Welcome to our CHEATfactor Game Review of SOMA. We review the game and then factor in how the available cheats affect the overall game experience. For better or worse, our reviews will help you decide whether or not to use cheats when playing the game.
It's almost impossible to talk about SOMA as a singular experience. While it's story and gameplay do come together as a unique and often compelling tale, it also often feels like two very different ideas fighting for prominence. SOMA is truly at it's best when it focuses on being a psychological mind trip and it almost forces you to think about some questions that not many video games have the courage to. Unfortunately though it also relies on you hiding from giant static monsters all too often. SOMA is a gripping and smart game that will likely surprise you more often than you'll expect but it never seems to fully commit to an idea, and SOMA feels sort of unfinished as a result; but damn is it good when it hits just where it should.
From developer Frictional Games, most famous for the truly terrifying Amnesia series, SOMA is nothing if not ambitious. It casts you in the role of an average guy who wakes up on a seemingly deserted space station on the ocean floor nearly a century into the future. It's not a particularly inspired setting as at first glance it seems like just about every abandoned space station you've ever been in. The walls are gray and cold, electric wires spark around you and a mechanical voice echoes in the distance. SOMA definitely takes it's setting clues, at least the initial ones, from horror greats like Alien. Before long you'll find that the station is populated with robots and that's when SOMA begins proper, though don't expect to understand what's going on - at least at first. There's a fairly thick layer of ambiguity to the world of SOMA, and it works well here thanks to an incredible sense of pacing and more than a few surprising twists to the story.
Those robots that you encounter are essential to the tale that Frictional Games wants to tell you. At the heart of the game, SOMA asks some pretty daring questions that deal with artificial life and asks you to make some pretty serious decisions, some of which I'm still thinking about days after finishing the game. Key to a lot of SOMA's biggest moments is the question of what constitutes life and the game is ready to make you more than uncomfortable when making this decision. Right around midway through the game you'll find out that a lot of the robots inhabiting your undersea prison are imprinted with the memories and personality of a dead or missing crew member. Does that make them that person? You'll have to make that decision during your time with SOMA, and it all comes to head in a few key moments where you're given the option to unplug the power source for more than a few of these robots.
Most of your time in SOMA will be spent exploring the substation and trying to solve puzzles. None of these puzzles were notably hard but there were a few that I'll admit did throw me for a loop here and there. There were also quite a few that I still don't quite know how I finished. I just flipped a few switched and wandered around and then suddenly something happened and I was able to move on. Well alright then. This is where SOMA starts to feel less than well-thought out since I rarely knew where I was going and though I get that that's part of the experience, I should not feel like I have to backtrack for hours to find one small switch that I missed somewhere down the road.
It's clear that Frictional Games wanted to make SOMA a more well rounded experience than it's previous games and while those are noble intentions; it also manages to make SOMA feel like a completely different game and unfortunately it's one that's not nearly as interesting. You see, the substation of SOMA isn't just inhabited by robots trying to come to grips with their own existence, it's also home to a series of giant monsters who want to rip you to shreds. Most of these encounters play out similarly to those in games like Outlast and Alien: Isolation, they hunt you and you hide util they lose interest. You can do very little to hurt them or even deter them so your best bet is to just find a nice locker and hide in it. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of all of this is that there is very little you can do in general with these monsters, they just kind of exist and go through the motions. You can't use noise to redirect them or distract them, they just act like recordings and all you have to do is wait them out.
SOMA is at it's best not when you're facing down these monsters but when it makes you think you might be. The creepy feeling of something coming down the hallway and trying to find an escape route is a much more fulfilling experience than any enemy the game can throw at you. As an interactive psychological experience, SOMA is a remarkable title but as a survivor horror game it's more on the disappointing side. That being said, if you've got a night or two and don't mind staying up with the lights on for a bit; SOMA is well worth the price of admission.
Joe started off writing about video games for small fan sites when he realized he should probably do something with his communications degree and didn't want to get into the grind of daily reporting. Joining the team in late 2008, Joe is the featured game reviewer for Cheat Happens, producing up to 10 CHEATfactor Game Reviews per month.
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