Halloween is the one time each year where everyone needs to sit down and play some horror games! But sadly in recent years the good ones are few and far between, as most developers have made the genre no more than cheap, uninspired jump-scares, used as a means to get YouTubers to cover their games. A term in the industry which has been coined PewDieBait, for obvious reasons.
Any true fan will tell you horror is not about jump scares, but the genuine fear of what lies around the next corner, and that requires a well thought out design and atmosphere.
With the release of PT, the Playable Teaser for the now canned Silent Hills (*wipes away tears*) last year, some hope for the genre remained, and since then things have been looking up. SOMA is the most recent in a strong list of horror titles over the last year and a bit, but that doesn’t come as much of a surprise being developed by Frictional Games.
Frictional Games are no strangers to horror, having developed Amnesia: The Dark Descent which served as a massive boost to the genre back in 2010. Sadly, that beacon of hope became the new trend, fuelling the bucket-load of run and hide games we see plague horror today, stagnating the market for several years as copycats came out of hiding hoping to gain a shred of the Amnesia success.
While SOMA is very much based on the same wave of design as Amnesia, it’s not like other horror games out there.
For most horror titles you play them to be scared, because it’s fun! While that is the case early on in SOMA, later in the game you’re playing for very different reasons. You’re not looking to be scared, but to uncover the story within.
It somehow manages to be a horror game that may have benefited with a little less horror just so you can move along a little faster, as some sections are like roadblocks to the true experience, feeling heavy footed at times. Monsters go from scary, to an annoyance about halfway in, as the wounded effect which causes your screen to blur makes you want to run into the monster and die, just to be rid of it. That said, the monsters are well designed, fitting perfectly in with the theme, as does the sound, or lack thereof.
While for the most part it is a survival horror game, with aesthetic similarities to the likes of BioShock, that’s only at the surface, because as you go deeper and deeper it becomes a very different beast altogether, reaching out on subject matter oddly untouched by gaming.
If you’re not just looking for a game to scare you, but one that’s thought provoking, you can’t go wrong with a bit of SOMA in your life!