Do you know what’s great? The resurgence of good old survival horror. With the Resident Evil 7 and the Resident Evil 2 Remake, we have been blessed with many other titles that focus on classic elements of the golden era of survival horror. AAA developers have slowly been bringing out more gems these last few years, but for a long while, it was the indie guys who made the most impact. Except, many weren’t so great or felt underwhelming. But Tormented Souls is hopefully going to bring its A-Game and show how the indie and even AAA developers how it’s done!What is Tormented Souls?
Tormented Souls is an old-school-inspired survival horror set in a spooky hospital, with plenty of spooks and scares occurring. Players will take on the role of Caroline Walker, a young woman who’s been dragged into a sinister mystery after receiving a photo of an unknown pair of twin girls. Caroline finds out the girls went missing at the hospital of Winter-lake and decides to venture there to find out more. Upon arriving at the abandoned hospital, Caroline is knocked out and left naked in a bathtub with no means of escape. It’s up to Caro-line to venture through the hospital and gather clues on the whereabouts of the twins, but also fend for herself as plenty of horrid monsters soon appear to harm Caroline.
Players will be exploring a large, complex environment, finding key items to progress further, solving plenty of brain-teasing puzzles, and obtaining brutal weapons to fend themselves with.Story
Caroline is just your everyday young woman, who one day receives a strange photo. The photo pictures two young girls, twins who appear to be in a rather disturbing place. The pho-to is blood-stained and has a threatening message on the back, proclaiming how Caroline could forget about them. Nightmares begin to haunt Caroline and soon enough, she decides to act.
Finding out the photo was from the Wilberger Hospital in Winterlake, Caroline ventures off in the hopes of discovering the whereabouts of the two girls. Soon after her arrival, she is knocked out and left naked in a bathtub. Regaining consciousness, Caroline ventures forth to discover the hospital is locked down and she is trapped within the hospital with various monstrous creatures. She meets a few friendly faces in the hospital, also trapped within the walls, and with their help, Caroline will find the girls and escape. But not all is what it seems.
So, I feel the story is not the strongest aspect of Tormented Souls.
Just to say before I continue that Tormented Souls does a wonderful job at pretty much everything else, including its survival horror gameplay and atmosphere, but its story is just very basic. It’s not a bad story, but rather I didn’t feel much urgency or the compelling pull other mysterious give.
Caroline, while a plucky and very brave character, lacks any other notes of personality. The supporting cast is bare-bones and acts more as device to keep the story and gameplay moving forward. Quite literally, you could remove most of the supporting cast and it wouldn’t make much difference.
But I found the biggest problem was that the story is all too predictable, and just lacks any urgency or interesting story beats. I could see some ideas being planted, yet never explored. I was interested in meeting certain characters mentioned numerous times in notes and diaries, but they never came to be.
The journey looks and sounds great but lacks any urgency or exciting beats, compared to even some of the greats. In Silent Hill, Harry Mason wanted to find his daughter and ends up getting caught up in a plot revolving around a cult and the resurrection of a demi-god. Even the original Resident Evil has some good story beats, as we see Chris and Jill look for their friends in a mansion filled with monsters and only to find out their beloved captain, Wesker, is part of the big conspiracy that made these monsters.
My point is there are games with plot twists, interesting beats, and events happening to raise the stakes. I just didn’t feel anything like this in Tormented Souls. It’s very much a beginning, middle, and end kind of game.
Tormented Souls’ story is fine, but I feel it lacks certain elements and moments to really excel it. That emotional grip, the connection between the player and characters, and something to make it different from the rest. Although the dairies and notes left by the people who were once there are a damn good read at times and offer some engagement for the story.Gameplay
While on the other hand, Tormented Souls excels with its gameplay.
I was able to speak with the co-directed of Tormented Souls before the launch and I learned that this was his and the team’s first major project. Now, making games is tough, immensely tough. And even more so for a small indie team. But sure enough, after finishing Tormented Souls, these guys proved they have some serious know-how on making an incredibly strong survival horror game.
Tormented Souls is about exploration, key hunting, solving puzzles, and dealing with dangerous fiends in your way. As you venture through the silent corridors and vacant rooms, you’ll see plenty of locked doors and points of interest that need something special. Bit by bit you explore, you discover a key item, a new weapon, or a clue that will help you unlock the next set of rooms, thus progressing further and deeper into the hospital.
The setup is pretty solid, with plenty of backtracking, multiple paths, and locked rooms to discover, you’ll be spending a good chunk of time breaking down the hospital and finding all its secrets.
But what impressed me the most with Tormented Souls was its impressive lateral elements, world-building, and combination of different elements from other survival horror games so effectively. The world design and puzzles are very reminiscing of Resident Evil, with key hunting, examining objects for clues or new items, and finding secrets deep within the environment that will help you proceed further. But there’s also a new gameplay element, where Caroline can pass through a mirror and find herself in the same place but looking very different.
