March 18, 2015 6:00 AM | Joel Couture
Tormentum - Dark Sorrow is an unrelenting series of bleak, hellish landscapes filled with monstrous, minute details. This is what happens when a game drives every penny into its art budget, creating a series of locations where no two screens are alike, each choked with deranged creatures and surreal architecture. There is no filler in this game - no screen where details were skimped on or anything was reused. Every transition leads somewhere new, and if gorgeous paintings of monsters and demonic worlds are something you enjoy at all, this game will be nonstop joy for your eyeballs. The gameplay that backs it up is rather simplistic pointing and clicking, but as a vehicle to put more horrific worlds in my face, I'm happy to take it.
Tormentum - Dark Sorrow (Tormentum) quickly dumps you into a prison. This is where most games might give you four walls and maybe some bones to show someone died there, but not this one. Tormentum never skimps on art, and even this plain dungeon is filled with detail, with ravens hovering by the windows, flames raining down in the gray sky outside, and every brick rendered with chips, scuffs, and scratches. The floor is scuffed and marked up, giving you the feeling you could run your hand across your computer screen and feel the grooves. If you don't really care about bricks, once you escape your cell you can head down the hall and see huge, strange beasts in the background guarding locks and forming the architecture. Go ahead and savor the look of them, as something completely different will be on the next screen waiting for you.
The Giger inspirations are hard to miss as you look over the strange world you've found yourself in. There really is no point where a creature or background isn't rendered in sumptuous detail - you can see every ripple in the monsters' leathery skin or crease in the twisted metal flesh of the creatures in the walls. I have played games where I enjoyed walking around and taking in the scenery in certain areas, but every single thing in Tormentum has enough detail that it's worth your time to stop and look. Anyone who enjoys looking at creepy, monstrous things will have plenty to see here, and I'd argue the game is worth the admission price just to come and look at the macabre gallery OhNoo Studio has created.
At this point, you might be wondering about that whole game thing, though. Tormentum is a point-and-clicker, but streamlined in some aspects so it plays a bit like a complex hidden object game. Instead of being able to move around each screen, you move from static location to static location where you're only able to look around them with your mouse. Taking movement out of the equation speeds up the gameplay, as all you have to do is look over each of the screens instead of positioning yourself. Not only that, but the game also locks you out of older areas when you finish up everything there is to do in them, so if you get stuck on an item puzzle, you won't have to wander the entire game trying to figure out where you're supposed to go.
The game does a good job of pointing items out to you, as important objects glow when you hover your mouse over them. This can be pretty handy, since at times it can be difficult to figure out what's supposed to be important when every surface of the game is filled with details. Even so, despite all of the extreme detail, I found that I didn't have all that much trouble figuring out what was important in the environment. I honestly felt that this was going to be a really big problem with the game, but the artists did an excellent job guiding the eye to important objects, and I rarely found myself being tripped up for long.
I didn't find the puzzles especially hard, although a few of them seemed to fall into annoying trial-and-error territory. The clues given were vague and I often found it faster just to play around with a given puzzle until I learned how it worked. Even so, most of them weren't overly complicated, and seem to have been included to provide a little mental exercise as a break from the exploration. They felt like they were just complex enough to work my mind a bit without them becoming distracting nuisances. Also, the developers didn't put a single sliding block puzzle in their puzzle-y point-and-click game, so that makes them pretty much heroes to me.
Story is often important to my enjoyment of point-and-click games, but Tormentum's narrative is pretty lacking. The story of why you're in this world and what you're doing is dull, even when you get the 'twist' ending, and the morality system in the game doesn't add much to it, either. The lore that the game world creates for itself, on the other hand, is very interesting, even if it is super weird. Why is there working machinery that seems almost futuristic in this medieval hell? The world's history, which is only hinted at, had me more captivated than anything about my character's story or his moral quandaries. I wanted to know more about the place, and not so much the creatures in it.
The dialogue is a bit overwrought, but given the amount of insane detail in the nightmare-inspired artwork, it kind of fits. When you're talking to a pillar made of skulls and mismatched bones that's stitched together with exposed muscle, you can expect it to talk in an overly 'fantasy' way. There's no thees and thous, thankfully, but the dialogue is the kind of clunky fare you expect from badly-written fantasy novels. It's a personal pet peeve of mine and it drives me crazy, so most of the game's dialogue had me cringing. It delivers the story just fine, and not every character is guilty of it, but even so, most of the spoken words seem more built around bluntly delivering gameplay hints than subtly providing them through normal dialogue. For some this may feel in keeping with the setting, but I skipped through the speaking parts quick.
When no one was trying to tell me the story or talk to me, I was perfectly happy just to walk through the vile world that OhNoo Studio created. It was easy to navigate, lavished with endless detailed beasts, and sprinkled with occasional puzzle to keep the cogs in my head moving. It provided a fine excuse to just look at some nice paintings of terrible places, striking a fine balance between the gameplay and pure exploration. While it's not going to break your brain with its puzzles, Tormentum - Dark Sorrow provided me with a relaxing afternoon spent in a horrible abyss of torment.
Tormentum - Dark Sorrow is available for $11.99 on Steam, and a boxed version is available from the game's site. For more information on the game and OhNoo Studio, you can head to the developer's site or follow them on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.