exceptionally difficult. This is not some gameplay gimmick that can be shown off during a short demo session, but something that requires hours of build-up. So when you talk about the game, you have to be fuzzy and talk about very high-level concepts. When doing interviews like this I often got the impression that I wasn’t really taken seriously. The press don’t expect any lofty design aspirations to come true and would rather hear about concrete and more easily-digested (and explained) features.

To make things even harder, SOMA is very hard to talk about without spoiling the experience. I could never give an example of exactly how we handle our thematics through gameplay without spoiling a big chunk of the game. This problem of spoilers also makes the game hard to demo and to give to YouTubers. If we just give people a part of the game where you are chased by monsters, that would misrepresent the game (making the expectation problem worse) and fail to explain what is so special about SOMA. And if we show off one of slower sections that are all about build-up, mood and thematics, we have to show off really long segments, which becomes too spoiler-filled and takes way too much time for a demo.

We solved the YouTuber issue by only sending it out to a few trusted people, and only allowing a maximum of 15 minutes to be shown. That way we got people to play a lengthy part of the game (around 3 hours) and then show a distilled, and fairly spoiler-free, video to their viewers. We could only do this pretty late in development though, and given how important streamers and YouTubers are for PR these days, it felt like we would have like to do more earlier.

[…]

Interesting that A Machine for Pigs had a stronger release. That’s brand recognition for you, it doesn’t matter if it’s the lesser work of the three or the fact it was done by another company, it had Amnesia in the name and Soma doesn’t.