As you may gather, this is hugely influenced by the likes of Silent Hill, and this works beautifully well to jazz things up a bit. Having a blocked path means you may have to venture through a mirror into the other world, and man, it’s terrifying. And the game is already freaking scary!
Plus, there’s all the other survival horror goodness here, with limited resources, death traps, and enemies that can either be avoided or dealt with by the trusty arsenal Caroline picks up along the way. Manage your health, ammo and avoid the darkness, as being in the dark for too long with have dire consequences.
And there are also Tank controls and manual saves. I love these aspects and grew up with them in the likes of Resident Evil. So, I’m pretty used to them. And for the most part, the controls are fine, if not a little clunky from time to time, especially when the camera changes suddenly. Manual saving is a nice idea and works well in horror games. There could have been a few more tapes to allow you to save, but overall it’s a good idea here and executed well enough. What works well?
Tormented Souls’ visual presentation and sound design are freaking amazing. The game looks and sounds great, with nice dynamic lighting, a beautifully crafted and detailed world, and sound design that kept me on edge throughout my time in the hospital. Everything about how this game looks, and how it sounds is perfect!
The fixed camera angles work well to effectively create tension, by blocking your view from seeing what’s down the corridor or simply making a nice framing shot of an already beautiful-looking area. Aside from the odd clunky animation here and the tank controls leading to some distortion while moving about, this really is one of the best looking, sounding, and playing indie horror games I’ve played.
Everything from its key hunting, puzzles, and world design is also great. I admired the variation and number of puzzles there were here. Being either riddles, missing items, or item combinations that require the right steps to make a brand-new key for a certain lock.
The developers have done a really great job at thinking up as many interesting puzzles as possible and finding that perfect balance to ensure players will have to do some serious thinking here and there. Even someone like me, a puzzle nut had a few moments where I was stumped, but then realised and felt amazingly rewarded for solving one of the game’s awesome puzzles. The clues are all there and the developers again have made sure to not make it too easy or too hard. Even a simple object such as a floppy disk became a much more interesting puzzle than what most recent Resident Evil games have brought us recently.
I will say though that some doors or objects need to make clearer. For instance, there is a vending machine you can interact with, but it’s not highlighted all that well. And another instance saw me locked in one area, not realising there was a shutter leading to the next area. But overall, puzzles are extremely engaging and rewarding to solve.
The previously mentioned mirror mechanic is another highlight, not only heightening tension, but acting as means to create new dangers and events in an area you already know. There are booby traps you must watch out for and even the dark can kill you. One neat element of tension sees players having to light candles in a room with no lights, to fight off enemies nearby. My heart raced in these moments, frantically creating light sources, so I can depose a nearby foe. It was great fun and something I hadn’t seen the likes of in a long, long time.
There is even a Nemesis-like moment much later in the game just to throw another spanner in the works.
Combat is fine, expected for an old-school survival horror-inspired game. But the developers again have put some effort into making the weapons look, sound, and feel impressive. Not sticking with generic guns, you find in most other survival horror games. These were so good I wanted to see more weapons! This effort really does show the developers were highly creative for their passionate project. What didn’t work so well?
Aside from a couple of clues to puzzles being quite vague and a lack of bosses, there really was little else that didn’t work. Everything was incredibly strong for Tormented Souls and I was really happy to see the developers be focused and stick to their guns.
I’ve played other games such as Daymare, which was decent but highly ambitious. And the not-so-decent Dawn of Fear …. Which is awful. So I was a little worried about Tormented Souls and if the developers, especially new developers, were biting off more than they could chew.
But I was wrong, and Tormented Souls is proof that even a small team, can make a great game.
Okay, the voice acting is not so great as well, but I have a feeling this is somewhat intentional. Overall?
I cannot recommend Tormented Souls enough. I’m a huge survival horror fan and this is what we needed and what the genre needs right now. While there are a couple of small hiccups, they don’t overshadow the sheer brilliance on offer. The world design is amazing, visually it’s a beautiful-looking game and it sounds incredible. It has some of the best sound design since Dead Space. The lateral elements are immense and highly creative, the exploration is rewarding and the combat, while nothing special is absolutely solid and engaging. Plus, there are enough neat tricks with the mirror mechanic and darkness, that really keep you on your toes. And all from a first-time developer is really terrific. Go and support Tormented Souls and play possibly the best horror game out this year!
++ Great execution of old school survival horror mechanics
++ Looks and sounds amazing
++ Great puzzles and exploration gameplay
+ Pretty darn terrifying
- Story is a little lackluster and uneventful
- Tank controls and manual saves can be a little harsh for some players
A Steam review key for Tormented Souls was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.