SOMA (PC, PS4) is the latest game by Frictional Games, the Swedish indie developer that made the Penumbra series and Amnesia: the Dark Descent. Like those games, it's a first-person game of exploration with horror elements where you must avoid enemies instead of fighting them. However, SOMA is far more character-driven than Frictional's previous works and has more interaction with other people.
Going into this game almost blind, I expected it to scare me senseless like Amnesia did. Instead, while it has some great bits of horror, I was way more captivated by its dabbling in philosophy and ethics, making it feel very much like a classical sci-fi story. Game-wise, it has great pacing, excellent art design and polish, and is clearly a love letter to System Shock 2 and games like it.
I would recommend going into this game totally blind as well! The official website has some bits of text and video to give you some background on the story, but since the game deals with you being a person ripped from their everyday life and put in a totally unfamiliar , the best way to experience it is to start ignorant. As usual, please don't post spoilers!
For the videos, you have a choice between voiced (I read out some, but not all, of the e-mails and screen texts we come across) and subtitles only (like in the narrated videos, I use animated subtitles to occasionally clarify what I'm doing/what is happening, but I keep my mouth shut and leave text screens up for just a few seconds, so you can pause the video if you want to read them). Basically same thing I did with my Amnesia: a Machine for Pigs LP, though I expect I'll use a lot less subtitles so the game can speak for itself.
- SOMA teaser trailer - An interesting and non-spoilery look at SOMA, since the content of this teaser was not actually used for the final game.
- SOMA E3 2005 trailer - A better indication of the final game.
- www.SOMAgame.com - The official game's website. The section "Files" contains a number of story bits, short stories and videos that give background on the story, but if you don't want to get spoiled too early on, I think video 11 is a good point to start reading.
"Transmissions" is an 8-episode web series produced for SOMA's release by Imagos Films. They tell the story of some of the crew members of Pathos-II before disaster struck. Each video starts with the message that it's "inspired" by SOMA, which I guess means that Frictional Games let Imagos play around with the story a bit, and it's not necessarily canon. They're okay, in my humble opinion, though I found them a bit too confusing to really enjoy. It's worth knowing that the timeframe they take place is in not chronological to the order of episodes.
Again, if you want to make some sense of these and you're new to the game, probably wait with watching them until you're at video 11.
10 April 2015
Simon has the car accident.
2 May 2015
Simon has his brain scanned by David Munshi.
1 June 2015
Simon Jarret dies from complications due to his brain injury.
12 January 2103
Comet Telos impacts with Earth in the Pacific Ocean region, killing all life on the surface. Pathos-II (Atlantic) survives with minor damage. Sites Lambda, Omicron and Delta experience temporary blackouts, but are brought back online.
28 April 2103
Upsilon's team is evacuated to Theta, aside from Amy Azzaro and Carl Semken, per order of Jane Adams. Jonsy introduces them to Strasky over the radio.
3 May 2103
Azzaro mails Wolchezk to inform her of the progress in automating Upsilon's power production, but mentions that she fears the robots will disrupt things when she and Semken leave. In reply, Wolchezk suggests they try sealing off various sectors to keep the robots out.
4 May 2103
Semken contacts Strasky at Theta to let them know he and Azzaro are sealing the comm center and leaving Upsilon. While doing their last checkup, Semken is killed by a crazed helper robot and Azzaro tries to reach Theta through the shuttle tunnels. While trying to restore power to the shuttles, she suffers a fatal accident, but is kept alive with a set of generated artificial lungs.
9 May 2103
Upsilon report: initiate WAU setup A.41iu, Emergency systems: 13 days remaining.
6 June 2103
Imogen Reed attempts to test a WAU-corrupted machine found by Strasky during a salvage mission. During the test, the machine loads a simulation of the room it's in with a scan of Reed inside it. Reed quickly orders the machine shut down. Catherine Chun notes that it unnervingly reminds her of her Artificial Reality Capsule project.
