Monday, September 28, 2015

They keep the rear wheels from spinning

Significant Soma spoilers below the break.

The player character in Soma is Simon, or rather, several different Simons as they blink in and out of existence. Simon - prime is the only 'real' Simon, in that he is human and nothing more. Simon - prime has unexplained brain damage, possibly from a car accident, and undergoes a brain scan in an attempt to create a more successful treatment procedure. This scan is a copy of his entire mental being. It is him, just without a body and without consciousness until it is loaded into something. The player finds out later that Simon - prime dies shortly after the scan was completed, the treatment was a failure and his doctor a bit of a quack.

Simon - 1 wakes up several hundred years later in an undersea laboratory after the end of the world. From his point of view there was no gap in time between Simon - prime's scan and his awakening. As far as he can tell he is Simon - prime. In fact he has no idea that he is no longer human until he finds that he cannot drown. A helpful NPC and a mirror later and Simon - 1 realizes that he is a pressure suit filled with a headless corpse, some structure gel and a personality chip.

He takes it pretty well.

 Later Simon - 1 needs to change suits to go deeper underwater. There is no one else around with arms so just moving his personality chip into a new suit is not an option. Instead he is copied, just as he was before, and Simon - 2 is created. Simon - 2 picks up right where 1 left off, just in a new suit, but 1 still exists. 1 is still Simon and is awake just long enough for 2 to realize that he was not moved, only copied.

The game gives you the option of killing your old self before he wakes up a second time. Existential suicide, perhaps? I couldn't do it, I let Simon - 1 live and Simon - 2 continued his adventures, forgetting what he had left behind.

Of course this happens again, this time when launching an Ark filled with the brain scans of the few remaining humans into space, only after the copy the player stays with Simon - 2 while Simon - 3 literally lives out his days in virtual paradise.

He doesn't take it as well this time.

Soma is not very scary but it is terrifying to thing about (full disclosure, I did not come up with that description). Who am I and where do I begin and end? Where is the self in the mass of cells that make up a human body? If your entire body is replaced at the smallest level throughout the course of your life, are you still you?

If your mind and all its memories were copied and loaded into a computer, is that still you?

The game has problems. Specifically the monster sections are more annoying that frightening and the game should have looked better. Of course I am coming off MGSV so my graphics expectations are a but skewed at the moment. But I cannot think of a game that has made me think more than Soma. It is a game that sticks with you, making you ask uncomfortable questions.

After the downer of Simon - 2 realizing that he does not get to go to heaven and his only friend short circuiting I was ready to watch the credits roll and be depressed for a while. How many games have truly depressing endings (other than Nier and Silent Hill 2?) But wait, the game takes the coward's way out and lets the player experience an epilogue with Simon - 3 in the ark.

Booooo. Unnecessary and unwanted. It was surprising and a bit disappointing. I'll allow it only because I want Frictional to keep making games and not farm out the sequel to Soma to the same people who made A Machine for Pigs. I can only deal with that kind of disappointment once a year or so.

1 comment:

  1. Scrolled past your text (because I may actually play SOMA) just to say I love that spoiler and thank you for it.