One Photo. Two Sisters. Upon receiving a terrifying photo, what started off as an inquiry into what happened to those sisters turns into a nightmare. Tormented Souls, released in 2019, attempts to capture the essence of classic survival horror games, drawing inspiration from the likes of Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Fatal Frame.
While it successfully establishes a gripping atmosphere with its detailed environments and visceral gore, the game falls short in certain aspects, leaving players torn between nostalgic appreciation and frustration.
A Journey Into Nostalgia
The strongest aspect of Tormented Souls lies in its atmosphere, effectively combining elements of horror and suspense with detailed environments and gruesome imagery. The game’s environments are meticulously crafted, immersing players in a world that oozes a sense of dread and decay. The use of lighting contributes significantly to the eerie atmosphere, with shadows and darkness playing a crucial role in building tension. The visceral nature of the gore adds to the horror, creating an environment that is both repulsive and captivating.
Complementing the visual elements is the oppressive soundtrack that accompanies the gameplay. The music and sound effects in Tormented Souls are haunting, enhancing the overall experience of suspense and oppression. But the game falls short in many aspects as well. Tormented Souls bombards players with an abundance of puzzles, reminiscent of classic games from the 90s. While puzzles are a staple of the genre, their frequency in Tormented Souls may be overwhelming for some players, hindering the flow of the narrative. Additionally, the voice acting in the game is reminiscent of the 90s era, with performances that may be considered subpar by modern standards. However, some players may argue that this adds to the nostalgic charm and authenticity of the game. It’s hard to say if this was done on purpose to mimic the classics of the genre or if it was just genuinely poorly done.
Tormented Souls stumbles in other areas. The lighting mechanics, particularly when using the lighter, veer into the realm of the unrealistic. The absence of a subtle shake effect diminishes the immersion, making the lighter feel more like a powerful LED flashlight than an actual flame.
Surely you can’t just copy every flaw of the 90s?
The frequent changes in camera viewpoints also pose a challenge, as movements get remapped, leading to unnecessary confusion and potential frustration for players. The change of viewpoints occur way too often for no reason whatsoever, and while some angles give very good visuals, they fail to work in a functional way. When you have no idea where you came from when moving around in a single room, this is a sign things are done wrong. Note that the game is done in full 3D, and is therefore unauthentic as such change of cameras were done in an era when real-time 3D graphics were too expensive to produce on older hardware, and instead relied on 3D characters moving over pre-rendered backgrounds.
Shooting enemies in Tormented Souls proves to be a cumbersome task, exacerbated by the inability to move the camera around freely. This limitation harkens back to the mechanics of classic survival horror games but may feel clunky and outdated to contemporary gamers. Imagine knowing that there is an enemy just in front of you, but the stupid camera system locks the view in a way that you can only see your character from the top and 2 meters in front of you - you have to wait for the enemy to reach you before you know where to shoot. This was an issue back in the 90s, and this is still not solved here.
The archaic save system, reminiscent of Resident Evil, imposes restrictions on saving, allowing players to do so only in specific areas using consumable items. This approach may be deemed excessively punitive and frustrating, especially in the context of modern gaming expectations. This again is a poor design choice. The reason why older games resorted to such savepoints was because the memory cards to save such states had very limited memory. These constraints don’t exist anymore and nobody was nostalgic about waiting one hour to save the game.
Enemies in Tormented Souls, despite their varied appearances, exhibit similar behavior patterns. This lack of diversity in enemy behavior contributes to a sense of monotony and predictability, diminishing the overall impact of encounters. Additionally, the game suffers from an excessive amount of backtracking, a design choice that may test the patience of players, leading them to question whether revisiting areas enhances the overall experience or merely serves as a time-consuming hurdle.
Tormented Souls offers a mixed bag for fans of classic survival horror. While it successfully captures the atmosphere and aesthetic of its predecessors, the overemphasis on puzzles, outdated mechanics, osbsolete camera systems, and frustrating design choices may deter quiet a few players. It’s a shame because the game is well done in many ways: graphics and environments are beautiful, the main character is likable, and the atmosphere convincing.
Those seeking a nostalgic journey into the horror genre may find merit in revisiting the actual classics like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or Fatal Frame. They may end up with a more satisfying and less tormented experience.
What about the Steam Deck?
The game runs well on the Steam Deck. Not in ultra graphics mode, but if you are willing to customize things a bit, it will run mostly between 30 and 40 fps at reduced wattage (for longer battery life), which is acceptable. It has a verified status too, which feels accurate this time. just don’t play alone in the dark with it.
We have been offered a Steam key to review this game by the publisher. #tormentedsouls