Soma launches Safe Mode with friendlier monsters

Being terrified in the sea is undignified. In space, no one can hear you scream but in the sea, everyone can feel you wee yourself. Thankfully Soma now has a ‘Safe Mode’ for people who want to be deeply unsettled in the 2015 undersea technohell from the makers of Amnesia but not full-on terrified from being chased by monsters. The dreadful monsters are still in the explore-o-horror game, mind, but they won’t murder you to bits. Their presence will still be awful. As someone who hasn’t finished Soma because they’re a giant baby, I appreciate this.

The official Safe Mode is similar to Wuss Mode, a fan-made mod which stops monsters from attacking, but it goes a little further. Frictional explain:

“The important thing to point out is that we don’t simply turn off the creature’s ability to attack and harm you. Instead, we’ve redesigned their behavior. Our goal has been for Safe Mode to not feel like a cheat, but for it to be a genuine way of experiencing the game. So we’ve considered what each creature should be doing, given their appearance, sound, and voice.”

None of these creatures looks, sounds, or speaks like it wants to make me a cup of tea. I am sure they will still be dreadful, as they should be.

Soma is still very much a horror game without the risk of death, still a frightful and unnerving place. I’m glad this will let me explore a little more boldly.

Frictional say they “actually considered releasing something similar at launch, but chose not to because we felt it would make the core intent of the game too unfocused.” They saw the Wuss Mode mod prove people could still have the bejesus scared out of them without violence, but “going back to a game you have already completed is not tempting so we put it off.” Making an Xbox One version of Soma gave them a reason to return, and now that’s out today they’re spreading the mode around.

Soma’s Safe Mode update is now live on Steam and GOG. If this safety makes you interested in playing, hey, check out Adam’s Soma review.

18 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Masked Dave says:

    Amazing idea!

  2. StAUG says:

    Good. The monsters in SOMA aren’t particularly ‘scary’, but not being able to fight them in any way is bloody annoying and I found them to be a negative point in an otherwise excellent game.

    • automatic says:

      The scary part is where they can kill you unless you avoid them. Not having a shotgun is what makes it an horror game and not Doom.

      • StAUG says:

        The fact that it’s insta-death if they get a hold of you just made them a chore for me.

        • ThePuzzler says:

          Actually getting killed really isn’t conducive to the atmospheric horror experience. “Oh no, a monster. I hope it doesn’t kill me for the fifteenth time and force me to replay this bit of the map.”

          • Megatron says:

            “Actually getting killed isn’t really conducive to the horror experience”

            Being knowingly unkillable isn’t conducive to horror, either, I’d wager. Without death, what is there to actually fear? And there are only so many ‘narrow escapes’ you can have before they break your suspension of disbelief in the storytelling.

            I think SOMA struck the right balance. One monster frustrated me for a time before I realised my problem solving approach was too rigid. I was trying to ghost the level, master of stealth, when actually success came when I just visibly ran like hell. Applying that through later levels worked a treat.

            Compared to a game like Alien: Isolation, which also featured a menace that you couldn’t effectively fight back against for 95% of the enormously long playthrough (and even then with rapidly diminishing returns) that would also kill you a lot forcing a large amount of level replays (and that you couldn’t run from – or at least I never managed it) I think SOMA’s implementation of that mechanic was far more balanced in favour of the player simply because it was used far more sparingly.

            I’d be interested to know if you guys play Roguelikes, or something like Dark Souls, where repetition is basically required gameplay? Is it the repetition itself in SOMA that’s the problem or the fact you don’t expect to be doing it whereas in those games you do?

          • Megatron says:

            Further thoughts: I think SOMA was actually rather clever in limiting how effective stealth was. If you could ghost a level, you’d progress through the game with a certainty and confidence that they did not want you to have. Whereas having to run at top speed, reducing your possible actions to one based on desperation, forced an adrenaline reaction that they most definitely DID want you to have!

            This ability to make players experience these emotions absolutely makes Frictional masters of their craft, and in my opinion SOMA is another in along line of masterpieces from them.

          • Ham Solo says:

            Actually “being killed” is the theme of 95% of all horror movies and games, so that’s not true.

        • MattM says:

          Is it always instant death? They smacked me around a bit and knocked me unconscious the first time I took to many hits.

          • RichUncleSkeleton says:

            I don’t think it’s insta-death for any of the monsters. For that matter, it’s not exactly “death” at all the way most games understand it. You wake up nearby but nothing else has changed. The monster’s position or routine hasn’t been reset so it makes it harder to just memorize its exact path and circumvent it like a traditional stealth game. Considering how basic the AI really is it works quite well.

    • KraiZor says:

      I found many of the later sections annoying because it wasn’t always clear when you were tripping balls and when you were walking into a monster.

  3. Premium User Badge

    johannsebastianbach says:

    Excellent! Had this on sitting in my Library for months but never touched it as I really hated Amnesia’s monsters which stopped me from enjoying the game in any way. We need more games adding modes for people like me who want to experience a great game but are reaaally bad mechanically.

  4. EvilMonkeyPL says:

    I love that horrors are starting to do that kind of thing.
    One of the greatest pains in my gaming life is that I am too terrified to sleep after playing any kind of scary game and if I do sleep the nightmares that haunt me are so vivid I wish I didn’t have to sleep at all ever again.
    But at the same time I love the creepy atmosphere, the visuals and sound design that come with the genre.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    This is really cool

  6. automatic says:

    I actually didn’t knew Soma was a horror game until I played it. I managed to finish the game but now I’m traumatized and don’t want to go back to that awful place never again.

  7. Ben King says:

    I know I just commented on the easy mode of Rain World yesterday, but Soma’s re-programmed NPC’s are something else I’ve been keeping an eye on. This was a console purchase for me due to my low end PC, but I’m looking forward to the PS4 version getting this eventually and giving it a timid hesitant whirl.

  8. Hao-Sen Lin says:

    Honestly the monsters not attacking you seems way scarier than being chased around by them. The whole being eaten thing was scary the first time but then it just became annoyed and since I had to retry some parts multiple times because of it, it kind of detracted more than it added in my opinion. Something in a game just kind of being there but not doing anything to actively hunt you down is really creepy.

  9. Ragnar says:

    I’m really glad for this addition. I feel that the atmosphere and tension created by the audio and visual design is far scarier than being repeatedly eaten by a gru and having to repeat the sequence. The latter serves to decrease my immersion, and remind me that I’m playing a game rather than living though an experience.

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