SOMA Review - Horror Storytelling At Its Best

Fanghawk

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SOMA Review - Horror Storytelling At Its Best

SOMA is a worthy successor to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and sits among the best video game stories of 2015.

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SlumlordThanatos

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I've personally never understood the appeal of horror games. Or movies, for that matter. Philosophical questions are one thing, but an awful lot of people seem to enjoy feeling helpless in the face of some world-eating horror and/or psychotic slasher dude with a chainsaw.

I mean, this is coming from a guy who couldn't finish Dead Space. I mean, I have a gun and the means to deal with every threat, but it still manages to make me feel helpless. I hate it. Got about three-quarters through the game before I couldn't take it anymore, not because the game was bad, but because killing the monsters isn't as cut-and-dried as just shooting them. I can't even imagine being pit against a creature that I can't somehow kill, like in Alien: Isolation.

I don't get it. Why do people like feeling scared or helpless?
 

Tortilla the Hun

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SlumlordThanatos said:
I don't get it. Why do people like feeling scared or helpless?
There's a certain kind of excitement to it, really. A perfect example I think would be in the game you mentioned, Dead Space. I had a love/hate relationship with that game. I'd only ever play it at night sitting in front of my dad's big screen TV anytime I had the house to myself. And there were a few moments that really got my heart racing, none more than facing that unkillable necromorph for the first time. It was so frantic, being unable to use the means of killing it that the game had been reinforcing the whole game. Just seeing it get up time and time again, focus split between keeping it from killing you while simultaneously figuring out just how to stop it for good. Once it was over, I had top give myself a moment to calm down because my heart was working overtime. Definitely one of my most memorable gaming experiences.
 

Neurotic Void Melody

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But...i can't play it today. It isn't even out yet. :( You so cruel, escapist!

Captcha: want more? Oh ho! Captcha learnt snark. Bad cappy, get back in the pack.
 

Fanghawk

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SlumlordThanatos said:
There's a certain cathartic thrill in experiencing something frightening while in a safe place, whether playing a game or watching a movie. It's a weird quirk of human nature, probably how we learn to deal with scary things beyond our control, but damn if it can't be compelling.

I've got an example of my own from this game that I didn't share in the review for spoiler concerns - not in story, but in figuring out how to deal with a particular monster.

At one point, I was trying to break down a window when there was a roar behind me. I turned and saw a black vaguely human shape approaching me. It was too close to not see me. So I ran - booking it around the corner at a sprint.

But the screen distortions never went away. I risked a glimpse behind me and saw this creature was actually keeping pace with me. Nothing in the game had been that fast. With it closing in, I rushed into a side door and hit the button the close it behind me. Just as I hit the button, it reached me. The screen went black.

I woke up injured and completely alone, no sign of the creature anywhere. There was no way I could take another hit. But I still needed to get through that window. My plan was this - stand by a closet door with something to throw at the window, then duck inside until it came to investigate the noise and move on. So I took a breath, threw the object (which didn't break the window I'll add), ducked inside, and shut the door just as it shambled into view.

I crouched inside the door and waited. And listened. And heard it slow to a stop.

And then it opened the door.

I sat there looking at it, the screen tearing apart with distortions. "Well I'm dead," I thought. "It'll kill me and I'll have to restart. Whatever, just get it over with."

But it didn't. It just stood there for a few moments more. Then it turned away and walked down the hall.

I was shocked. What I realized (and what the game hadn't said yet about that particular monster) was that they honed in immediately on sound. Make a noise and they appear. Run and they keep up with you. But keep completely quiet, and they'll literally pass you in the hall and wander away.

THAT was thrilling, and well worth the terror leading up to that point.
 

vallorn

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It's a pity that it's lost a little bite from ADD but still, everything I've seen about SOMA has looked perfect for me and this review seems like the cherry on top now.

I look forwards to playing this in a darkened room...
 

Fox12

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SlumlordThanatos said:
I've personally never understood the appeal of horror games. Or movies, for that matter. Philosophical questions are one thing, but an awful lot of people seem to enjoy feeling helpless in the face of some world-eating horror and/or psychotic slasher dude with a chainsaw.

