Oh SOMA, such an ambitious project. How can a project like this ever come as close to the masterpiece that is Amnesia? Let’s start this discussion comparing the two masterpieces and by acknowledging how Frictional Games are the best Horror games studio at the moment. Beware SPOILERS for both SOMA and Amnesia incoming. We will start this analysis by looking at Amnesia The dark descent, the failed sequel Amnesia A machine for Pigs, the sci-fi phylosophical follow-up SOMA and end up discussing how Frictional games found the elixir of life (regarding horror games of course).
Alright, so Amnesia The dark descent was truly an eye opener in what was a rather lack luster genre. Except Resident Evil or a few others, the horror genre didn’t really become much, everything changed with the launch of Amnesia though. Let’s talk about the formula that made this not only a game… but an EXPERIENCE that you will never forget. You take a protagonist in a rather incomplete story, and wander around with no weapons unveiling the truth about the story and what not. Everything is done with one aspect in mind, great and profound atmosphere, not some trashy screamers around every corner. Those get boring fast, remember? But trust me, when there are enemies running towards you… YOU WILL KNOW it by the music/ the atmosphere/ the characters heart beats and your own heart beats haha. So you not only play a game, you get to feel an experience trough the eyes of the main protagonist. Everything is orchestrated with the atmosphere and story in mind. You’re practically in a movie … and quite a scary one.
So we have the following formula, a great story + incredible atmosphere + enemies that make sense in the context of the story + can’t attack + sense of fullfilment at the end of the game. Now let’s look a bit at Amnesia a machine for pigs, a rather sad sequel. But we will talk about how the studio managed to get past this fail to create the giant that is SOMA. So why did Amnesia 2 fail ? Well basically they tried adding to the formula a thing that they did not have much experience in and seemed out of place. Right so as in any mathematical formula you can’t just add another member to the equation and feel that the result will be the same, basically they added „philosophical themes” and extracted a bit of „enemies that make sense” + sense of fulfillment and the result was… Amnesia 2. Basically this is why i look at Amnesia 2 as an experiment more than anything. They basically tried adding the philosophical themes and understood how to do it, because they completely NAIL it in SOMA.
Now you might wonder, why do I keep hyping up SOMA so much? If the formula is always the same don’t we get repetitive trash games like Assassins Creed or Fifa every time? Actually no… When you find the PERFECT formula for a genre combined with the story and atmosphere will always make it exciting, so you’re always in for a ride. Let’s talk about the added element that SOMA presents to us though. The philosophical themes about what it is to be human, to be alone or to live a life as a human. Basically in your journey you can kill or save as many people as you want, in the end nothing changes though. The whole story and ride is an exposition about how human life is seen as so important that sometimes we forget ourselves, or what it means to be you. And every time you have to make a choice, you even feel a heart sting in real life about what you’re about to do, killing your first body, killing the last human alive or projecting your copy to the ARK while you remain in the horrors of Alpha. Every decision you make you see trough the eyes of Simon and Katherine. But the most mind boggling aspect of them all is redoing the quiz while in the ark. Your past responses are highlighted in bright red while you question yourself now. The game made it, it made you feel something, whatever it is, doubt, fear of the unknown or fulfillment this is why it’s more than a game, it’s a masterpiece.
“When I create a masterpiece I feel alive! When my creation is revered I feel immortal.”
― Euphoria Godsent
So what’s next for our beloved horror game makes Frictional Games ? We get to see a glimpse of the development of SOMA trough the dreaded Supersecret.RAR file that had bugs, early concept art and videos about the game. This studio is not driven by getting grossly rich, they are bound to a rather niche community but take my word for it, for now on every single game Frictional will make that follows the formula is a MUST play for every single Horror game fan out there. Come here to get your scares, your mind boggling philosophical discussions and your great and atmospheric eye opening stories.
Come here to „feel” the game you are playing.
Something that VR has yet to accomplish :).