14 June 2103
Catherine dissects the Vivarium machine that Reed activated and concludes it's an imitation of her own capsule project. However, the Vivarium is more complex and can house brain scans which then continue their life.
21 June 2103
Catherine replicates WAU's scanning technique using the Pilot Seats and intends to use it to construct her own version of WAU's Vivarium, to create an artificial reality in which scans of Pathos-II's workers will live on.
4 July 2103
Catherine kicks off the ARK project by scanning her own brain. Over the following days she scans various Theta workers.
7 July 2103
Catherine Chun conducts a series of interviews about the ARK project with Robin Bass, Ian Pedersen and Mark Sarang.
12 July 2103
Mark Sarang has his brain scanned by Catherine and commits suicide to preserve continuity. John Strohmeier suspends the project to investigate.
29 July 2103
Brain scans for the ARK project resume.
3 August 2103
Delta crew ships the shell for the ARK to site Phi.
12 August 2103
Cronstedt mails Akers to let him know Delta will be evacuated to Theta on the 14th. Akers elects to stay behind, alone.
14 August 2103
Delta's crew, consisting of Wan, Goya and Krier, arrive at Theta and take up new jobs here. Strasky informs Akers of their arrival.
26 August 2103
After a number of scans and several more suicides, Robin Bass is scanned and kills herself. Strohmeier warns Catherine that one more suicide will lead to the ARK project being suspended indefinitely.
29 August 2103
ARK scans resume.
13 September 2103
Julia Dahl and Alan Waldeck descend on the Climber in an attempt to evacuate the crew of site Tau. WAU-modified sea creatures swarm between the evacuation team and the evacuees. After a few hours they return, the evacuation a failure. For the sake of keeping the peace on the plateau, they imply that everyone in the abyss is dead. The crew of Tau begins scavenging whatever they can find to stave off starvation.
7 October 2103
Guy Konrad is scanned for the ARK and immediately kills himself in the Pilot Seat. Strohmeier suspends the ARK project.
(note: Catherine's scan log for all the subjects notes the date as september 2nd, but all other mentions of Konrad's suicide occur on October 7th, so this appears to be a writer's mistake.)
At some point past this date, Catherine assembles her ARK team consisting of Ian Pedersen, Jasper Hill, Sarah Lindwall and Nicolai Ivashkin to take the ARK with the scans they have and try to get it to site Phi so they can launch it. They pack things up and depart for Omicron first.
12 December 2103
Upsilon's geothermal plant goes offline (counted back 143 days from the day Simon reactivates the plant). Possibly the doing of Imogen Reed (see: Transmissions videos).
20 December 2103
Masters concludes an evaluation of Vanessa Hart, who seems to have undergone something traumatic (see: Transmissions videos).
25 December 2103
Strasky mails Akers to wish him a merry christmas and again extends an offer to bring him over to Theta. The ARK team descends from Omicron aboard the Climber, having scanned the Omicron crew (Raleigh Herber's dispatch logs give this date as December 25th, but the arrivals/departures console at the bottom of the Climber gives this date as December 26th). Braving the creatures of the abyss, they reach Tau and scan the crew, then proceed on to Phi.
26 December 2103
The ARK team arrives at Phi. There is disagreement among them whether to risk launching the ARK, and in a struggle, Catherine Chun is killed. The ARK team returns from Phi still with the ARK (according to the console at Phi, this happens at December 27th; one of them is a mistake, the writers weren't consistent) and, unwilling to make a decision regarding the ARK, elect to remain at Tau for the time being.
28 December 2103
Johan Ross and Steve Glasser make an attempt to reach the ARC from Tau and catch the ride up that was scheduled for the ARK team. Glasser is torn apart by a creature of the abyss and Ross tries to reach the Climber alone. Alan Waldeck remotely calls the Climber back up to Omicron. On board is only the dead body of Johan Ross. Herber attempts and fails to contact sites Tau and Phi (date taken from the Climber arrivals/departures console, but as the Climber was scheduled to pick up the ARK crew two days after their descent, this date should maybe have been December 27th).
