I recently finished playing the horror point-and-click adventure game Tormentum: Dark Sorrow, released on Steam for personal computers and developed by OhNoo Studio. While I don’t typically want to be reviewing video games on this blog because I want things to be more story focused, I feel that the genre of this game is centred around story enough that I can justify a full review.
You play as an unnamed hooded man, who wakes up in a cage next to another prisoner, hanging from a nightmarish airship. The ship descends into a haunting castle surrounded by a hellish landscape, where you are then imprisoned. With no memory of who you are or why you’re there, you must endeavour to escape from the castle and rediscover who you are.
The gameplay consists primarily of searching for objects of interest in different areas in order to solve puzzles and progress. The puzzles themselves are fairly challenging, forcing me to give them a fair amount of thought at times, but at no point did I ever feel too stumped either. They could have been a little more challenging, for me personally, but I don’t think this took away from the experience all that much.
Where the game really shines is in the art direction. While a multitude of other reviewers have said so already, it does greatly resemble the work of H. R. Giger — with more of a medieval twist — presenting a nightmarish world full of twisted beings and landscapes. The artistic style is actually what made this game appeal to me more than anything else, ultimately resulting in me picking it up. On this front the game never really disappointed either. While I do think the game would have benefited from a stronger and more singular setting, the art was always stunning to look at. While very macabre and even disturbing, it does a great job of demonstrating beauty in the grotesque.
Something I found interesting that caught me off guard was that the game has a moral choice system, which I half-knew going in, but it didn’t make itself obvious right away. When confronted with my first choice, it was at the completion of a puzzle where — without warning — I was presented with two options. I wasn’t interrupted by a dialogue box, I was merely staring at a mechanism and choosing an option. It wasn’t until I made my choice that I fully realized one had been made, which I found refreshing to the moral choice systems that have been prominent in gaming.
The story isn’t a plot-heavy one, but kept be interested as I traversed the world’s blasted, eldritch landscape. The hero is driven to find an image cemented in his mind — a stone angel with hands reaching toward it — and all he does is ultimately in pursuit of finding it. It is during this journey that you are most confronted with moral choices, as there are multiple ways of achieving the end that you desire, but with ambiguous consequences. The ending, which I won’t give away, was not mind-blowing, but I didn’t predict it either. With all of the decisions I made leading up to it I’m very curious to see what about it can be different.
What I did find to be disappointing about the game was its length. While I enjoyed my time with it very much, I did find it to be a little too short. This is offset by the fact that the choices you make in the game make me want to replay it a few more times to see what happens differently — and a short runtime certainly helps with this — so I do not think this criticism should be taken as all too damning.
If you’re a fan of horror and nightmarish fantasy imagery, I definitely recommend picking it up. The art direction is gorgeous to look at and explore, leaving me eager and hopeful for a subsequent release in the future. The world of Tormentum is one I’d definitely love to see fleshed out even further.