Thus far, developer Frictional Games (Amnesia: The Dark Descent) has shown off Soma’s treacherous underwater compound, an expanse of narrow corridors crawling with murderous machines. In a recent extensive hands-on preview, we discovered the surprising series of events that lead the protagonist into the dank hellhole.
Soma’s tale of underwater research facilities and haywire robots kicks off in an unexpected way – in an apartment in Toronto, Canada. The protagonist, Simon, wakes from a nightmare which hints at previous brain trauma caused by a harrowing car accident. Exploring Simon’s modern digs conveys both the character’s personality and Frictional’s knack for detail. Inspecting his apartment reveals he’s no expert underwater researcher; he’s just the owner of a bookstore with recurring headaches on his way to a doctor’s appointment.
Simon’s enigmatic brain injury is the first surprising revelation in the preview. The next is that his doctor doesn’t seem on the up and up. The doctor’s office’s looks tidy enough at a glance, but half of the space is cast in ominous darkness. Flipping a switch reveals the space is only half completed. Carpet and drywall is still missing, and a ceiling panel has fallen. Unshaken, Simon finds the doctor in a backroom, who we discover is actually still working on his
PhD. Simon is part of his neurological thesis project. A moment later we’re sitting on a chair, a brain-scan headset lowers onto Simon’s head, and the screen goes black.
Derelict machinery and barnacled industrial walls come into focus when the machine lifts from Simon’s head. Simon barely has time to figure out what happened between his “doctor” appointment and coming to in the underwater facility. Deadly robots stalk the metallic corridors, forcing players to evade their sweeping sentry lights. Other robots are less lethal, communicating with Simon using unsettlingly human voices. One machine curses in pain when it’s electrocuted, and another begs for a mysterious substance like a junkie on the streets.
Soma unravels an intriguing premise after Simon makes his way to the deep-sea base. Glowing aquatic growths cluster around electrical work, sometimes fusing together and blurring the lines between organic matter and machine. Frictional is not only crafting a tense underwater nightmare filled with scary killer robots; it’s setting up an enticing and dramatic story that may test player’s preconceptions about what defines humanity.