Ooh this interview has made me so much more excited about Rebirth. A friend of mine went wild over Penumbra originally, but mostly from a “tech demo” perspective. The ability to manipulate the environment and the whole fine grained mouse control stuff was very tactile and new, but I admit I haven’t played through that trilogy because I found the story and pacing elements werent grabbing me.
Amnesia was fantastic. But I have been shouting to everyone who will listen about SOMA for years now. It is because of those “higher level” things. The thematic elements and the way it makes you think about life.
Frictional Games made me reconsider whether horror games were a genre I could enjoy (since I was never a massive fan of RE, SH, Clock Tower, or Dead Space). Out of everything I’ve tried I’ve only stuck with Observer and Pathologic 2. Alien Isolation is one I am yet to try, but I’m not sure that has the same thematic strength?
Anyway, this is to say I’m really enthusiastic to hear that the design from a gameplay perspective is incremental at best, where the big focus is on that thematic and narrative punch. That’s what makes SOMA the best of the genre for me, and I always wondered if they could top it.