Scratching Beneath The Surface: SOMA

Oh bother. I was inevitably going to find Frictional’s SOMA a troubling proposition, having winced through Penumbra and Amnesia while trembling like a jelly in a jalopy. SOMA’s sci-fi horrors creep me out on a level that spooky castles and mad alchemists don’t – Amnesia was scary because it was dark and the sound design was excellent rather than because the setting or story peeled back the skin and twanged at the nerves. SOMA’s experimentations fill me with dread though and the latest trailer reveals something that had previously been hidden from us. I’ll let you find out for yourself while whimpering underneath my desk.

Part of me wishes I hadn’t known about this going into the game but it’s not out until sometime next year so I doubt I’d have been able to keep from having it spoiler for that long. And maybe we’re supposed to know going in – hard to say at this point. It’s a beautifully staged reveal though.

I have a deep-set fear of the deep places. Certain episodes of Blue Planet made me break out in a cold sweat and this episode of Adventure Time fills me with horror. I don’t mind being beside the seaside but I never want to be beneath the sea.


  1. Anthile says:

    I thought it was set in outer space?

    • stahlwerk says:


      • Tiberius says:

        Indeed. Never once did they say anything about space, and in that matter the previous teasers, trailers, and general talks the developers have been painfully incredibly cryptic. I’d say that the sea reveal is here strictly thrown out here to confuse us (mission success).

        More so however, if they had left this in as some sort of plot twist, I’m sure that the point and plot of the game would be completely derailed by the internet screaming how it’s just a bad attempt at pulling Bioshock fame. Telling us now means that while the internet will still undoubtedly whine a bit, those playing can just ‘enjoy’ the story.

    • Keyrock says:

      In space no one can hear you swim.

      • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

        Only couple of neighbours can hear you scream at some dark spaces of your room?

        Damn, I think I did it all wrong.

    • pilouuuu says:

      I always thought it was a lab in some post-apocalyptic wasteland.

      • Tei says:

        I trough the same, the lighting make it look like some shelter in the surface,… plenty of space “wasted” that you don’t expect on a underwater base.
        But is ok, of course. Not everything underwater is Bioshock.

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    Hodge says:

    So it’s about someone slowly swimming backwards underwater with a GoPro. I can dig that.

  3. Flappybat says:

    They have some seriously waterproofed electronics going on

    • Bassen_Hjertelos says:

      In an underwater base that would be quite a wise choice, yes.

  4. Fenix says:

    I, too, have a deep-set fear of the deep places and I think I won’t be able to play SOMA because of it. Big Bodies of water are just too scary, like all it takes for me to freak the shit out of myself is close my eyes and think of the abyss while washing my face :(

    • pilouuuu says:

      I agree.

      And what about them including spiders as well? It could be the scariest game ever! And you know what, they could include unemployment and global warming too!

  5. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    There’s a movie where the plot makes you think it’s in space, but at the end they figure out they’re *spoiler* underwater. I think it was called Pandorum.

    • Skiddywinks says:

      That film was so underrated.

    • staberas says:

      I think The 1998 movie The Sphere, is more appropriate here .

      • slerbal says:

        That movie was almost great. The pieces never really came together, but I am still glad it exists. For anyone with an itch for a good, ghost story underwater I highly recommend Below.

        • N'Al says:

          I thought The Sphere was pretty rubbish, tbh.

          It did include one of the greatest movie death scenes ever, though! Woman getting eaten by jellyfish through a thick diving suit.

          • adam.jutzi says:

            Sphere, I can’t remember if I saw that one. I’d suggest just reading the book. It was quite good.

          • BlueScarabGuy says:

            I read Sphere a few years back, it’s pretty good. Then again, I would expect nothing less from the writer of Jurassic Park and The Lost World.

  6. Drake Sigar says:

    In the first ten minutes of Bioshock there’s some shots of the deep blue through windows and I was terrified the game was going to send me out there. But it didn’t. Hooray!

    I doubt SOMA will be as kind.

  7. Jinoru says:

    I’m scared of underwater levels. Ever since the ones in Mario 64 and Echo the Dolphin. :(

    • TWChristine says:

      It was that eel with the star on the end of his tail, wasn’t it? Man that guy was a jerk..

