Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: Halls of Torment

You find yourself trapped beneath the surface. Surrounding you on all sides are horrors; skeleton armies, pestilent slimes, demons, hellhounds, and specters. You are lost in the Halls of Torment. Armed with your main weapon and perhaps a few other gadgets and gear, your only goal is to survive. With ever-increasing waves of monsters to fight back, you’ll need all the strength you can muster in order to keep from being overwhelmed. Thankfully, you can easily toggle auto attacks.

Conceptual Meta-Wank:

I love a good copy. If something worked for one person’s game, why can’t it work for you? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played a game that was fundamentally Resident Evil, just without the Umbrella Corp. The experience is no less for having not been entirely unique; indeed, it is nigh impossible to come up with something truly novel. That’s why I love games like Halls of Torment. It takes what is tried and true, and does it tremendously.

It’s Vampire Survivors and Diablo 2. What else can I say? The hordes of beasts keep coming and you can only hope to swat them away and munch down on the precious gems they drop. Gather some goofy secondary weapons and buff your passive stats and go to town on the skeleton hordes and their lords. Halls of Torment has combined two critically acclaimed games, one from 2022 and one from 2000. They took what worked and left what didn’t and what remains is a true masterpiece.

Non-Wanky Game Recap:

Halls of Torment’s gameplay is a bit like tag. The monsters run pretty much straight at you for the most part, and you have to dodge and evade while hacking away in order to keep them from tagging you in the vital organs. Move with WASD, aim with the mouse, and run. There are I think eight unique classes, ranging from sword swinging Swordsman to flamethrower spraying Exterminator. Each class has its strengths and weaknesses, and I have yet to play one that is not tremendous fun. 

What Works:

What works in Halls of Torment is pretty much all the things that worked in Vampire Survivors. The ever-increasing difficulty of waves of monsters is just barely held back by the increasing strength of your character, which requires a lot more quick thinking and forethought than one might expect. It also takes some pretty stellar elements of Diablo 2, most notably, equippable legendary armor and jewelry, while tossing aside all those pesky white and yellow rarity items. And of course, it takes D2’s unbeatable visual style. 

What Doesn’t:

There’s not a whole lot that doesn’t work in Halls of Torment. Of course, as with many of Vampire Survivors’ contemporaries, if your build isn’t well made, you are more than likely doomed to die, especially on the harder levels. Such is life with RNG. But other than that I struggle to think of anything the game is lacking.

How To Fix It:

As with any good Survivors-like, more interesting characters are always appreciated. Much steeper of an ask for a game so detailed as this, compared to the simple 2-frame sprite Vampire Survivors has for their characters. Additionally, Halls of Torment could stand to be a little less stingy with the items that you buy; frankly, it’s kind of hard to farm gold, especially in the early levels. Neither of these are really fixes because the game is fine as is. But hey, I have a format and I need to stick to it, even when it amounts to some exceedingly minor complaints. 

Wanky Musings:

Not every game dev is going to invent the next Five Nights at Freddy’s international hit indie game. Novelty is unreliable and fleeting and rare. Halls of Torment is a great reminder that you need not invent a whole new genre in order to make a fantastic and lovable game. In fact, oftentimes it’s the exact opposite. Do what works best, and work with whatever style you like to play. An artist, at the end of the day, should make the art they themselves would like to see, or in this case, to play.