11 January 2104
Strohmeier orders the DUNBAT to be placed under quarantine after a structure gel leak has allowed the WAU to seize control over it. At some point in the future, WAU loads one of Catherine's brain scans of the crew into it.
15 January 2104
Akers, crazed and transformed from consuming large amounts of structure gel, contacts Strasky to request transport to Theta. Strasky dispatches a nearby team to pick him up, among which are Komorebi and Evans. Upon arrival, Akers murders, wounds or incapacitates them and boards the zeppelin to Theta alone. Komorebi futilely attempts to warn Theta before succumbing to her wounds. Akers arrives at Theta in apparently comatose state, and is taken to the infirmary by Alvaro and Wan. Masters begins examining Akers and finds extensive mutations as a result of his usage of structure gel. At Omicron, the WAU is frantically trying to repair Johan Ross' body using structure gel.
16 January 2104
At Omicron, Raleigh Herber contacts Strasky at Theta to let him know she'll be leaving her post. She gears up in a power suit, but dies as he WAU detonates her blackbox along with those of the rest of Omicron's crew, in order to stop her from taking the deprogrammed structure gel down to Alpha. At Theta, Akers rises from his 'coma' and begins capturing and/or killing the crew of site Theta, beginning with Masters. In the following days, Akers and several additional Proxy creatures have incapacitated most of Theta's crew in the lower levels. Eventually, a small contingent of Theta's workers manages to escape, but all die trying to reach the quarantined Omicron.
11 April 2104
WAU infects one of the power suits stored at Tau. The next day, Jin Yoshida puts on the suit and is turned into a monstrosity.
9 May 2104
Simon wakes up in a pilot seat at Upsilon.
11 May 2104
After a harrowing journey through Pathos-II, Simon arrives as site Phi and launches the ARK.
Upsilon Chief Factor. She put a ban on usage of the pilot system after repeated reports of headaches, nausea and even unconsciousness as a result from using it. Evacuated to Theta along with most of Upsilon's crew. She was either captured by a Proxy or turned into one.
Delta senior officer, fanatic chess player. Stubbornly refused to leave Delta when ordered to do so. In his solitude, he began consuming increasing amounts of structure gel. He went mad, started transforming, and tore out his own eyes. Believing the WAU had given him a mission, he contacted Strasky to request evac. When the team arrived, he murdered, wounded and incapacitated them and boarded the zeppelin to Theta alone. Upon arrival, he appeared to be wounded and unconscious. His body was moved to the infirmary and examined by Nadine Masters. The following day, he rose and attacked Masters. Over the following weeks, he incapacitated most of the crew of Theta, turning several of them into Proxy creatures to help him.
Theta Astrodynamics Expert. She and Brandon Wan found the apparently unconscious Akers on the zeppelin from Delta. Escaped Theta with a small group of survivors after Akers' attack. They found Omicron quarantined and unresponsive. After the nearby annex building proved impossible to access as well, Alvaro and Thabo lay down and waited for their air supply to run out.
Phi worker, evacuated to Tau. Suffered wounds in the attempted evacuation to Omicron, and died.
Upsilon Field Service Technician. Fond of sketching. Had a lover named Dominic, who died on the surface when the comet struck. She was picked to stay behind with Semken to automate and secure Upsilon's geothermal plant. While they were preparing to leave, a crazed robot killed Semken, and Azzaro fried it with an electric cable. She tried to reach Theta through the shuttle tunnels, but suffered an accident trying to restore power to the shuttles. The WAU kept her alive by generating a pair of artificial lungs.
Theta Field Service Technician. She was scanned for the ARK by Catherine Chun. Afterwards, she went to her room and slit her wrists, believing in Sarang's continuity theory. Her scan was copied into a helper robot modified by the WAU, lying outside Theta.
