For me the year 2015 was a letdown in many ways, but through many disappointments something wonderful happened, the adventure genre came back to life. It was quite annoying to see that at this year’s Game Awards there wasn’t a category for Adventure games (nor Strategy games) especially considering the huge number of good titles we had from this genre.
The first half of the year was a real warm up, starting the year by playing with time in Life is Strange and enjoying the delicious writing of Sunless Sea. There were many fun moments in the quirky episodes of Tales from the Borderlands put in a counterbalance by the emotional Ori and the Blind Forest. The middle of the year set the darker tone for what was to come through Kholat with its haunting sound design and marvelous graphics. Daedalic Entertainment couldn’t be missing from this party bringing one of their best works with Anna’s Quest.
The surprise came from the indie studio THE BROTHERHOOD which worked 5 years on a gem that many might have missed but they shouldn’t have. STASIS is a great isometric horror adventure with a gruesome atmosphere built through great writing and Mark’s Morgan awesome OST. In September Frictional Games returned with a title to remind the players how it is to be scared and while this wasn’t their most scary work it was probably one of the deepest and philosophical games ever made.
SOMA is a first person adventure stealth game in which the player has to run and hide from disfigured monsters in the known style of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The story has the player seeing what’s left of humanity after an apocalyptic event that wiped out most of our race, but this isn’t the theme of the story but rather one of its implications. The story of SOMA (body) has existentialism written all over it, putting the player into situations which often raise the question “what it means to be a human”. It’s a philosophical half scary journey through the depths of the ocean but also the depths of our existence something that few games have tried to exploit. SOMA has the most predictable story that I’ve ever enjoyed in my entire life, only pointing out the greatness of this game’s writing that doesn’t need extreme twists to keep you wanting to see the end. And the decisions I had to take in this game were some of the most emotionally intense and the hardest to live with I’ve experienced in a game despite not having any impact on the story or the ending.
SOMA’s twisted tone and dark atmosphere are the result of the game as a whole. The writing, the setting, the monsters and the mind shattering sound design make for some moments that are hard to forget. Yet, for all the horror in this game, SOMA is a scary game not because of its monsters but because of what the narrative is trying to convey. The questions without an answer that will be left imprinted into the player’s mind will probably stick there for days and even when they fade away they won’t be completely gone.
The year 2015 was great for the adventure genre and this game is right up there. SOMA stands as an example of the meaning of video games beyond their entertainment value as a cultural and artistic tool to present to the public difficult subjects. If only the game wasn’t hindered by its OpenGL graphics, AI problems and other issues that take away from its greatness stopping it from reaching heights that few adventures have reached before. Still, SOMA is without a question one of the best games of this year and the best adventure of 2015.
Looking over the upcoming adventure games in 2016, it’s safe to say that the genre’s future is at least partially secured.