After all of the frustration of the last progress log, getting to the next area and being handed a bunch of dark hallways to complement a checklist of three items required to progress was almost enough to cause me to stop playing; at this point the story had slowed to an absolute crawl, replaced with the Monsterhallway Facepunch Extravaganza, and the thought of more tedious scavenger hunt gameplay wasn’t appreciated. It’s around this point that I took a short break from playing to look up a SOMA longplay and decide if continuing was going to be worth it or not, and while I discovered that I was only 3/4 of the way done, there were only three or so annoying monsters standing between me and the ending. And the ending is a great return to everything I loved about the first half. It was totally worth pushing through, then, but I do have to take exception to this so-called “Safe Mode”; granted, you’re free to wander around as a near-immortal, but the overall game is still designed to freak you out with loud sound effects, enemies who randomly teleport around to mess with you (which is to say nothing of the chasing and screaming), lights randomly going out, and things exploding/shattering when you walk by them. Given the relatively minor consequences of dying, Safe Mode is really only a Slightly Faster But Still Freaky Mode rather than being something that opens it up to players who don’t appreciate those types of horror-game tricks. But hey, I’m glad I got to experience the story.
And now, today’s extreme body mod fetishists
I wasn’t sure where the thing I was looking for was, so Weepy Tubehead—named for reasons that should be readily apparent—became the first and only monster I didn’t actively antagonize. The thought of hunting for something that could be interacted with while some tube-headed, robo-person monstrosity practiced karate on my limbs was unappealing enough to necessitate a bit of restraint.
[Note: the video above stutters a bunch, but that’s not the game. It pauses each time I open the Xbox menu to save a screenshot, and I always save thousands of them.]
Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, she came back to chase me later on despite going out of my way to avoid bothering her. At least, I read that it’s a Weepy Tubehead who chases you. Once I knew she was there (thank you, longplay!), running to the place that stops the chase became such a priority that I never even saw her. Getting lost during one chase sequence was enough, thanks.
The second and final monster is this guy, Wormface Hugalot. The “wormface” part is obvious, but the “hugalot” is sarcastic because he has obvious intimacy issues; whenever you move up to him in Safe Mode, he steps backwards to give you some space. He still follows you, of course, but he usually waits until you turn around to do so. You can also pin him into a corner, but he doesn’t appreciate it:
He lives up to the “creepy but mostly nonviolent” promise of Safe Mode, but pushing him out of his comfort zone by pinning him is enough to remind him that he’s a creepy tentacle monster, at which point he picks you up and knocks you out. I’d take this type of behavior over those irritating Screamy McCancers any day of the week.
In fairness, there’s also this guy, but he’s not really a monster per se. He teleports around in a creepy way, but he also talks to you and is kind of like a mini-companion who follows you around for a bit. It’s not really unsettling, though that’s not to say that he can’t cause his own special, teleporting-monster kind of problems.
Like blocking the lights
SOMA has several underwater sequences, but the last two are especially noteworthy because of how low the visibility is during them. There are also mutated monster fish that you have to avoid, but that’s so silly and ridiculous that I hesitate to even mention it. The first of the two sections is the worst of the two because of its length (the second one is at least tolerably short, whereas the video above of the first one only ends around halfway through), and getting through this part requires following a bunch of blue lights that show you the way forward. Which is great until the lights aren’t visible anymore. At one point, you have to follow a wire to a point where the next batch become visible, which is either brilliant or stupid. Haven’t quite made up my mind yet. Then there’s the teleporting guy above, who randomly appears in front of lights on at least one occasion. That’s not very considerate.
It’s possible to die
I thought that death was an impossibility on Safe Mode, but mindlessly going down a broken ladder and falling managed to do the trick. This makes sense since a lot of scripted stuff happens on the way down, but it still caught me off-guard.
And finally, load times
The initial load is really painful, and you always get this lengthy loading screen when loading a save, though there aren’t any loading screens in the actual game. Rooms that have to depressurize are basically the same thing, of course, and this is where the vast majority of the game’s stutters happen, but the world nevertheless feels seamless. Waiting a couple minutes to resume playing is a small price to pay.