If you’re a fan of horror games, then you’ve probably heard of a little indie company called Frictional Games. And you’ve probably also heard that they’ve been working on a new sci-fi horror game called SOMA. So far Frictional Games hasn’t been releasing a lot of information on the upcoming game, & with a release date set vaguely in 2015 I’m sure we’ll be seeing a slow trickle in the months to come. But that’s not to say there’s no hypotheses to be made based on what is available.
Frictional Games have released four videos for SOMA so far. The first two are live-action scenes that are shot as research logs on two different types of technology. The first, Vivarium, shows a female researcher being spooked when some giant monitor on steroids starts acting on its own. The second, Mockingbird, shows that a damaged droid has taken on the identity of one of the team’s engineers… right down to memories that only said researcher should know about. They’re intriguing videos, to be sure, but they only hint at the theme of the game.
However, SOMA’s two actual game videos hint at some more solid information. The first one released was a gameplay trailer:
The second trailer, which was released this week, in a brief cinematic trailer:
While neither trailer gives us a straight answer as to what SOMA’s going to be about, I feel I can draw some preliminary conclusions.
- The game takes place in an underwater research lab. Originally, when I saw the gameplay trailer for some reason I thought the game was going to take place in space. I guess it was just the sci-fi look it had going on. But not only does the cinematic trailer pan out to show an underwater base, looking back on the first trailer I can see water leaking from the walls. This would be odd if it were in space.
- You’ll likely either play as someone with no memory of what’s going on at the base or are sent in to learn what happened. Frictional Games has used both of these set-ups in their previous games. In the Penumbra games you went to a base searching for your father, while in Amnesia you were trying to remember your role in past events. If the gameplay trailer is of the beginning of the game, then we’ll be taking the role of the amnesic who has to piece together just why all hell broke loose.
- Expect to be running from cybernetic baddies. I kept thinking about The Matrix while watching the gameplay trailer. I think it was all of those mechanical tubes running around the place. The thing in the Vivarium video also looks a bit like those mechanical octopi. Also in the gameplay trailer we get a little hint of what’s lurking in the base. It’s hard to see exactly what it is, but there’s clearly some unholy combination of flesh & machine going on, if only from the noise the thing makes. And if Frictional Games follows form, we’ll probably be running for our lives from them. After their first game, I think Frictional Games realized horror is better when you’re defenseless. Not that it isn’t funny to smack demon dogs with brooms, but it’s just not as scary when you can kill something.
- There will probably be some form of sanity in the game. The gameplay trailer didn’t show anything definitive, but there was definitely some screen effects going on when the guy got upset by what he was seeing. And sanity has been in all of Frictional Games’ games so far & it’s been fun, so why change it?
So aside from pulling apart trailer footage, what else may we be seeing from SOMA? Well, I’m sure we’ll be dealing with uncomfortable & possibly unethical topics. My general guess as to what the overall plot will be is that this base (PATHOS-2) was doing research on alien technology & attempting to make use of it when things go wrong (as they always do when studying either alien or occult stuff). I suspect part of “going wrong” will entail the alien technology merging with humans, both gaining consciousness & intelligence, & forming horrifying cybernetic abominations. In fact, the game’s very name hints at this. If you never had it in science class, “soma” is a cell body & contains all of the important components needed for life, including DNA. Further confirmation of this idea comes from the official blurb from the game’s website info page:
Machines are taking on human traits and alien constructions have started to interfere with routine. The world around them is turning into a nightmare. The only way out is to do something unimaginable.
If that doesn’t scream unholy union of man & machine, I don’t know what does. And as is usually the case, we’ll be playing as someone who was probably a test subject & has to find a way to either escape or maybe destroy the whole base to prevent the aliens from getting loose on the world at large.
On a side note, I’m happy that it looks like whoever we’ll be playing as has a bit more in-game character than Frictional’s previous heroes. In the trailer he makes comments on what’s going on around him. Hopefully we’ll continue to see Frictional Games’ skills in crafting compelling & terrifying games evolve further when this is released on both the PS4 & PC next year.
In the meantime you can check for updates on the game at the official website somagame.com.