Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Reviewing SOMA Enemies
Hey, how about we squeeze another Survival Horror(ish) creature review into 2019?! I had a patreon request to review just one thing from this game, but it's really high time I give it a complete monster analysis anyway!
SOMA has an incredibly interesting but incredibly grim concept behind it; you play as someone who, at some point in the past, submitted his cerebral data to a company conducting experiments in the digitization of the human brain. A version of you thereby "wakes up" some time after this technology has been perfected, now occupying an artificial body in an underwater research lab. As you discover, some sort of cataclysm exterminated all life on the Earth's surface and blacked out the sun, leaving the laboratory's limited staff as the sole survivors of the human race.
In the face of this seemingly hopeless situation, these survivors hatched the rather hare-brained scheme to copy themselves into a virtual paradise, kill their real bodies at the moment of upload, and have that paradise launched into space to simply drift in peace for all time, which is the task you have been awakened to complete.
Unfortunately.....you're not alone.
The WAU is the main "antagonist" of Soma, a biotechnological artificial intelligence that serves as the laboratory's computer system. After the cataclysm and the wave of staff suicides, the computer attempts to fulfill its imperatives to preserve and protect what is left of humanity in any way it can...but its definition of "saving" a human life is subject to both limited resources and its own inhuman reasoning, the results of which are not entirely pleasant by most human standards.
...But it's trying, damn it!
One of the simplest attempts by the Wau to "preserve" human staff, the Flesher is quite simply a human body with a brand new head, formed primarily from a substance called "Structure Gel." This Gel can apparently form into anything the Wau wants, like some incredibly advanced modeling clay capable of transmitting data and energy, fusing mechanical parts and even crudely mending biological tissues. As the game's most basic monstrosity the Flesher is very effectively disturbing, if only you ever really got a good look at it in a game that, even by my standards, is a little too atmospherically dark for its own good.
Ah, so that's what this looked like. This one is almost entirely cobbled together from machinery, with a human mind injected into it. As it turns out, you can't actually just cram a person's entire consciousness into something utterly non-human and expect them to adapt to it. Instead, such subjects display human consciousness in only confused, repetitive fragments, most of their mind basically stuck in a "catatonic" state. It's more like their new body is sleepwalking than actually under their control, which feels like a very believable result of this hypothetical technology, and fascinatingly dreadful.
Also called "Robot Head" in the files, despite the fact that we already saw something with an entirely robotic head. In any case it feels like this is the Wau's next crack at piecing a person back together, but it's still pretty slapdash. The mouth emitting the same light as the eyes is probably the detail that makes this effectively disturbing, as if it had no more use for a mouth and just converted the orifice to another eye.
THE ROBOT GIRL
This one seems to be a similar case to Robot Girl, but was officially put back together after his original body was destroyed by shrapnel from an unspecified accident. Perhaps due to redundancy with Robot Girl, Patchwork was cut as an enemy from the final game but does appear already dead in one room, which I think actually works out to something interesting in itself; that there's another monster programmed into the game, but it already died before our character showed up.
THE PATCHWORK MAN
Yoshida was once one of the lab's Radiologists, but now his mind is housed in a high-tech diving suit filled with structure gel. I like how many different ways the Wau has experimented with recreating people and made its own little "improvements," like the tentacles this poor guy now has for a face. Having a powerful humanoid exoskeleton for a body, he's one of the faster and more capable of the Wau's creations, but he seems to have none of his humanity left at all and acts as a mindlessly violent monster.
I never got a chance to notice this thing's actual design in-game, or I could have better appreciated that this giant angler has part of a human face and skeletal hand fused into it. What the hell HAPPENED? Did the Wau do this, or is it more of a freak error of the structure gel? The most intriguing part is that its in-game data says it no longer hunts fish, but hunts for "something not present in its ecosystem." This could simply mean it seeks to consume humans, but who knows.
While the Angler is more of an ambush predator, these giant viperfish - also with human faces fused onto them - are much more active threats, repelled only by bright light.
I somehow didn't remember the Leviathan. Yeah, the wau made a kraken that the game takes time building up to with brief glimpses of its vastness, and I somehow forgot all about it. I guess it's been a while, and as cool and terrifying as the leviathan is on paper, it doesn't stick with me like a bunch of dead people incorrectly rebuilt by a well-meaning computer. It's supposedly what used to be a giant squid, but it looks more like it would have been some sort of worm, if you ask me.
This enemy is also referred to as a "coral puppet," and has to be one of the most haunting, ghastly creatures in this or many other games. Appearing largely organic, it seems to be someone whose remains have been heavily regenerated and possibly merged with the tissues of other organisms in another shot at resurrecting the dead. That wide-open mouth is amazingly horrible, and all this thing can really do is gasp and wail as it stagged around.
Terry seems to be the same sort of creation as the proxy, but at least his arms are free? One set of arms, anyway. He's got another one, and an extra foot blended in there. The degenerated holes for eyes, lack of any other facial features and scarred-over seam down the front are an amazingly putrid combination, and I get an impression Terry may have been molded together from at least two different corpses. Gorgeous.
But, again, the game is so dark you hardly ever get to appreciate the details of these things.
I think this is actually one of the coolest enemies in the game, and the single most effective demonstration of their "lore." Its human mind has been stuffed into the least human-like form yet, a corruption of what was a remote amphibious rover. It's not known who this mind was originally copied from, but the enemy has over ten solid minutes worth of in-game dialog, and damn did somebody have a LOT of fun writing this thing! A tentacled, faceless cyborg ranting and raving like this as it pursues you through the darkened lab is probably the coolest part of this game, if only even more was done with this kind of concept.
