If there’s been a Silent Hill-shaped void in your heart for a few years, Tormented Souls may be exactly what you need to ease the pain.
Genre: Survival Horror
Developer: Dual Effect, Abstract Digital
Publisher: PQube Limited
Release date: 27 August, 2022
I’m always fiending for a good, classic survival horror experience. The earliest Resident Evils will always have a special place in my heart and Silent Hill 2 may very well be the defining game of the genre even in the Year of Our Lord 2021. I can’t say that it hasn’t lost some of its luster when compared to more modern titles, but it was a true masterpiece in its time that’s stuck with many of us.
Tortured Souls is one of today’s successors that succeeds at capturing the essence of what made the genre excellent in the past. It skillfully balances both nostalgia and modern improvements in its design for a solid horror experience. As it turns out, survival horror is still alive and kicking.
Don’t you hate it when you receive a photograph with a note from a creepy pair of twins and then you just can’t stop dreaming about them so you go to the horror mansion where they lived? We’ve all been there. You take the reins of our heroine, Caroline, just after she follows up on the twins and wakes up in a strange bathroom, missing one of her eyes. From there you wander around a bizarre manor that was converted into a hospital (because, of course) with an oppressive gloom all around you. Don’t let the darkness take you.
The manor is packed full of locked doors and brain teasers that will keep you thinking as you progress through Caroline’s story as well as a host of deformed monstrosities that will keep you on your toes. Wheelchair freaks and torsos with scythe-like blades will try to cut you down at every turn, but it’s the puzzles that will keep you grounded in the experience. Reading the journals that you find lying around is important not only for building the setting but also for giving you the hints that are needed to progress. Though there is quite a difference between the easiest and hardest of these, I found the challenge overall to be tough enough to be rewarding but not straining enough to be stressful. The combination of horror action and slowing down to figure things out is balanced skillfully. I never felt like I was playing Myst or Doom, but a spiritual successor to the Silent Hillesque classics.
Oh F***, You’re Gonna Make Me Run
Inventory management played a significant role in Tormented Souls’ forefathers, for better or for worse. This time around, it’s been lightened quite a bit and is a far less stressful experience. Carrying capacity never becomes an issue here and you always seem to have enough ammunition, healing, and saving items as long as you’re not going hog wild with them. I realized that I was hoarding as I got further into the adventure and cut back on outmaneuvering enemies and started gunning them down instead. I was always lugging around all of the ammo that I had collected as well as whatever story items were required, so rationing and planning quickly fell to the wayside. Rushing up and down staircases to avoid a wheelchair abomination later ended in me just unloading a nailgun directly into his dome. Supplies never feel truly excessive, but a raw survival horror with few methods of defending yourself this is not. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for some, the old-school combat design makes fighting challenging enough that you don’t just blow through the manor’s enemies without a little challenge.
Doom & Gloom
The atmosphere of Tormented Souls is its greatest strength – as it should be. Each area is noticeably different than the others and each new location gave me anxiety as I explored it. The manor has plenty of gore for you to stumble upon and maybe even another terrible dimension for you to play in, as if this one wasn’t cursed enough already. Even something as simple as restoring the power or lighting candles feels like an accomplishment as it rids your surroundings of the menacing darkness that will eat you alive if you don’t have any light. All in all, few titles in recent years have been able to capture the survival horror spirit this way.
Tormented Souls is a very good survival horror title even if supplies are unlikely to be an issue for a veteran player. Though some additional difficulty options could further spice up the atmosphere, this is a title that fans of the classics in the genre simply can’t miss. Not only are there plenty of challenges to be found here, but the setting is a memorable one complete with some mildly corny dialogue from time to time to make you feel at home. Here’s to hoping that we get more games like this one from these fine developers in the future!