Omicron worker. Studied the properties of structure gel and concluded that the WAU was using it to repair Ross' body.
Theta Intelligence Systems Engineer. Known to be rather antisocial. She started the ARK project, collecting scans of the Pathos-II crew and loading them into an artificial reality to be shot into space, after the WAU created a similar machine in imitation of her experiments. As crew members started killing themselves after their brain scan in order to continue their life inside the ARK, Catherine's project was repeatedly suspended temporarily by security chief Strohmeier. She was also investigated for involvement in their deaths. When Guy Konrad's suicide finally led to the project being suspended indefinitely, Catherine decided to go through with the plan to launch the ARK into space, despite not completing all her scans of the station crew. With a team further consisting of Lindwall, Pedersen, Hill and Ivashkin, she took the ARK and left to try and reach site Phi to launch it into space. She and her team were listed as "missing" at Theta. They passed through Omicron, where they scanned more people, then donned power suits and boarded the Climber down to site Tau. After braving the creatures of the abyss, they reached Tau and scanned its remaining crew. They proceeded on to Phi to launch the ARK. At Phi, the others expressed doubts about launching the ARK, but Catherine insisted they'd continue. Fearing that the ARK would become lost or destroyed after all their efforts, Pedersen struck Catherine with a wrench and killed her.
The first scan Catherine did for the ARK project, the one of herself, was stolen by the WAU and loaded into a robot at site Lambda.
Phi's operator of the Omega Space Gun, evacuated to Tau. Made a near-fatal attempt to retrieve food from the Tau observatory.
Theta (administrative supervisor). Relayed orders from higher up to evacuate Delta to Terry Akers.
Omicron worker and Carthage employee. A letter found in Sarang's room indicated she has secret orders to kill anyone who means to sabotage the WAU project. Herber tried to get information about site Alpha from her. Dahl was in secret communication with someone (possibly Sarang), ending her communications with the words delenda est. In the midst of recording such a message in the dining hall, her blackbox exploded and killed her.
Omicron worker. He worked the annex building just outside of Omicron. He complained to Herber about tinnitus. At some point he suffered a massive headwound and his blackbox has been destroyed.
Omicron worker. Noted that all the deformed sea creatures and hijacked robots were the result of the WAU manipulating them via structure gel.
Theta Field Service Technician. Dispatched to Delta to pick up Akers, he was attacked and mortally wounded by him. He died in the Delta control room.
Upsilon Field Service Technician. While directing a helper cluster, he was knocked out for 30 hours, leading Adams to order the pilot system off limits. Evacuated to Theta. Committed suicide after his brain scan.
Theta Overseer. Top of the Pathos-II hierarchy.
Tau worker. He tried to reach the Climber with Johan Ross, but was torn apart by some creature of the abyss.
Former Omicron worker. He was called to Theta by Strohmeier after they found a robot that seemed to be convinced that it was Golaski (see SOMA site, file: Mockingbird). Afterwards, he was involved in the incident at Lambda (see: Transmissions videos).
Originally Delta worker. Evacuated to Theta. Was caught by the Proxies and put into "dream" state in the lower levels of Theta. A helper unit robot at Delta was loaded with his brain scan.
Omicron worker. Experimented with structure gel on mice, finding that uncalibrated gel allowed actual control over them.
Formerly Lambda dispatcher. Sole survivor of an incident at site Lambda (see: Transmissions videos). She escaped Theta with a small group of survivors following Akers' attack. On the way out, she set off an explosion to stop Akers from following them, but she suffered wounds and damage to her suit and died on the seabed just outside Theta.
Omicron dispatcher. She relayed an urgent message to Adam Golaski that Strohmeier wanted him at Theta. Following the retrieval of Johan Ross' body from the Climber, Herber started having dreams about him that made her obsess about the subjects of the WAU, site Alpha, and structure gel. She tried to get information about site Alpha from Julia Dahl, and started quizzing colleagues such as Andrea Suther and Lisa Cameron about the properties of structure gel. On the day she intended to leave for Tau, she informed Strasky at Theta that she would be gone from her post. She died while gearing up in a power suit, when the WAU detonated her blackbox along with the rest of the Omicron staff.
