Review: Tormentum – Dark Sorrow (PC)

Originally published over on n3rdabl3 

Overall Rating: 3.2 stars – A dark and twisted adventure about redemption and condemnation

Tormentum – Dark Sorrow is a point and click adventure game inspired heavily by the works of H R Giger. The developers consider it a spiritual sequel to Dark Seed (a psychological horror game from the early 90s, which was also based on Giger’s art). Tormentum follows the journey of a hooded figure who awakens to the feel of a strong wind, and the sensation of the floor moving beneath him. It turns out he is imprisoned in a cage hanging beneath a very creepy-looking dirigible, which looks suspiciously like it is made of skin and bone. Another prisoner is also trapped in a cage alongside. The other prisoner, a rat-creature clad in armour, says that the flying machines come in the night and take those who have been marked by evil, and spirit them away to a castle in the mountains. The player character has no memory from before waking up just now, so why is he being punished?  He does recall an image of a strange sculpture, but nothing else. First he will need to escape the castle, and then make his way to wherever this sculpture may be, in the hope of finding an answer to his missing memories.

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The game is simple to play, using only the mouse to navigate with on-screen arrows and door icons. You can also use the mouse to interact with various objects in the scene. Some will give background information, some will be picked up and put in your inventory, and others will zoom in to uncover a secret area with an object or puzzle. Throughout the game you will come across journal pages which give some insight into how the castle was built and what effect it had on the local people (not a positive one, as you may have guessed!)

The first order of business is to escape your cell, which involves collecting a few items and unlocking the mechanism on the cell door. There are pieces of mirror scattered about, and other items that don’t make much sense now, but will no doubt come in handy soon enough. The first section of the game involves finding your way out of the castle, and there are some great puzzles that will bend your brain a bit. I found myself jotting down notes and working things out on paper, but the game does record relevant findings in a notebook, so that was really only a matter of convenience for me.

A big point in Tormentum’s favour is the art-style and background music. It created a really dark and ominous atmosphere, which I very much enjoyed. The creatures and architecture were familiar but twisted and the castle truly did seem like place where evil beings were brought to undergo torture, to determine if their soul could be redeemed.

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In terms of gameplay, Tormentum is quite straight forward and linear, and has a less interactive feel because your character doesn’t move or take actions on the screen (he simply stands there while you click things with the mouse cursor). However, an element of choice is included at several points in the game, which I felt improved the experience vastly. You could select the good or evil option and different outcomes would occur. I played the game through with entirely good choices, but I’m interested to play again with all evil, or a mixture of the two, to see how it affects things.

Once you escape the castle, you then find yourself out in the wastelands, where your main task is to find missing parts for the train that will take you to another area, the Frozen Tears. Depending on whether you saved your rat companion or not, you are faced with some interesting choices as to who should receive a certain item you are tasked with finding. At one point you are warned that no one is as they seem, and this is a good piece of advice to keep in mind! When you finally fix the train, you arrive at a new location, and notice a sculpture in the distance – it’s the one from your memory! You then meet a blacksmith who tells you a myth about the sculpture’s gateway; you need to forge a special sword and plunge it into the sculpture in order to open the portal. You think this is what you must do to gain some clarity about the events of your life. After completing the tasks, one of which involves helping a blind painter who has some truly disturbing artwork about the place, you are given a choice – do you consider yourself good or evil? – then you pick a key appropriate to your choice and enter the final reckoning.

Now here’s a spoiler warning, don’t read on if you don’t want to know the ending!

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It turns out that (unsurprising to me) you are actually dead, and the game is essentially Purgatory, where you are given a chance to redeem your soul. In your former life, you had become jealous of your wife and killed her in a fit of rage, then killed yourself afterwards. The game takes on a bit of a religious and preachy message (in my view) about how suicide is “shameful” and thus you were forced to undertake these trials to redeem or condemn yourself for eternity. Due to the choices I made in the game, I was redeemed and ascended to heaven. Roll end credits!

Tormentum was an interesting game to play, and clearly has some replay value if you want to see what the outcome may be if you opt for different choices. Given I completed it in under four hours, playing through again would definitely give you better value for money. Certainly worth a look for fans of the point and click adventure genre, and for the homage to Giger’s masterfully disturbing artwork. Tormentum – Dark Sorrow will be available on Steam on March 4.

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