If I had to pick a single favorite monster made for this game, I think the Crawler is the one. Her real name is Amy Azzaro, if we should consider the brain scans of these things to be their identities, and I see no reason why not. The pitiful thing drags a torso that appears to be re-forming a new face from what may not even be the right end, but it's not the design alone that does it. Like the scavenger, it's all about the dialog, and the Crawler's voice lines form one of the most chilling narratives I've ever witnessed from a video game. You don't even need the REST of the game, or an image of the crawler, or literally any other context to appreciate this audio; if it was posted as some sort of creepypasta of its own, I'd have given it a 10/10 for perfectly communicating the idea of something that was once a human being and still barely grasps the state it is now in.
Those moments when she talks as if she's still just getting plugged in, still just testing the upload process, wondering where everyone went, wondering what's real or not real, lines like "the helmet...it's lying" and how she breaks into murderous rage whenever her mind returns to the present all speak for themselves as an unforgettable horror story either with or without the rest of Soma to back it up, but if you heard all this rage and confusion before you got to see that it all comes from this pathetic, miserable, crawling husk of a thing, I think that propels it to levels that could have carried a horror game with no other enemies at all.
...Making it all the more painful that Amy Crawler Azzaro was CUT FROM THE FINAL GAME COMPLETELY.
But the NUMBER ONE most horrifying monster in this game is.............
I wish I could say I understood and sympathized with the desperation and madness of the laboratory team, but...our own main character proves that the process of transferring a mind into one of these ramshackle bodies CAN be "perfected," that it can remain fully cognizant and capable indefinitely...and you're telling me these clowns still thought it would be better to permanently upload their brains on a one-way trip into a virtual reality? And set that virtual reality adrift in SPACE? Where they could be stuck there until they either crash into something or the entire universe implodes in billions upon billions more years? Where they'd have no physical bodies to make any external repairs to any system that breaks down?
HUMAN INEPTITUDE (SPOILERS!!!)
What happens when any of them get, I don't know, bored with inhabiting the same fake world for EONS? What happens if anything is wrong with the code? You're telling me an entire simulation of Earth (or whatever the hell it is) doesn't have a single decimal in the wrong place anywhere? You're telling me there's no way for the circuitry to degrade and begin to suffer errors under constant radioactive bombardment in the cold void of existence? How are they going to fix it when they're made of the same code? What is there to even do in this virtual reality? Will they run out of games and movies? Can they make virtual whoopie? Does pretend food taste good? Can they create anything new from in there or are their experiences finite?!
There are far, far too many questions left open by their inane plan, and none of them have good answers because no matter how nice that virtual reality is, they've still irreversibly cut themselves off from interaction with the entire infinite universe outside. If a virtual reality was so perfected to begin with, what difference would it have even made if they just kept inhabiting robotic bodies here on Earth that could log in and out of that "paradise" as they pleased? Why didn't they take ANY robot bodies with them into space? Why didn't they make the entire thing housing the paradise a robot they could take turns controlling when they wanted to do literally anything other than play the same session of SIMS forever?!
For FUCK'S sake, if they're now capable of living for millions or billions of years and copying their minds as many times as they want, there's your entire new civilization of Planet Earth right fucking there. A civilization of undying robot people to keep scavenging the old ruins, keep mining new resources, keep building and learning and inventing and exploring and making ANYTHING they want for all time, with that simulation of the old world still there to plug into whenever that's what they want.
For OTHER FUCK'S sake, if you're just mourning all the loss and death that badly but you already thought an MMORPG would fix it, why not, I don't know, use that as a "vacation getaway" until you finally do feel ready to step back outside in a neato metal body and, you know, pick up a pointy stick again?! Anything?! You could probably even manipulate your perception of time in digital form and skip ahead a few aeons until life has begun to re-evolve, right?? Is observing the dawn of an entire new tree of life not STIMULATING enough for you??
Even letting the WAU continue what it was doing had to have had potential. The game allows you to decide whether or not you shut it down, but you're presumably supposed to so its creations stop suffering, or whatever. That's nice and all, but sooner or later it was bound to figure something better out, wasn't it? It's already integrated itself with natural organisms. If nothing else was going to repopulate the planet with intelligence, the wau sure as hell would have even if it took a million more years of experimentation.
Even in a scenario where everyone and everything they knew was dead and they were trapped in a claustrophobic, sunless underwater prison, I cannot at all buy these people ever coming to the ridiculous solutions they came to. No explanation the game offers of cabin fever and cult-like thinking holds up at all, because, again, they still could have done the whole e-paradise thing without shooting themselves into space and abandoning the planet forever.
WHY the "shooting themselves into space" part AT ALL?? GOOD GOD why!?
What these folks settled on doing in the face of the apocalypse is so much more horrific to me than literally any other option they had and so jaw-droppingly wasteful that it honestly takes me out of the entire plot. They were scientists. Scientists. Show me a single scientist in the entire world, faced with the ability to become a limitless number of robots, faced with limitless time to explore and tinker with an entire planet uninhibited, who would ever rather imprison their soul in Second Life. Show me even any non-scientist who would ever weigh those two options and come to the conclusion we're expected to believe any one of these utter dingleclowns came to.
If there's one overall conclusion I have about Soma, it's that I really felt like it still needed a little polish. The enemies have such predictable routines after a point that it doesn't feel terribly scary, they come and go from the game a little too quickly, and the storyline is muddied a bit by the aforementioned logical holes. I'd really love to someday see an expanded version of the game with some additional enemies and characters as well as a few more ending options, and if it must include the cockamamie scheme to launch Animal Crossing 41 into deep space, I think that could use just a teency bit more justification within the story.
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