Inspired by classic horror-survival games, Tormented Souls aims to bring a similar vibe to current players. Did it succeed? In a sense it did. However, I found the overall story to be a bit lacking.
I was provided with a free Steam review code of Tormented Souls. The opinions I have shared are my own.
Tormented Souls doesn’t hide from the fact that it has been inspired by titles of old. While playing this game, you will remember the earlier Resident Evil and Silent Hill installments as you move around a creepy establishment. The protagonist, Caroline Walker, moves around via tank controls. The camera is fixed. And there are a whole lot of puzzles to solve while you try to survive mutated beings that are out to kill you. It might not be perfect but for classic RE fans, it will scratch the itch the newer RE installments haven’t been able to.
Set in Canada, the premise is simple enough. Caroline Walker gets a mysterious letter that has a picture of two young girls. You can tell Caroline’s connected to the girls somehow because she gets a headache when she looks at the picture. Anyway, for some reason, Caroline decides to figure out what happened to the girls and makes her way to an old mansion that functions as a creepy hospital.
Now, I’m not against Caroline snooping around. However, getting a bit more context would have helped the narrative. Is Caroline an investigator looking for the next big scoop? Is the letter from an old friend who needs her help? What is going on with her outfit?
I would have preferred the writing team to explain Caroline’s actions better. According to the game, after getting the letter, she’s been having horrific dreams involving the girls. Caroline just can’t get them out of her head. That’s why she decided to visit the Wildberger Hospital two weeks after receiving the letter.
Ummm. Maybe go to therapy instead? Also, who dresses like that?
Talking about the RE titles, while not featuring the most well-written stories, at least, the writers added some emotion to the premise. In Resident Evil 2, Claire Redfield came to Raccoon City looking for her missing brother and got stuck in the unexpected zombie outbreak. Seeing Caroline drive up to the mysterious hospital, on her own, at night, made me roll my eyes.
Anyway, of course, things turned worse for Caroline. She’s hit behind the head by someone and wakes up in a bathtub with a tube in her mouth and the right side of her face bandaged up.
And this is where I need to warn you about the nudity involved in Tormented Souls. Now, I have nothing against nudity if it serves a narrative purpose. However, seeing Caroline’s entire naked body be shown as she got out of the tub, made no sense to me. I thought her captor had modified her body or something and that’s why her body was being displayed in such a manner. But nopes. Other than missing her right eyeball, there’s nothing else wrong with her.
Frankly, seeing Caroline naked like that felt exploitative. Caroline’s shown fully naked for approximately a minute. There’s also another nude moment (this time involving another character) right before the final boss battle. So, keep that in mind if you’re playing this game with family members around.
Once out of the tub and fully clothed, you get your first puzzle and thus begins Caroline’s journey to solve the mystery of the two missing girls and how she’s connected to what’s happening in the hospital. The story’s quite predictable. I’m actually surprised the writers didn’t come up with something different to try and misdirect the players.
To be fair, I did enjoy the time-traveling aspect of the narrative and how moments in the present can be changed depending on Caroline’s actions in the past. Regardless of the weak story, I do think that the time-traveling was handled well and the concept made sense.
There’s also a lot of religious imagery and text going around. One of the people Caroline meets in the hospital is an old priest. Indigenous tribes are also mentioned, which I think was a storyline that could have been explored further.
As I have already mentioned, with the tank controls, fixed camera angles, and lots of puzzle-solving, the gameplay is reminiscent of the Resident Evil and Silent Hill offerings. I will recommend that you consider playing this game with a controller. Using a keyboard and mouse, as I did, could frustrate you.
After recording my gameplay session (which you can view below), I switched to the controller, and that made things easier. I understand that certain people have trouble aiming their weapons when using a controller, but don’t worry. Caroline will aim at enemies herself. All you have to do is have her take aim and begin shooting. So playing with a controller shouldn’t be an issue.
While I understand Tormented Souls was going for nostalgia, I do feel the creative team should consider releasing a patch that lets you choose if you want to play with tank controls or the modern alternative. I say this because tank controls can be annoying for the newer generation of players. Adding modernity to the controls of Tormented Souls could help attract more players to experience this game.
Talking about modernity, I do feel Tormented Souls should also have an option to allow players to Autosave. Caroline has to find recording tapes to save her progress. A single recording tape is used up every time you save the game. Also, depending on how much of the story you have gone through, you will need to make long treks back to the limited Save Room locations to save your progress while hoping you don’t die during the trip and needing to replay a huge chunk of events you have already gone through.
As for the enemies, they do look scary and dangerous. The good news is that they aren’t bullet-sponges. So, you should be able to take them down after 8 to 10 shots from the nailgun or even a single shot from the homemade shotgun (depending on the enemy you’re facing). Just make sure that the enemies are actually dead because they will get back up and try to kill you again.
Though this is a survival-horror game, you shouldn’t be too worried about saving ammo. During my gaming session, I was able to find enough ammo to take down the monsters I encountered. A good tip to save powerful ammo, when facing stronger enemies, is to use a shotgun only once and then kill them with the nailgun while your opponent is still trying to get up from the ground.
While I liked the designs of enemies Caroline had to face during her escape, I think adding mini-bosses would have helped make the action-y aspects of Tormented Souls more enjoyable and challenging.
Along with giving you plenty of ammunition, the expanded inventory also takes away from the survival-horror aspect. There’s no inventory management involved in this game, which is kind of disappointing. You can basically pick up every item you find without worrying about running out of inventory space.
Coming to the puzzles, they are fun to solve. Tormented Souls had the type of puzzles that will make you think. So make sure to read all of the documents you find for clues and hints. There’s a lot of backtracking involved, but that’s to be expected when playing such games. After a while, you should be able to memorize the layout of the building instead of referring to the maps every few minutes.
The Wildberger Hospital is quite memorable as a setting. I loved the environmental design with lighting playing a huge role. You will need to move around quite a lot with a lighter equipped to keep the darkness away. Staying too long in the shadows without a source of light will allow the shadows to kill Caroline. She does find an electric torch later in the game, though, which makes running around with a weapon in hand possible. Candles can also be burned with the lighter to create a source of light while you shoot down monsters.
You can tell the creative team spent time developing the environment. The strategic darkness and lighting do amp up the scare factor and how you need to take down monsters. I also liked how, in certain areas, the camera was tilted. Such a creative choice helped make the game feel more immersive, in my opinion.
All in all, if you have been waiting for a survival-horror game that’s inspired by the classics, you should consider checking out Tormented Souls. The story and certain game mechanics might be lacking, but it still makes for a fun time.
If you don’t need too much time to solve puzzles, I think you should be able to complete this game in under five hours. I get that Tormented Souls is not the longest horror game out there, but the classic offerings were also quite short once you figured out the puzzles and where to go.
PQube, Dual Effect and Abstract Digital Works’ Tormented Souls was released on Steam on August 27, 2021. You can see which other gaming platforms the digital and physical versions of this game are currently available for by visiting the official website.
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Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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