Somerville Is The Best Alien Invasion Game Since Half-Life 2
Fighting aliens in video games has been a major part of the medium since its inception. The first video game, Space War, was about a war in space. Space Invaders was an early cultural phenomenon that was rumored to have inhaled so many coins that it created currency supply problems in Japan. Halo, one of the biggest video game franchises ever created, is about an ongoing war with aliens. We like fighting aliens in video games because it’s easy to turn creatures from another planet into the enemy and they can look like anything.
However, the smaller, more personal alien invasion story is a specific subgenre of alien narrative that we don’t often see in video games. When we fight aliens, it’s usually a power trip meant to offer scope, but Somerville tells the story of a family trying to figure out how to survive in the face of an unknown threat. You are not trying to find the best weapon to hit the weak point of the aliens. You’re not even taking the time to get a good look at the aliens. You’re just trying to get to the next point of security.
Somerville is exciting for that, and at its best it reminded me of the last time I experienced a really cool alien invasion in a video game: Half-Life 2.
Now, it must be argued semantically that Half-Life and specifically its sequel is not an alien invasion story. Half-Life’s enemies, the Combine, are from a different dimension than an alien world, but Spielburg’s core idea is the same: there are strange new beings on the planet, we don’t know what they are, and we don’t know how to deal with them. with them.
Unlike Somerville, which never puts you in a position of power (although you do have some special abilities), Half-Life 2 devolves into a power fantasy rather quickly. The Gravity Gun is capable of some truly incredible feats, especially late game, but it never gives up on the awe and confusion of a world facing invasion.
In Half-Life 2, you drop into a world that has been dealing with the Combine for years. Humanity is scared and confused, but they are alive. And during the game’s opening hours, you get a chance to walk around and take it all in. If Half-Life 2 is about how humanity tries to respond to an invasion, Somerville is about the day it happened.
The two are remarkably different games in completely different genres (even if the protagonists have the same facial hair), but I couldn’t help thinking as I took my first steps in City 17, Breen’s voice blaring over the speaker welcoming me to my new reality, as my dog and I tried to outrun the gigantic purple light that pierced through the trees. If you liked the overall tone of Half-Life 2, I suggest you check out Somerville. And if you like Somerville, but have never played Half-Life 2, now is a great time to check out City 17.