Not a lot of comments in this thread considering its Humble Monthly inclusion. Any new blood playing this game? How’s it going? I never bought a Humble Monthly yet, but Soma has me considering it…
I picked it up in the Humble bundle and installed it but haven’t played it yet. I’m scared!
There may not have been a jumpscare, but I can certainly recall a couple of chasescares that terrified me more than any jumpscare ever could.
I finished this last night and wanted to ask if I could join the Soma fan club @krayzkrok and @tomchick? My god, I adored this. It’s been such a long time since I felt so positive about a game in almost every way, the perfect density and variety of enemies and ‘puzzles’, the winding story and fascinating (if familiar) ideas it deals with, the incredible environments and the suffocating atmosphere that Frictional utterly nail, the total lack of fucking collectibles, the uncertainty of your goals and purpose but the clear and consistent vocabulary of the game, the lack of a HUD, the tactility of the world (this goes all the way back to Penumbra: Overture), the sound design. Holy shit, the sound design. The ending! I’m really surprised to hear the grumbling in this thread, I really am.
When I first started playing this I felt like I’d toughened up since Alien: Isolation. I had not. In much the same way as I did with Penumbra: Overture and Black Plague, I had to really steel myself. Like krok, I played in the dark at night with my headphones cranked up. There are jump scares but they’re not what I’d call cheap. Some are just visual, some are auditory and fairly subtle. There’s no ‘…silence… BOOO!!1’ kind of crap. The game’s mostly about atmosphere and a slow-burning sense of dread, which is the best kind of horror to me.
One thing I really appreciated with Soma is the way that it doesn’t repeatedly dump the same enemies on you. This can’t be overstated. There’s no ‘Alien: Isolation effect’ where you just get pig sick of having to hide and shuffle around everywhere. In Soma, enemy encounters are few and far between, but they’re short, memorable and terrifying enough to plant the seeds that these bastards could appear again at any moment. Often they don’t, which shows just how sophisticated Frictional are at playing with you. I also loved the glitchy screen effects, both as a warning and a means of maintaining the mystique of the monstrosities shambling around.
The pacing I found exquisite and this I attribute almost entirely to the lack of gamey shit that so often plagues story and world focused games. You introduce collectibles and items and gauges and inventory and what have you and you introduce this kind of min-max mentality where players comb the environments for junk to hoard:
There were several moments in Soma early on where I caught myself ‘exploring’ a toilet or ‘looting’ a locker and was like ‘Gregg, what the hell are you doing?’. As Tom said in his review:
[…] scattered movable items of no value to you, storage rooms that are as irrelevant as any storage room. Ironically, because you can ignore so much of the environment, you can enjoy more of the environment.
I think this is absolutely spot on. The lack of crap to pick up meant that I just got on with things. I explored, sure, but only for insight into my situation and what to do next. We talk about immersion in games but Soma really gets it because it doesn’t bog the player down with nonsense. And a lot of it really is nonsense. Gone Home is another game I adore for this reason.
Soma also features a lot of discreet decisions to make which often gave me pause, but I’ve honestly no idea whether they effected anything. I’d love to know what would have happened if I’d put Simon’s arm in that WAU heart sphincter. I decided against it because I was leaving this rock and I didn’t want any more trouble from it. The ARK was the number one priority. I didn’t know much about the guy I assumed was Ross, and I had no idea what would happen if I put my arm into that thing so I just left it. Not sure whether I’ll investigate the alternative outcome!
The ending though. Wow. I agree, Tom, that some of the acting was a bit flat in places but the way the main character at the end went from fist-pumping euphoria to indignant apoplexy then to desperate terror as Catherine disappears off that screen. Holy shit. I’m in two minds about the sequence after the credits. On the one hand I appreciated the contrast between the hell and the heaven; the lonely Simon trapped on the bottom of the ocean amid the ashes of mankind, and the Simon in the stars who’s transcended the physical form… but on the other hand, did we need to see that? I dunno. Either way, I loved how bold it was. I was expecting some last minute shitshow of mechanical malfunctions and getting things back online to launch the ARK, all while dealing with more enemies, but it was beautifully understated and atmospheric. I loved that Phi felt untouched, unlike Tau which was a biomechanical nightmare. I wonder if, tucked away in the corners of the ARK utopia there were any signs of the WAU?
Anyway, yes, Soma’s a masterpiece. Thanks for those opening two paragraphs in your review Tom! I went back and read the rest yesterday :)
Finally played this over the weekend. Frictional does some memorable games, so I held off until I had some time to power through it in a couple days. For a horror and/or suspense game, the writing made me laugh a lot. Amnesia was super serious, so that was a pleasant surprise.
