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The True Terror of 'SOMA' is Existential Despair

Frictional Games' underwater horrors have no bound.

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I know that I really like a game—really, REALLY like it—when it sticks with me a long time. SOMA, a sci-fi horror game from Frictional studios, has stayed in the back of my head for almost a year and a half.

SOMA puts you in the first-person view of Simon, a man with a brain injury who finds himself, inexplicably, in a high-tech lab the bottom of the ocean after something unspeakable has happened.


This is a horror game in the vein of Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Alien: Isolation. Which means you are, somewhat realistically, pretty much helpless.

There are horrifying creatures in the deep, and you can't do a damn thing about them. You need to sneak around, with the hairs on the back of your neck on end, if you want to get through and find out what the hell has happened.

There are some puzzles to solve, and gloomy areas to explore, if you're hungry for details (as I was). And there's a sole, human voice in the murk.

All SOMA screens courtesy of Frictional Games

The story that drives SOMA is one of the most existentially terrifying sci-fi tales in any game. It's less a scary game in the moment-to-moment than in what it actually means. What it would actually be like to be in Simon's situation.

It asks big, heady sci-fi questions about the nature of identity and personhood, the power of AI, and the morality of one's actions in truly extreme circumstances. But it offers no pat answers or comfortable generalizations.

SOMA puts you right there, in the middle of a lose-lose. A queasy, dark, uncomfortable situation. And the nature of the dark thing chasing you, making those hairs stand up? It's far more interesting than just a hungry monster in the gloom.