I mean, this is coming from a guy who couldn't finish Dead Space. I mean, I have a gun and the means to deal with every threat, but it still manages to make me feel helpless. I hate it. Got about three-quarters through the game before I couldn't take it anymore, not because the game was bad, but because killing the monsters isn't as cut-and-dried as just shooting them. I can't even imagine being pit against a creature that I can't somehow kill, like in Alien: Isolation.

I don't get it. Why do people like feeling scared or helpless?
Well, I can think of two reasons, one of which is smart, and the other of which definitely isn't.

If you're writing a story with nihilistic themes, then it makes sense that you play as a powerless character. That's why lovecraft is so powerful. Humanity realized that we're just a pathetic group of animals that can scrape off a meager existence on some of the earth, some of the time. And the earth itself is a speck of dust in the universe. If you're an artist trying to capture that feeling of insignificance, then it makes sense that you would feel helpless. In a sense you are. It's not a very happy thought, and it's not much fun, though, so I only play a few horror games myself.

The other reason I like those kinds of games is that I'm tired of feeling like a badass. Every film is about a larger then life superhero, or a badass warrior that can kill dozens of enemies by themselves. I like to play as the underdog. I like to think my way through a situation. It feels good to overcome something that's stronger then me by outsmarting it. That's why I always loved characters like Odysseus more then Hercules or Achilles. He didn't have super strength, and he couldn't wrestle monsters. But he could always hold his own by out thinking his enemy. That's how humanity has solved all of its problems. I like games like Mass Effect, but every once in a while it's nice not to feel pandered too.
 

The Rogue Wolf

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"Looking at or getting too close to enemies distorts your screen and drives the protagonist into a panic...."

And I was thinking of buying this game right up until I read that. No sale, Frictional. That was bullshit in Amnesia and it's bullshit elsewhere. Stop trying to force me into bad decisions just to make the game tense.
 

Dalisclock

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Good to hear. I've liked all of Frictional games(except Prenumbra:Requiem which felt really half done) and while I was leaning towards getting it already, the lingering memory of AMFP kept me from buying until now. So far all the reviews I've seen for SOMA sound really good.
 

Metalrocks

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The Rogue Wolf said:
"Looking at or getting too close to enemies distorts your screen and drives the protagonist into a panic...."

And I was thinking of buying this game right up until I read that. No sale, Frictional. That was bullshit in Amnesia and it's bullshit elsewhere. Stop trying to force me into bad decisions just to make the game tense.
same here. hated it in amnesia as well. i want to look at the monster so that i can plan my escape better. but protagonist is getting all freaking out on me that i lost it out of rage.
besides, i found amnesia boring. no, seriously, i really found it boring and nothing there was scary. yes, the atmosphere was good but scary: not for me. i looked around, walked slowly and listened. when i heard a monster, i just walked back to hide and that it. sorry, i dont find this scary.
 

Fanghawk

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The Rogue Wolf said:
"Looking at or getting too close to enemies distorts your screen and drives the protagonist into a panic...."

And I was thinking of buying this game right up until I read that. No sale, Frictional. That was bullshit in Amnesia and it's bullshit elsewhere. Stop trying to force me into bad decisions just to make the game tense.
I just found out the distortions can actually be disabled in the options menu, if that makes a difference.
 

The Rogue Wolf

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Fanghawk said:
The Rogue Wolf said:
"Looking at or getting too close to enemies distorts your screen and drives the protagonist into a panic...."

And I was thinking of buying this game right up until I read that. No sale, Frictional. That was bullshit in Amnesia and it's bullshit elsewhere. Stop trying to force me into bad decisions just to make the game tense.
I just found out the distortions can actually be disabled in the options menu, if that makes a difference.
It's not the distortions that bother me; it's the panic mechanic. It seems designed to force players to act without knowing what they're getting into.
 

Fanghawk

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The Rogue Wolf said:
It's not the distortions that bother me; it's the panic mechanic. It seems designed to force players to act without knowing what they're getting into.
Oh, that's not so pronounced as Amnesia. He starts to breathe heavier and such, but you don't seem to mechanically lose control of your faculties - well, unless you personally are panicking! (My own flight instinct totally got me into trouble a few times.)

Although to be fair, that uncertainty and loss of control is kinda the point of horror games. What's nice about SOMA is that when you mess up it doesn't punish you heavily.