They do, and they don’t. ;) The effects are more psychological, in terms of how you feel about the decisions. There’s slightly more consequence to putting your arm into the WAU, but it’s short term. Try it if you do another playthrough sometime, once you’ve forgotten enough of the story.
By the way, your diagram was amusing. Glad I’m not the only one who does that.
Yeah, I love that diagram. I found it ages ago but it rings so very true!
I started this and was enjoying it quite a bit, despite the fact that I have no stomach for scary games. However, I’ve now set it down and I can’t bring myself to pick it back up. Each time there was an escape-the-monster sequence, it was totally unclear how I was supposed to get out of it and I just flailed around a bit until I got through it, and it’s very un-fun. Now I’m stuck in a section going through an old boat and trying to get a submarine working and there’s a monster there. I have no idea even which way I need to go, much less how to get around the thing, or even really how to predict its movements.
I really enjoy everything else about the game, but when I’m in the groove and having fun, I’m dreading the next monster sequence. Not because it’s scary but because they’re just confusing and not fun. Am I missing something?
I’ve done so well keeping my backlog clear of stuff like this and now I’m getting sucked into the excitement.
I think I’ll dump Shadow Warrior 2 and buy this instead.
I think I know where you mean Nightgaunt. I spent a long time there trying to work out its movements but sooner or later you just have to start carefully poking around the edges and seeing what you can see. Sooner or later you’ll work out which direction you have to go but even then that monster is tough to deal with because you can’t look at it without your vision going to hell. You have to work out where it is by sound, move in the opposite direction decisively and be prepared to hide and close doors behind you, hoping it doesn’t investigate. Also, throwing objects (while stood up to give you a bit more length) should lure the thing away. For what it’s worth, I found that monster the most difficult one to deal with, without a doubt.
I might add too that I’m a horror wimp. I pre-ordered Amnesia and never played it beyond the first few corridors. Partly due to driver issues at launch but mostly because Penumbra: Black Plague (which I played in the meantime) scared the crap out of me, so the idea of moving straight on to Frictional’s latest and greatest horror didn’t sit well with me at the time! Soma just hit all the right buttons for me. Nevertheless, it was an intense experience that I really had to psyche myself up for.
With Nightgaunt’s monster, I find you have to be bold. You can, as I did, cower in the corner for a while, but if you work out the layout of the rooms and where you need to go, once you have enough space between you then just leg it!
Also, while I think the monster sequences add enormously to the game (and in fact are part of the story and premise), there is a Wuss mod that makes them non-violent. They’re still there so the atmosphere isn’t totally ruined, so if you prefer exploration and following the story then it’s an option.
So glad to see this thread bumped. I look forward to getting back into my second playthrough. Heck, I’ll probably just start over again.
Well, actually. Mmm, okay, that’s cool.
Thanks, everyone! If this is the toughest monster sequence in the game, then I’m encouraged and I’ll put the work in to get past it. Ooooooor, try out that Wuss Mod. Thanks for mentioning it, krok.
This is a great post.
Now do Soma vs. Age of Decadence.
I see your new calling as game playoff ref. Charge a monthly fee and members can refer to you to make choices about what games to buy or play from their backlog :-)
Why do I get the feeling that I’ve played this game before? It probably doesn’t help that I’m playing Doom at the same time.
So many satellite dishes to align. So many power grids to enable. Always another task to do after an apocalypse.
I think Soma does a much better job of all that stuff to be fair, mostly because you directly interact with things, pulling, pushing, sliding, turning, connecting and slotting things in. It makes the mundane more involving. I don’t think Frictional lean too much on the same kinds of ‘post-apocalyptic restoration’ here either, and if they do, there’s usually a twist (like the basement server mainframe reset at Theta). Another thing: the checkpointing is solid and restarting sections is infrequent. I absolutely get where you’re coming from though.
Compare all this with Alien: Isolation, or I Have No Power and I Must Scream (and in space, no one can hear you scream).
There were so many bits in Soma too where I was like “Oh sure, this is totally not going to go to plan” or “Something’s going to stop me reaching it” or “No way am I getting out of here that easily” and… I was wrong. I really appreciated those subversions, however minor.
Eh, 3 stars, liked it. The scares kept up well for the first few hours, then I hit a pretty bad stretch where I was constantly “checking my watch” hoping the game would end soon. (This is a personal problem with linear games for me lately.) But once I hit the endgame I was excited to see it through.
I finally installed this and tried it out.
It lost me in the first few seconds. You have to press a trigger and push and pull to open and close drawers? And pick up objects and turn them around to take a closer look? Anyway, it felt too awkward.
Is it better with a mouse and keyboard? If so, I might give it one more try. But what a horrible way to start a game. Interface nightmare. Is that why it’s considered horror?