      • Stinkfinger75 says:

        That eel still creeps me out, the dead eyes are the worst. It could be the scariest thing to ever appear in a video game.

      • Jinoru says:

        Yep, the most stressful part of SM64 for me. >:(

      • Bahlof says:

        The eel. I want to cry just thinking about it.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        I never had a Nintendo, but this guy physically shook me up so much when I was about 12 that I never, ever completed Corporation. I can remember sitting in front of my Amiga and shaking, and going “there’s NO WAY I’m going back there”, after trying to force myself to sit through the bloody things dropping onto my FACE.

    • realitysconcierge says:

      For me it was Hydrocity in Sonic the Hedgehog 3.

  8. Jake says:

    Great, I posted a while ago about how there should be an underwater horror game because underwater is terrifying: from the octopus woman in The Little Mermaid to that Chemical Brothers video with the whale, the deep has always contained all the best nightmare fodder. Really looking forward to SOMA, but it’s still too early for teasers.

    • Stinkfinger75 says:

      I maintain that the octopus in Popeye is the scariest thing to ever appear on film.

  9. Stevostin says:

    I guess the revelation is that it looks really ugly by 2010’s standard. The comparison whith the “Routine” visuals really puts the above to shame, I have to say.

    • slerbal says:

      I am also really looking forward to Routine, but frankly the graphics for either matter less to me than the atmosphere. There is certainly room in my life for both SOMA and Routine :)

    • Zenicetus says:

      The graphics look okay to me. It’s good enough for a sci-fi setting when they don’t have a AAA budget to work with.

      I think their larger problem, is that this can’t compete with those first live-action short film teasers — Vivarium and Mockingbird. They have something of a “Dead Island Initial Trailer” problem going on here. Those first teaser-trailers were too good, and don’t look anything like what they’re now showing.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        Yeah what they’ve shown so far of the actual game, despite their protestations, is pretty much Sci-Fi Amnesia, while their short film style teasers were of the far more interesting sci-fi SCP/Warehouse 13-Horror-version variety.

        • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

          Amnesia was pretty much a medieval Penumbra, and I had no problem with that.

          Core mechanics stay more or less similar, but they always add some new interesting features (or remove it, as in the case of Black Plague; it’s a shame that they have abandoned idea of giving to player an opportunity to pick a dreary-controlled fight against monster since P: Overture – I liked the feel of dream-like, less control over your actions, as if your arms were suddenly stuffed with wadding)

      • Stevostin says:

        Routine is a one of two men operation. Frictional game is the big studio in comparison. Now Routine are probably the best looking out there and I have yet to see sc fi visuals artistically more impressive than what they’re doing. So you can’t ask this level to any game… but if you look at the “horror” tag, you’ll see a lot of games, most made by less funded people and looking substentially better. Now maybe it will shine on the gameplay – I am just pointing out that the visual are terribly unimpressive in this video especially. Previous video weren’t as bad and “movies” were actually pretty good. I am surprised they released this. It’s kinda destroying their teasing.

        • Raiyan 1.0 says:

          Routine is made using off-the-shelf UE3. SOMA’s HPL engine is built in-house.

  10. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Can somebody tell me why is this a big deal? I’m confused. That’s… not the most exciting reveal to be honest. I’m less interested in where its happening than all the trippy metaphysical consciousness stuff. If I am about to lose my soul to a robot mainframe thats 2km underwater, I don’t really see how that is any more terrifying than being electronically possessed on the moon or in some underground bunker.

    I think I am trying to say – why is it’s being underwater even a thing to anyone? Just because its a scary place? (Its not for me personally, scuba diving is kind of relaxing).

    • SalmonRa says:

      Considering the quote that underpins this game is “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away”, I think this game is going to be more than amnesia underwater. Look at the rest of the videos, one of the main running themes is perception of the world around us (there’s the robot who thinks he’s human, and the narrator seeing his own brain being replaced by machinery). Maybe the underwater stuff is just a manifestation of a crew member’s deep (haha) seated fears? Either way, I bet there’s going to be a lot more surprises with this game.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Yes that makes sense, and thanks for your reply, but I am still struggling to grasp why Adam seemed to feel this was an important “reveal” that fundamentally changed the meaning of the game. To me the possibility of it being underwater, whether real or imagined, just seems like interesting extra information – not a game-changing twist that you would not have wanted to know going in. I feel like I have missed something in the trailer or Adam’s article.

