Tormentum: Dark Sorrow

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Tormentum: Dark Sorrow review
Matt Porter

Review

The Familiar Trappings of the Genre

Nightmarish surrealism


I love surrealism in artwork, but I only discovered H.R. Giger last year after his death. His work revolves around dark, nightmarish themes, and itís no wonder that he was part of the special effects team that won an Academy Award for their work on Alien. Tormentum: Dark Sorrow is a point and click adventure that has an art style heavily influenced by Giger. As such, I really wanted to like it, but as is the case with many adventures, it became bogged down in all the familiar trappings of the genre.

The first thing to point out, however, is that the themes and style are outstanding. You play as a hooded, nameless protagonist, who remembers nothing except for a vision of sculpted hands reaching towards the sky. The game begins with you hanging from a zeppelin-type flying machine in a cage. Beside you in a separate cage is a huge, talking, armoured rat. It appears you are being taken to a castle dungeon and itís unlikely youíll ever see the light of day again.

Same old


That is, unless you escape. For as dark and horrific as everything around you looks, as soon as youíre given control youíll be in safe, classic point and click territory. Youíll click on objects to either pick them up or interact with them, and click on the sides of the screen to move to the next area. Your character doesnít visibly move around the screen, instead you can scroll to either side if the area is larger than your viewport.

Soon youíll escape your cell and be roaming around the castle. Thankfully, the guards donít seem to mind too much and, in fact, most of them will even have a little job for you to do. This quickly opens up to the first of several moral choices you have to make during the game, which usually involve life and death. Youíre given a key which also doubles as a shiv and itís up to you to decide whether you free a woman in a cage or kill her like youíve been instructed to. Youíre going to be able to progress either way, but these choices accumulate over the course of the game and will affect your ending.

Having these choices adds a little something to the standard formula, but for the most part youíve seen everything here before. Sliding blocks around to complete puzzles, searching for the objects you need in order to uncover new areas. Itís all a bit tedious and samey which is a shame considering the style is fairly unique for a game of this type. Weíre used to some whimsy or light humour in point and click adventures, but in Tormentum you wonít see anyone cracking a smile unless theyíre criminally insane.

Lost in a dream


To make matters worse, itís not always clear what you have to do. There isnít any spoken dialogue, so youíll be doing a lot of reading, and the characters rarely give you much in the way of hints. ďHave you spoken to my brotherÖĒ wasnít particularly useful after I had already killed him. Youíll find vague diagrams depicting how to solve certain puzzles, but more than once I found a diagram after Iíd already solved its associated puzzle. Too often, I was left floundering and walking back and forth between areas to find what I had missed. A small hint system wouldíve gone a long way towards streamlining the game.

The inventory system is a little clumsy too, especially when youíre trying to switch items. Your bag closing when you select an item is a nice way of clearing up the UI, but itís frustrating when you try and choose something else. This happened a few times when I was stuck and trying to use everything on everything, as usually happens in point and click games. Even when you do know what youíre supposed to be doing, thereís a lot of backtracking. Tormentum is seemingly made up of a world where everything you need is conveniently (or inconveniently) far away from the thing youíre supposed to use it on.

Escaping


Eventually, youíll escape the castle and move on to new environments and locations, although the style remains throughout. Sadly, the puzzles remain largely the same too and the zones just seem to get bigger. Thankfully, the game is fairly short, unless you get stuck too often, so it falls short of outstaying its welcome. Youíll discover nightmarish surrealism and medieval styles mixed with modern technology, and youíll slowly unlock knowledge about the places youíre in.

I love the look and themes of Tormentum: Dark Sorrow, itís just a shame that the ideas are restricted by the use of a stale genre. The addition of moral choices does little to overcome the problems that have plagued point and click games for many years now. It has a great, unique style, but overall it is let down by the often clumsy and convoluted game design.

6.7

fun score

Pros

Fantastic style based on the works of H.R. Giger. Some moral choices add much needed variety.

Cons

Same old point and click trappings. Sound design doesnít live up to the art design.