Theta Software Coordinator. One of five members of Catherine's ARK team. He starved to death in bed at Tau, lamenting that they didn't launch the ARK, and clutching a photo of Catherine. Hill noted worries that the scanned Tau crew might not engage well with the already present scans of Omicron, who had effectively abandoned them to starvation.
Theta System Architect. One of five members of Catherine's ARK team. Stranded at Tau, he was being transformed into one of WAU's creatures.
Jonsy Jonsdottir, Vigdis
Upsilon Dispatcher. Before the comet, she maintained contact with surface stations in Lisbon, Cadiz, London and New York. She was evacuated to Theta with the rest of Upsilon's personnel.
A robot siphoning energy to sustain itself from a console in the Upsilon geothermal plant had a scan of Jonsy's mind in it. After Akers' attack, she and a small group of survivors fled Theta. Suffering damage to her suit and possibly other wounds, Jonsy lost consciousness and died outside the quarantined Omicron.
Theta First Responder. Her team was dispatched to Delta to pick up Akers. Upon arrival, they were slaughtered. Komorebi attempted warning Theta by mail and radio, but everything was sabotaged. She died in the radio tower, trying to send Theta some photos she had taken of their arrival and Akers' attack.
Theta wrangler. Killed himself with a maser tool immediately after getting scanned by Catherine Chun.
Theta payload manager. Developed a relationship with Brandon Wan. Promised to help Catherine construct the ARK. Attempted to escape Theta along with Strohmeier. Was caught by the Proxies and put into dream state in the tunnels under Theta.
Originally Delta worker. Evacuated to Theta. Committed suicide after her brain scan.
Omicron worker. Studied the properties of structure gel.
Theta Payload technician. One of the few people to have a rapport with Catherine Chun. Promised Catherine to help deliver the ARK. One of five members of Catherine's ARK team. After the team returned from Phi with the ARK, Lindwall stayed at Tau and watched as her fellow crew starved and died around her. Eventually, severely weakened, she locked herself and the ARK in the infirmary to protect it from the WAU, and became dependant on medical machinery to stay alive.
Theta Medical Doctor. Examined the mutated, comatose body of Akers. Speculated that very little of him was left, and that he might be remote controlled, As she was typing her notes, Akers ambushed her and left her in her chair, alive but slowly withering in dream state.
Upsilon Field Service Technician. Evacuated to Theta. Simon found her omnitool at Upsilon. Committed suicide after her brain scan.
Theta Software Engineer. One of five members of Catherine's ARK team. In a conversation with Sarah Lindwall, he hinted at having doubts about the launch of the ARK being possible. Appeared to be a bit of a take-charge guy, going by the radio messages overheard in the abyss. At Phi, he panicked when Catherine announced that she wasn't going to let them withhold her from launching, and he struck her dead with a wrench, though he hadn't meant to kill her. He starved to death in bed at Tau, regretting his deed.
Theta Mechatronics Engineer (see: Transmissions videos). Her dead body was modified and loaded with the brain scan of Simon at Upsilon.
Upsilon Geotechnical Engineer. Evacuated to Theta.
Tau AI Psychologist and Carthage employee, deeply involved with the WAU project at site Alpha. Ross convinced Wolchezk to take off external control systems, making the WAU Pathos-2's sole caretaker. As the WAU grew out of control after the impact event, Ross fled from Alpha to Tau and joined the evacuation attempt to Omicron, which failed due to the WAU creatures' interference. After the ARK team returned from Phi and didn't want to use their scheduled Climber trip back up, Ross attempted to reach the Climber from Tau along with Steve Glasser. Glasser was torn apart by a creature from the abyss, and Ross somehow badly wounded. His body was found on the Climber and brought into Omicron for study. Omicron staff concluded that the WAU was attempting to remotely repair his body using structure gel. Ross remained aware during this time and managed to contact the Omicron staff by influencing their dreams. He succeeded in conveying the idea to Raleigh Herber that the WAU could be stopped with a batch of 'deprogrammed' structure gel, but before she could succeed, the WAU panicked and detonated the blackboxes of the entire Omicron staff. Ross remained at Omicron until he became aware of Simon, and once he was sure Simon would travel into the abyss, he broke out and followed.