        “And maybe we’re supposed to know going in – hard to say at this point” – like I said, what difference would it have mattered if it was on the moon, underground or inside a Sainsbury’s shopping trolley? I’m just trying to figure out why the location is such a revelation to the story (genuine question, this isn’t meant to be taken as sarcy snark).

        • Premium User Badge

          Adam Smith says:

          Couple of things about it made me excited. SalmonRa’s covered one, which is that it adds another layer of the perception and reality confusion that the earlier videos have riffed on. I think it’s more likely than not that this is misdirection.

          But part of me also got a major Dark City jolt when I watched it. And that’s always a jolt I enjoy.

          As for the rest of what I said, I wanted to tip people off that there was potentially an environmental spoiler in the video simply because I like the unknown. Much as I’m enjoying the marketing for SOMA SOFAR, I’m hoping that I don’t know too much about what lies ahead when I start playing. Gotta get my scares somehow and every surprise tends to contribute to the fear factor.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            OK thanks for the response Adam, that also brought back memories of watching Dark City a veeeery long time ago. The whole consciousness / reality thing is the biggest lure for me and SOMA at the moment, I really hope they can say something meaningful about it (whilst obviously spooking the pewp out of me).

            Also, why is P00P a banned word in Horace’s anti-swear software? :D

          • TWChristine says:

            I’ve been doing a lot of research into this, and what I’ve deduced is that, not only is Horace infinite, omnipotent, and omnipresent, but He is also 100% efficient. He has no need for the base defecations that plague our mortal lives. To allow words like that would imply them being equal to His infiniteness. And that, my friend, is something we must not allow.

  11. JB says:

    I too am scared of the deep. I enjoy playing Silent Hunter 3 but can’t watch the wrecked ships sink in the picture-in-picture action-cam thing.

    As if Silent Hunter isn’t tense enough.

  12. slerbal says:

    Interesting, though I was a bit underwhelmed by this video – compared to all the previous releases this seemed less somehow. Still, overall I am excited for this game and I do have a massive soft spot for anything underwater :)

    One question though: Why is everything floating as if there is no gravity? The cups, hats etc should all have settled to the ground long ago. Water does not magically counteract gravity unless the item has neutral buoyancy. Anyway that is a bit nit picky… so anyhoo….

    • RedWurm says:

      I assumed it was just a messy person operataing the camera

    • adam.jutzi says:

      Because it’s actually water…. in SPACE!

      Called it. You read it here first folks.

  13. fenrif says:

    Is it just me or is linking to copyright infringing material a bit wierd to see in a RPS article? Or is Adventure Time public domain?

  14. mrt181 says:

    I want to play that with a rift and surround sound strapped to my head

  15. DarkFarmer says:

    every single video they release of this makes me continue to say, THIS IS MY JAM.

  16. dethtoll says:

    God dammit. I hope this is another feint — I was really hoping for a space setting.

    Though I guess underwater is sufficiently alien and isolating enough. It’s why they did Bioshock underwater after SS2 was in space.

    The only thing that concerns me is that if it’s underwater that makes it 100% more likely that they’re going to fuck it up with overt Lovecraft influences again.

  17. Shooop says:

    I’m not quite sure how I feel about this.

    How does an underwater facility fit together with technological experiments that have questionable ethical natures? It does make escaping it much more difficult sure, but putting it in space or deep underground would have the same effect.

    It’d be a lot more trouble than it’s worth building the facilities under there wouldn’t it?

    • Niko says:

      Depends on why you build them there. Peter Watts’ “Rifters” trilogy deals with that, by the way – underwater facilities and technological experiments that have questionable ethical nature. It’s quite good hard sci-fi.

  18. Tompuce84 says:

    Did not read this, don’t want any spoil haha :D

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    particlese says:

    Aw, maaaaan! Why does this have to be a horror game? :(
    Well, enjoy, ladies and gents. I’ll just settle for looking at the pretty pictures, or maybe a let’s-play with some Gershwin or the always-useful Yakety Sax replacing the audio.