Best Non-Traditional Adventure: SOMA
Amnesia: The Dark Descent was one of the scariest games of all time, and when Frictional announced that their next game would be another first-person horror adventure, anticipation was high to see how they would top the frights of its predecessor. Well, as it turns out, SOMA isn’t as scary as Amnesia, but deliberately so, and far from being disappointing, SOMA raises the bar in so many ways that it is not only a better game, it’s one of the best games of the year in any genre.
Why? Perhaps it’s the incredible atmosphere, the indelible sense of place, the terrifying feeling of being miles underwater, all alone amidst crumbling wreckage that could collapse at any moment. Or maybe it’s the peerless storytelling, which effortlessly sidesteps any number of sci-fi clichés and raises fresh questions about the nature of humanity. Or is it the wonderful physicality of the environment, packed with an astonishing variety of detailed objects to pick up, examine, and fling around with satisfying physics. Possibly it’s the deeply disturbing, yet surprisingly subtle moral quandaries the game forces on you.
Of course, really it’s all of the above. SOMA is a harrowing science-fiction parable full of smart ideas, foreboding atmosphere, and moments of sheer suspense that holds its own against the very best narratives in science fiction, exploring new avenues of the human experience, raising difficult questions, refusing to give easy answers, and scaring the poop out of the player as it does so. It looks great, with varied but coherently designed environments that are wonderfully detailed and dramatically lit, and its sound design can now add “award-winning” to its list of superlatives.
A free-roaming 3D adventure, SOMA is not entirely traditional by genre standards, but it deftly balances moments of suspenseful stealth and frantic, terror-inducing escapes with a welcome amount of downtime for leisurely exploration and puzzle-solving. It sure ain’t point-and-click, but for those concerned about braving such perilous waters, we can’t think of a higher recommendation for delving the depths of SOMA (both literally and figuratively) than our Aggie Award for Best Non-Traditional Adventure of 2015.
Life Is Strange
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Readers’ Choice: Life Is Strange
The best part of the adventure genre has always been its tremendous diversity. We all love us some point-and-click, but what a boring world if that’s all we got. Fortunately, every year we’re treated to a selection of new games looking to experiment, push boundaries, defy expectations. This year was no exception, whether an exploration of a fragmented video database, a legal lark starring anthropomorphic animals during the French Revolution, a brain-busting physics puzzler, or a sci-fi survival horror aboard a submerged outpost, to name just a few of the top contenders. But above all, you readers have chosen Dontnod’s cinematic teen drama Life Is Strange, for reasons which should be abundantly obvious by now.
The Talos Principle: Road to Gehenna
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Next up: Best Traditional Adventure... the envelope, please!