SOMA Review: A Game Of Cat And Mouse


SOMA is the latest adventure title from Frictional Games. In a rare turn, does its gameplay cut into the story’s depth?

Publisher: Frictional Games

Developer: Frictional Games

Platforms: PC, PS4 (Version Reviewed)

Release Date: September 22, 2015

SOMA is the new game from Frictional Games, creator of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Continuing in their tradition of making darker, survival horror genres, SOMA takes you on what may be the creepiest and eeriest adventure through the deep sea I have ever been on. I know what you are thinking and no, I have not played Bioshock. This is not the time to judge me, though. This is about SOMA.

SOMA delivers a surprising amount of player interaction in the game. For the most part, you can pick up and move most objects in the game. There are larger objects that remain unmoved in-game, but most smaller objects, from pencils, to paper, to keyboards, to some larger boxes, are all movable.

This serves you as your primary mode of getting around in the game. As you move through various spaces in each substation, there will be different you will want to avoid. The primary way of doing so is throwing them off of your scent by way of misdirection. You can throw objects to be able to achieve this.

Outside of this grab and throw mechanic, you can also read the minds and thoughts of different robots, screens, and other devices affected by the WAU, a brand of artificial intelligence tasked with saving humanity. Of course, like all artificial intelligence stories, the AI has a bit of an off conception of what it means to be human. A way of rebuilding your life actually means injecting yourself into the WAU and recovering your “health” or “life points.” You must do this as the more times you are caught by the WAU, you eventually die by its hands and be absorbed into its consciousness. This doesn’t actually mean much beyond you’ll start the game from your last checkpoint as opposed to where the WAU caught you though.


Much like when you die, the game doesn’t exactly give you much to play for. You begin the game as a young man, Simon, whom was involved in a car accident and is seeing a doctor to help him recover from lingering effects. Simon agrees to an experimental brain scan with the doctor and upon going into the machine, you immediately wake up in what appears to be an abandoned lab of some kind.

It was pretty hard to take being chased by corn dogs seriously.

As you progress through the first stage of PATHOS-II, Upsilon, you began to notice that Simon has some weird abilities. In addition, to the previously outlined mechanics of grabbing and throwing objects, Simon can seeming read the minds of robots. As you explore the site, you encounter these robots who believe they are humans as well as other more hostile robotics that chase you around.

Enter Catherine. After picking up an Omni-Tool and turning on the power, you are then given a companion to see you along this way. Catherine continues on to be your explorative and narrative guide throughout the game. She tells you how a massive comet eviscerates life on the Earth’s surface and makes it unlivable for humans. She tells you of her plan in which she meant to leave an ARK of humanity in space. Her and her fellow researchers in PATHOS-II began this journey and now it’s your job to find out what happened to it.

The trouble is those previously mentioned hostile robotics still continue to exist and chase you around each point of the game. As you advance further and get closer to finding out what happened to Catherine and the ARK, you also notice the antagonists begin to change as well. Where the WAU once only employed robots in its charge, some admiring humans have glammed onto its goals and begun turning themselves into acolytes. It is all a bit much to take in. Not to mention, they look like corn dogs. It was pretty hard to take being chased by corn dogs seriously.

Humans are dead on Earth, but underwater you have hostile human robots charged by the WAU to capture you. You have deformed humans that were WAU admirers, whom chase you. You then have an encounter with the WAU itself. I will leave some of the larger details of the story and environments out of this review for the sake of not spoiling the entire story.

The ending might as well be a practical joke on you, courtesy of Frictional Games.

Unfortunately for the narrative of SOMA, you spend a pretty solidly underwhelming and not all too interesting portion of SOMA in the game of cat and mouse you play with the acolytes of the WAU, both human and robot. They scour through areas listening for something and at times making the smallest sound will catch their attention. There’s never really an explanation for why the creatures stay in the same area and don’t roam the entirety of a place. Somewhere around the fifth time your progress is impeded by yet another WAU acolyte is where I lost my patience with this game.

The actual narrative within SOMA can be explained in about 20 minutes. The game is 12 hours long of the same things, though. You don’t gain any new abilities. Your character doesn’t level up. And, even past the midway point, you are still shuffling around corners attempting to hide from these creatures. The only thing to stick around for is the story and then you reach the ending.

And well… the ending might as well be a practical joke on you, courtesy of Frictional Games. The ending is not much of a twist, not that it needed to be. At a certain point, I was already fed up with the rest of everything this game made me do that I was not the least bit entertained or enthralled by it. The game ends and I felt like my time was explicitly wasted getting there.


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SOMA functions to solve a mystery surrounding you, the player, and then further, humanity as a whole. Unfortunately, much of the intrigue around this story of the last vestiges of life is put to the side as you spend hours skirting around various corridors trying to avoid getting caught by the WAU. This is the story of SOMA, a survival horror game, that misses a bit on story execution for the sake of its creepy gameplay. Even as it creates what is the creepiest environment I have played in some time, SOMA sacrifices what could be a great streamlined story for a much choppier and overextended experience sulking around corridors as enemies stalk in circles for seemingly no reason. Finally, you reach an end that feels like it was meant to laugh at you for doing everything you did to reach it.

A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.