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Tormentum: Dark Sorrow is a spectacularly sinister point-and-click puzzle adventure created by the Polish three-man indie developing team, Oh Noo! Studios. It will take you on a menacing five hour journey through a dark fantasy world inspired by the surrealist works of artists such H.R. Giger and Zdzisław Beksiński.
It is a gratifying step towards separating point-and-click adventures from the misleading label of “casual games” and presents the opportunity to firmly cement the genre as a serious gaming experience.
You play as a mysterious hooded figure, the nameless hero of Tormentum’s story. You wake up to find yourself trapped in a cage, dangling from the bottom of a strange airship. You have no recollection of your identity or your past. Your future is no clearer but you can be assured it is not going to be a bright one.
Next to you another unfortunate soul is hanging in his own cage. He tells you the story of a mysterious “they” that come when “the sky cries fiery tears”. It is said that they capture those who are “marked by evil” and take them back to their castle. No one knows why… because no one has ever returned to tell the story.
The word “Tormentum” is derived from the Latin word for torment and it is an overarching theme you will regularly encounter through-out the gruesome entirety of the game. From being continuously impaled by a torture device to entering a life of enslavement, the poor souls who find themselves in the unforgiving confines of the castle are doomed to an existence of perpetual pain.
But you are determined not to share this twisted fate and, for now, you live for no other reason than to escape this horrifying place. But be warned, this will be no easy task. You will have to devise some creative solutions to escape your dreaded fate and even though there are some that are willing to help, no favour will come for free.
Tormentum boasts a mesmerizing story. Its narrative is simple and easy to comprehend, yet complex and captivating enough to enthral you. This combined with the spellbindingly surrealistic world and eerie atmospheric sounds results in a title that that truly tickles the senses.
There is not a single word spoken in the game. All thoughts or dialogue are conveyed via a combination of written text and sound effects. This means that you will be doing a bit of reading, but fortunately most of it is straight forward while still retaining a sense of poetry.
Tormentum: Dark Sorrow is primarily driven forward by its narrative, which is enhanced even more by the characters strewn along its length. You will encounter a number of vividly disturbing characters on your journey. Some of them are devious and see you as no more than a pawn in their grand game. Others are more benevolent and actually wish for you to escape the castle. But it will not always be clear who fits in what role.
When it comes down to the actual gameplay, I did find Tormentum: Dark Sorrow slightly lacking. Point-and-click adventures are usually notorious for their difficulty but with Tormentum it just wasn’t the case. This comes from someone who doesn’t necessarily have a knack for the genre (all hail the walkthrough).
Something that did add some difficulty was the fact that you never received specific quests and there was no way to track any of your objectives. Most of your goals are received as hints either from conversations with yourself or other characters.
The game is made up of various, primarily static scenes. They are dreadfully wonderful in their artistic glory but typically only have a few animated elements in a given scene. This didn’t bother me though. The moody blend of visual splendour and ambient sounds does a brilliant job of bringing the game alive.
In most cases the static scenes can be scrolled left and right to reveal more of the area. An element I liked, that I usually don’t see in many games of this genre, is that wherever you find yourself in the castle you will always see your nameless hero standing somewhere in the scene. For me, this strengthened my place in the story and added sense of authenticity.
Whenever you hover over an interactive part of the scene your cursor will change into a skeleton hand. Once you interact with the specific element you will be taken closer and will either be able pick up objects or move them around.
You will see quite a few drawing throughout the game, usually stuck against walls. These will give you clues about certain puzzles you will be dealing with and will be drawn in you notebook reviewed at any point in the game.
Any objects you pick up in the game will be stored in your satchel, a feature of the game that I found a bit annoying. I had no problem with being able to store things but rather found it hard getting used to its system. Especially when interacting with objects inside the satchel.
Whenever I play games that require you to solve a puzzle I tend to take the trial and error approach. The problem with the satchel system was that every time I used an object, and it turned out to be in vain, I first had to put it away before I could open the satchel again to use another item. Also whenever I took an item from my inventory, the others would immediately return to the satchel.
It might not be something major but it is a bit of a tedious process that could discourage gamers that aren’t particular about the genre in the first place.
Verdict: Tormentum: Dark Sorrow was a brilliantly demented experience and I think it would appeal to gamers that don’t usually indulge in the point-and-click genre. It has some of the most unique and intriguing artwork I have seen in my gaming years and boasted an absorbing atmosphere and narrative from start to finish.
The game play did get a bit repetitive towards the end and would maybe have liked to see a greater variety of interactivity. But considering that Tormentum was created by a three man team and it is only the second title to come from the Polish developers, it is definitely an impressive feat in my books. I for one am very excited to see what the Oh Noo! Studios’ next title will be.