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The Gaming Universe  |  General  |  The Gaming Lounge  |  SOMA (Frictional Games)
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Author Topic: SOMA (Frictional Games)  (Read 863 times)

Offline Kaiser Infinity

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SOMA (Frictional Games)
« on: September 28, 2015, 09:50:22 AM »
SOMA's the latest survival horror title from the makers of Amnesia: The Dark Descent (but not A Machine for Pigs). The difference between them is that now, rather than having amnesia and waking up in an old European mansion, you find yourself in an underwater facility populated by sentient machines.

I'm playing through it now and already thinking about replaying it. Not only is there more than one ending, but throughout the game, you're forced to make uncomfortable decisions that you wish you could go back to and change, for one reason or another. The game deals with the concepts of transhumanism, how it could relate to human evolution, and how it can shape the future of a race, or save it. The survival horror gameplay is recycled and a little diminished from the group's last game, while much of the interaction is based on exploring these themes through the characters you meet, your own characters reactions, and the dark world that surrounds you.

I've read from other players that this lack of gameplay or challenge, in order to make room for the story, makes the game mediocre or less memorable, and I suspect they may be right. Gameplay is always more important than the story. If you remember the story or the atmosphere more than you remember the play portion, then you didn't so much play a great game as you watched an interactive movie or a walked through a videogame-as-art-installation, like Dear Esther.

Whichever of the two SOMA turns out to be, I will say this about it: you spend a decent portion of the game walking along the dark ocean floor, through wrecks and abandoned subnautical stations. The experience is pretty awe-inspiring for how great and sprawling it looks. I've enjoyed myself so far and don't plan on stopping now.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2015, 09:53:10 AM by Kaiser Infinity »
~Never borrow from the future. If you worry about what may happen tomorrow and it doesn't happen, you have worried in vain. Even if it does happen, you have to worry twice.~

Offline Kaiser Infinity

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Re: SOMA (Frictional Games)
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2015, 09:31:10 AM »
Fortunately the best thing I can say about SOMA is that it does underwater better than BioShock. It's a pretty cool walking simulator. However, the game plays out a lot like BioShock without the combat or inventory, and without a big twist in the middle. Where Amnesia was fun because of the old European castle setting, the claustrophobic areas and corridors you wander through, and the means with which you stay sane and alive, SOMA is more like A Machine for Pigs: big open areas, no combat, and even less consequence for getting spotted and killed. Some spoilers in the next paragraph:

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The most disappointing thing about the game is that none of your choices really matter in the end. They're just there to make you feel a certain way, like a Milgram experiment; the only way to refuse is to stop playing game. That's the MO of the entire game, according to the developer's "unconventional design tips" hipster crap: It's not about fun, "don't care about fun". It's about making you feel bad, helpless, or nihilistic. They used the example of Schindler's List, and how you wouldn't feel very good about playing a game where you're Schindler. It's the worst casting of "games as art" I've seen since Dear Esther and Gone Home. These are interactive narratives, not games. At least Amnesia: The Dark Descent gave me a greater fear of death and a choice between three endings.

The only "games" I've enjoyed that turned out to be artsy, interactive fiction or a straight-up VN were Analogue: A Hate Story (not in a hurry to replay but ayy), anything by Freebird Games (great stuff, beautiful music), and the borderline Radical Dreamers. The latter is at least a side story of an actual game, has have fights you can lose and a mansion to wander, and was overall a fun a memorable experience. Freebird Games' best example is probably To the Moon, which is advertised as an adventure game that looks like a SNES RPG, and plays like a mix with a heavier lean on narrative-driven design with some minigames and sequences. Like Radical Dreamers, it's a short game, enjoyable, and worth the meager time investment. Analogue is a dating sim married to a mystery thriller VN, so if you're into that and don't mind Christine Love's politics, you might enjoy a play. They made a neat way to cheat and get the deluxe double-honey ending using save files, so there's that too.

Anyways, SOMA's a great deep-sea walking sim thriller. Nothing else really matters. Don't pay more than 5 bucks for it, if anything at all.
~Never borrow from the future. If you worry about what may happen tomorrow and it doesn't happen, you have worried in vain. Even if it does happen, you have to worry twice.~

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