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Tormentum: Dark Sorrow [2015 -- OhNoo Studios]

Started by Starfox, Jun 10, 2023, 02:23 AM

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Starfox

Originally published on August 23, 2019 by Silver Sorrow

Tormentum: Dark Sorrow
Developed by OhNoo Studio
Available on Steam and GOG


There's more specific game info on the Wikipedia page.

To foreshadow what this game is all about, it opens with a quote from Immanuel Kant (a real pissant, who was very rarely stable):

"Act in such a way that you treat humanity,
whether in your own person or in the person of any other,
never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end."

tldr; isn't it astounding how many people over the years have wasted their time trying to rephrase the Golden Rule to make themselves look smarter?

This is a point-and-click Adventure game. You play a hooded mysterious guy trapped in a nightmarish hellscape trying to figure out minor puzzles, all in a futile effort to justify your meaningless existence by winning a video game.

Gameplay is easy to figure out, which is good because they give you ZERO help. Apparently the devs feel that you're supposed to be familiar with the genre and how to play such games, so a tutorial is just an unnecessary extravagance.

So.

You interact with the world via mouse pointer: move the pointer around the scene, scrutinize everything, and click on an object for usefulness when the cursor turns from an arrow to a skeletal hand. Move from room to room by clicking on glowing white indicators. Check your notes (the notepad on the bottom left) for sketches concerning certain puzzles. Click on your inventory (the backpack on the lower right) and then click on an item revealed therein in order to use it for whatever reason. Click on a character to engage in a one-sided conversation. Clickety-click click, you little bastard.

In short: explore each scene, examine various items, solve puzzles. There you have it.

Fans of casual Adventure games** will find these puzzles extremely familiar: sliding blocks, connect-the-pipes, shape matching, connect-the-gears, and so on. While you cannot skip them if you get stuck, they're usually not so difficult that you need to do so. If you have a problem with one, you can just Google it; there are a couple of walkthroughs here and there, plus a couple on YouTube.

[**And what do I -- lowly worm that I am -- mean by a "casual" Adventure game? My reasoning goes back to the Java games you can find at Big Fish; the original Hidden Object Games [HOGs] (beginning, more or less, with the Mystery Case Files games) evolved over time into Adventure-style games, but with easier puzzle-solving elements so as not to confound the casual gamer. This game is in that style; there will be no Monkey Island-caliber conundrums to make you blow your capillaries.]

That's the gameplay. So there.

...but to what end, my dear sir? What, in fact, is the deal?

Ah, you speak of the story. Well...first, it's dark. You feel the sensation of movement, and you open your eyes to discover that you're in a cage slung underneath an airship. And it is flying. After you crap yourself, you notice that nearby is another cage with a huge anthropomorphic rat with a metal thing on his face who says a few things that may or may not be important later on (we're being taken to the castle because they say we're touched by evil, I didn't do anything wrong, I'm as innocent as the pure-driven snow, etc.). You reflect that, unlike the rat, you don't remember a thing except an image of a strange statue of a woman, atop a mountain.

The craft lands and you're hustled into a castle by guards in horned helmets. You're thrown into a cell and informed by a very unsympathetic guard that you're going to be tortured because you're evil.

Just another day in paradise.

"Foul being," he says, "soon you will suffer the pain of torture..."

Look, am I paying for this personal abuse or is it extra?

"This place will purge you of all evil hatched within your bowels."

Newsflash, pal...I purged EVERYTHING, evil or not, when I woke up in a cage under a friggety-fraggin' zeppelin!

The guard goes on to babble about various things that pretty much outline the entire point of your presence here...moral choices and such. Whatever. You're sure it won't matter one iota in the grand scheme of things.

Anyway, it seems the place is run by a sinister regime that takes great pleasure in torturing the evil out of people. Why? Ah...rather, why not? Never mind. Point is, you're in no mood for having your pecker twisted off with a monkey wrench. Not right now, at any rate.

Yeah. Um...okay. Obviously, you have to escape your cell. By doing so, you'll embark on a journey of self-discovery...a journey of wonder and imagination only limited by your all-too-human perceptions! Or you'll just walk through scene after scene of depraved aesthetic sensibilities. Try to guess which of these statements are true.

You'll encounter various individuals who are in need of something from you, be it escape from some horrible fate, or just a small boon. [Someone or something] needs [something] so as to [something], and then you can proceed. Variations abound. Don't ask for specifics, as none will be given. Most encounters provide you with a choice that will come to haunt you later, so be prepared. For example: should you release the giant poisonous spider a guard is minding, or should you fix the door? Either choice will clear the room, but it matters HOW you do it, later on.