Theta Intelligence Analyst. Covertly employed by the Carthage company to make the WAU a station-wide presence . Became obsessed with Catherine's ARK project. He believed that dying at the moment the brain scan completed would mean your life will continue directly inside the ARK, and evangelized this idea to his fellow workers. He brought it into practice by killing himself after his own scan. His example led to multiple suicides by scan subjects.
Upsilon Wrangler. He was picked to stay behind with Azzaro to automate and secure Upsilon's geothermal plant. While they were preparing to leave, a crazed robot killed Semken.
A scan of Semken, acquired through the pilot system, was loaded into a robot in the Upsilon manufacturing plant.
Upsilon Wrangler. Evacuated to Theta. He was either caught by the Proxies, or became one.
Theta Dispatcher. Known for his friendliness. He was in contact with Jonsy, Semken and Azarro during the evacuation of Upsilon. He also extended multiple offers to have Akers picked up from site Delta, and when Akers himself requested transported, Strasky contacted a nearby zeppelin group to detour to Delta to retrieve him. Fled Theta with a small group of survivors after Akers' attack. He started freaking out when Omicron turned out to be quarantined and unresponsive. When the nearby annex building proved inaccessible as well and he only had two minutes of air left, Strasky decided to take off his helmet and drown.
A scan of Strasky answered when Simon tried to contact site Theta from Upsilon.
Theta Security Officer. Recorded a no-nonsense orientation video for Upsilon. When people started committing suicide after getting scanned for the ARK project, Strohmeier repeatedly ordered the project suspended and broadcast a speech across Theta urging people to stop killing themselves. He investigated Catherine, but allowed the project to continue. After Konrad's suicide, he suspended the project indefinitely. He also ordered the DUNBAT quarantined after a structure gel leak allowed the WAU to seize control over it. Later, he tried to hold Theta together when Akers and his Proxies began attacking its crew. He mounted an escape along with Koster and Wan, but was caught by the Proxies and put into "dream" state in Theta's lower levels.
Theta Mechatronics Engineer. Escaped Theta with a small group of survivors after Akers' attack. Finding Omicron quarantined and the nearby annex building inaccessible, Thabo and Alvaro lay down on the seabed and waited for their air supply to run out. What happened to Thabo's body is unclear.
Omicron worker. A scan of him was loaded into a zeppelin lost in the abyss, and answered when Simon tried calling it.
Originally Delta construct wrangler. Evacuated to Theta. Afterwards developed a relationship with Alice Koster. Together with Alvaro, found an apparently unconscious Akers on the zeppelin from Theta. Together with the remaining living crew of Theta, he tried to mount an escape from Akers and the Proxies. He disabled the elevator and the fire escape door to give the others a chance. Already wounded, he locked himself in one of the labs and committed suicide to avoid capture.
Upsilon Site Service Engineer. Evacuated to Theta. Directed Azzaro's and Semken's efforts to automate Upsilon.
Phi worker, evacuated to Tau after the Omega Space Gun was decommissioned. After donning a power suit that has been infected by the WAU, Yoshida becomes a monster that stalks the hallways of Tau.
Well, that's it. Thanks for watching and commenting. I wasn't sure I was going to do another Let's Play after my last one, which left me quite debilitated. I'm glad I pressed on though, this game is worth spotlighting.
Here's my ugly mug, heh. Sorry that I wasn't wearing a shirt, I have a lot of trouble getting out of my chair these days. Strange.
See you next time!