SOMA is a contemplative horror game dripping with psychological, oftentimes existential dread. It’s also about running from scary monsters. Surprisingly, however, stripping out that second part actually makes the game more enjoyable and, in some ways, scarier.
The Dreamer’s rather derisively named Wuss Mode: Monsters Won’t Attack mod is actually really cool. They describe it thusly:
“This addon renders nearly all enemies in the main story non-hostile during regular gameplay. Surprisingly, it completely changes the atmosphere of the game, often for the better, since the servants of the WAU quietly patrolling the abandoned halls of Pathos-2 have a chilling poignance to them.”
“Puppets slowly stalk you through hallways instead of madly dashing for you, as if they are confused by your presence and don’t know what to do with an intruder that shares their flesh and blood. Constructs beg you for structure gel, and angrily chastise you for not sharing, but they cannot take it from you, and as you walk by them, a cold chill overtakes you as you realize they will slowly starve in the inky black depths. Playing it is an incredibly surreal experience, and while I personally prefer the vanilla gameplay, I think for those with weaker countenances, this is certainly a worthwhile way to play.”
Having played around with the mod for a bit, I find myself agreeing with The Dreamer’s assessment. Just kinda living with these creatures—staring at them, taking it all in, bathing in their otherworldly eccentricities, realizing why they’re here—is an experience equal parts unnerving and contemplative. You have time to consider what these things are really about, notice the details Frictional put into their movement and sound design, and connect it all back to the game’s most truly upsetting element: its story.
Compared to other Frictional games like Amnesia, SOMA wasn’t super scary—preferring instead to plant existential eggs in your brain and let their spawn slowly infest your thoughts—so this more contemplative pace fits the game’s tone better. SOMA’s approach to monsters—simple ways of avoiding them, a forgiving not-quite-death system that allowed you to brute force your way past them—suggested a game at odds with that particular horror trope. They also got in the way of exploration, something I desperately wanted to do despite practically being able to feel strange hands slithering across my shoulders. Perhaps this was the solution Frictional was looking for all along.
If you’ve already played SOMA the normal way, I definitely recommend giving this mod a try. In a lot of ways, I prefer it to the vanilla experience. It might also be good if you’re normally nauseated by the idea of traditionally scary games (hi Luke). That said, this mod still breeds its own kind of terror. Don’t underestimate it.
You’re reading Steamed, Kotaku’s page dedicated to all things in and around Valve’s wildly popular PC gaming service. Games, culture, community creations, criticism, guides, videos—everything. If you’ve found anything cool/awful on Steam, send us an email to let us know.