Make no mistake about it, Soma, from horror veterans Frictional Games, is a downright disturbing and harrowing game. Soma is all about diving into the darkest recesses of the mind, the psyche, and the soul and how our consciousness might (or might not) remain fully intact when moved into another being. Apart from the challenging survival horror gameplay, it's Soma's narrative surrounding protagonist Simon and the world he now sees as well as the confluence of events that really make this tightly crafted game worth a playthrough.
However, making your way through this spooky journey sure won't be easy. Fortunately, there are a number of things to keep in mind when first heading into the abyss that is Soma's ambiance and gameplay experience. Even if you have played Frictional Games' other masterpieces, Soma offers a wholly different take on survival horror and these helpful tips and tricks will get you started off right. So, put on that dank diving suit and head to the deep end as you ready yourself for the frightful events of Soma.
5/5 Play It Safe Or Play It Normal?
Soma, interestingly, features two modes of play: safe and normal. The normal (default) mode is the way the developers intended for you to experience their deepsea psychological horror game. This normal mode makes it so you have to be stealthy, sneaky, and smart. Enemies in this mode will hunt you down at all costs, and once found, will send you to your untimely and gristly demise. Arguably then, this would be the "best" way to experience Soma.
However, the game also features a narrative-focused safe mode. This alternate mode still retains all of the game's baddies but in this mode, they are docile and can't hurt Simon. They might still provide a good fright or two though. This safe mode was added much later after the game was released to give players a way to enjoy the game's narrative without the constant threats from the monsters. No matter which way you play, you are still sure to be sucked in by this dark and ominous story.
4/5 Explore And Read Absolutely Everything
Frictional Games are masters at creating environments that beg you to explore them, seeking out every nook and cranny in hopes of finding a key item, a code, or some small secret that helps flesh out the game's narrative or world. In the case of Soma, this fact remains omnipresent and ever true. With a physics system that allows you to pick up a wide variety of items from the mundane to the important, it's a good idea to go into this game knowing that you absolutely need to explore everywhere and interact with everything, just in case.
Soma relies heavily on environmental clues, often in the form of notes, scrawlings on walls or books, or in the form of the way light guides you to something you can interact with. When exploring through each layer of this game, be sure to take your time to find new tidbits of information that could just lead you to a new path, a new key, or a new code that will help you progress in this harrowing world.
3/5 The Omnitool Is Your Friend
The Omnitool is a unique inventory item that you learn about immediately as you (unfortunately) arrive at PATHOS-II. However, despite learning about the Omnitool early on, you don't actually get the item straight off the bat, but must first unlock its mini cage thing. Once obtained, this highly coveted tool will be your go-to inventory item since it's required to access the many, many computers and mainframes in and around the underwater base of PATHOS-II.
More or less acting as a handheld computer, the Omnitool will be used all throughout your time playing Soma since it's a necessity for accessing unauthorized areas. This tool can be upgraded slightly via two different chips, namely, the Cortex Chip and the Tool Chip. You won't have to worry about those chips at the start of the game, but they do come in handy down the line. When in doubt, equip your Omnitool in a given room to see if you can use it to interact with the various computers, terminals, or mainframes.
2/5 Properly Using Stealth And Picked Up Items
Assuming you are playing on the normal mode where enemies can (and will) find you and hunt you down, stealth is of the utmost priority as you explore PATHOS-II and its surrounding deepsea environments. Simon is able to walk, run, jump, and crouch as his basic moves. As you might imagine, crouching is going to be something to utilize all of the time as you try to circumnavigate hazards and baddies alike. Stealth will be the main focus for a large portion of this game as you simply try to survive this nightmarish world.
Tangentially to stealth, using picked-up items will also be a key to success, especially early on in this game as you learn the ropes and the layout of PATHOS-II. Soma lets Simon pick up all sorts of random objects from notes to books to coffee cups to chairs and everything in between. You can use these types of items to create distractions for enhanced stealth in order to bypass enemies whenever possible.
1/5 Always Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
It might sound obvious at this point but it begs to be mentioned: always be aware of your surroundings. Learning and understanding each room and the greater layout of PATHOS-II and its surrounding areas could mean the difference between life and death in this game. Strewn all about the game world are signs and points of interest which make getting lost much harder.
Early on in the game, it's especially important to get a grasp of where certain areas of the underwater base are located since you might have to return to them at some point for key items, hints, notes, codes, etc. Take your time to learn each new area you stumble across. This will serve you well during exploration but also when monsters hunt you down and you need to high tail it away in order to survive.
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