Tormentum: Dark Sorrow
I knew about H. R. Giger. Ever
since Alien, who didn’t? I didn’t know about Zdzisław Beksiński, a
Polish artist with a similar grim and macabre style. I do now.
Giger died as a result of
injuries sustained falling down some stairs. Beksiński was stabbed to
death. One had a partner who committed suicide, the other a son. There
was undoubtedly lots of joy in their lives, but sorrow – even dark
sorrow - is what seems to infuse their works.
Tormentum was inspired by them
Knowing that, you can expect all
those things to feature, if the title wasn’t clue enough. It isn’t a
happy game, but it was a lot of fun.
You may not hang their art on
your wall, but the style makes an unmistakable impact. It is front and
centre here, and commands your attention. Gothic horror is everywhere,
from the towering megaliths to the blasted fiery wasteland. It is
lavishly done, with incredible detail in every scene, and never gets
The beasts and creatures which
inhabit Tormentum are similarly bizarre. There is a human type or two
among them, but most are twisted and misshapen fansical things, waging
war, guarding tombs, wreaking havoc or simply surviving. Many failed,
and their corpses litter the landscape.
Almost as rich and satisfying as
the visual feast is the musical accompaniment (the metal goth tirade
accompanying the “bad” ending notwithstanding). It never overwhelms,
helped by being able to turn it down to truly background music. Ambient
sound is a little sparser but no less effective, and the clanking and
creaking (and occasional stabbing) combines with the music to generate a
suitably moody atmosphere.
Seen but not heard
What there isn’t is any spoken
word. All dialogue is via subtitles. Generally a character will be
asking you to do something, or warning you off, and a pop-up of that
character appears bottom left of screen.
It's rudimentary but works. An
upside is that nothing is let down by bad voice acting.
Your character is cloaked in a
tattered shroud reminiscent of the grim reaper. He “wakes” to find
himself suspended in a cage beneath a floating zeppelin, a fellow
prisoner sharing the news that you are on your way to a castle, where
the knights are renowned for purifying souls through torture. You don’t
know how you got there or where you came from, the only vague memory
being of hands atop a hill reaching for the sky.
The cage descends and playtime
proper starts with finding a way out of the cell to which you are
transferred. Then it’s a way out of the castle, then into and through
To digress slightly, I haven’t
played many casual games, and while the subject matter is not at all
casual, there are “casual” aspects in Tormentum. For instance, each
scene is a single screen and rather than your character moving within
the screen, all the exploration is done with the mouse. It is third
person in the sense you can see your character, but he stands still in
each screen while you explore around him. Things you need to find will
glow, and if you do as you are told and search carefully, it will pretty
much trundle along at a decent pace.
To digress a bit further, each
screen slides slightly to the right and left, not scrolling by any
stretch of the imagination, but it suggests a wide screen resolution
would have worked better.
There are puzzles a-plenty, some
inventory based, but lots of out and out ones as well. There are
sliders, and one colour puzzle, but no mazes, nothing timed, and nothing
too difficult. It doesn’t mean you won’t get delayed, and I did indeed
get stuck once, but by and large an adventure gamer will move through
the game in six or so hours. In doing so, you will be hard pressed not
to be satisfied by the mix and the number of conundrums.
A matter of opinion
I mentioned the “bad” end, which
might in fact be the good end depending on your perspective. In any
event, it is based on about eight choices you make throughout the game,
involving maybe life or death, mercy or revenge, or just choosing who to
prefer with an object. While each choice has a consequence,
unfortunately you can’t save before each one in order to play the
alternative. The game saves for you on exit, and you pick up where you
left off, which in most games is generally ok but what it means here is
that you have to replay the game to see any of the alternative choices.
Some looked like they might be rather good (ie gruesome), so it would
have been preferable to be able to save at will. I will certainly play
again, but why that was not an option I don’t know.
I did think the end I got was a
little unfair, given the choices I had made and why I had made them, but
then life and death is like that.
The inventory is a generally
unobtrusive box in the right corner and it empties as you use the items
so is never cluttered. You can’t combine or examine items, but you can
zoom in on many locations in the game world, which will usually be a
puzzle or something worth writing down. The latter happens
automatically, and your notebook bottom left will provide clues if not
answers to the puzzles in the game. While the game world isn’t
completely open, nor is it screen at a time, and you will certainly have
to explore and come back in order to find the items and clues you need
to move you successfully through the game.
While the themes are dark, don’t
let it put you off. There is one scene in which a poor soul is being
“set free” by a nasty stabbing machine, but apart from that even the
most squeamish should be relatively ok. It isn’t gory, or scary, more
stylishly surrealistic. But maybe that’s just me.
In my games collection I have
two Darkseed games which are also based on the artwork of H. R. Giger,
complete with funky boxes. I have never played them, but if they are
half as good as Tormentum, I can only hope they get a GoG going over
I played on:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz
RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz
Video card: AMD Radeon HD 7800 2048MB
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