See, in your journey you'll be tasked with making a series of moral decisions that will affect the ending, and there are two of them: Good or Bad. This is not only an escape from your captors, but also an examination of yourself; what will you do to succeed in your quest to find that statue? And what is this? Is it just a mole? Or is it advanced melanoma? How long do I have to live, doc?

Shut up.

If you already have a basic sense of morality (i.e., you can walk into a 7-11 without succumbing to the desire -- a desire that we all share, to some extent -- to shoot the clerk in the face and run off with a fistful of Slim Jims), the choices you will need to make are not difficult, and are obvious if you pay attention to various clues and general context. And some of them are telegraphed so clearly that you don't really need a walkthrough to navigate even the most obscure. Just remember to ask yourself, as I do in times of trouble: What Would Neil Peart Do? I find that the answer that solves all moral and ethical dilemmas is to take a full thirty seconds to go from high tom to low tom. And I do that at least twice.

Anyway.

To explore the various possibilities, I played this damn game three times. THREE TIMES. I first played with a mix of one "bad" choice and the rest "good." By taking the path of humility, I got the good ending. The second playthrough? All "bad." Got the bad ending. Third? All "good." I suspect there may have been a trick at work here, so I took the path of a humble man with no pretensions of Grace. I got the good ending.

I could've played with the outcomes and things further, but I'm not THAT interested.

And before you ask, there are no morally ambiguous decisions; it's either solution A or solution B. There is no shades-of-gray third choice. But if you're determined, you can roleplay a third choice yourself: say, instead of the decision either to let the rat out of its cage or to drop it onto spikes, you could quit the game and go get a sandwich.

Overall, it's a fairly easy game, provided that you aren't hobbled by an absolute inability to solve minor-caliber puzzles (not that I'm judging you). There's no "action" to speak of (i.e., aimbots intent on performing impromptu insults upon your person), so it's just exploration and puzzle-solving. There are Achievements (of course), and you can get all of them by playing through twice. (That is: be all Good for one playthrough and all Bad in another.) It's a incredibly short game, so that's not a particular problem if you're into Achievements. No, in that case I'd say you already have your own set of problems and you will swing for them, eventually.

But I suppose that most people who want the game aren't interested in black-or-white moral philosophy or clicking on random objects, no...they're interested in what they saw in screenshots. And...well, it does deliver something of a deviation from the norm. I mean, you can get the exact style of gameplay from other games, but drop a huge flesh-eating worm into the mix (this gives me an idea for the next time I'm asked to bake a cake), and you might just pick up a few bucks from the type of individual who spends an inordinate amount of time looking up Cthulhu-based anime schoolgirl molestation on 4chan.

So the atmosphere and art style...well. It's interesting. It verges on the Lovecraftian...sort of. This place looks like Clive Barker, H.R. Giger, and H.P. Lovecraft had one big circle-jerk on a Luis Royo calendar. For the record: Lovecraft finished first AND last, with a hearty cry of "IƤ! Cthulhu fhtagn! Make R'lyeh Great Again!!"

While I'm on the subject of atmosphere: the music. There's some nice quiet instrumentation here and there, and overall I enjoyed it. The song played over the end credits also changes depending on what ending you got. Either one is a decent example of its respective genre, and that's all I have to say about that.

As for the voice acting...ah. There is none. But there is plenty of text to read. Taking that a step further: apparently, this game is a Polish production, and the translation is done well enough that, aside from a little stiffness of diction (which sounds dirty, I do apologize) and a couple of minor typos, I have no problem with it.

Lastly...and this is my only true problem with the game...there is no manual save feature. You get the option to save and exit, and that's it as far as savegames go. Maddening for us control freaks, but not terrible once you resign yourself to your fate. Unless you change your mind about a choice you've made and want to go back and change it...you can't. In this, it is exactly like the "casual" Adventure games I mentioned earlier, as those only save on exit as well.

Sanity Saver: look in your \SteamLibrary\steamapps\common\Tormentum directory and find the dat.xlg file. That's your savegame data right there. Exit to save your game before making a big decision, and copy the file somewhere else. That's called backing up your save, son. And it frustrates me to no end that this archaic checkpoint nonsense is what we have to deal with in this day and age.

So to sum up...I am somewhat fond of the game. At the very least, it kept me busy for a while.

Guess what it means!