Lamentum Review: Lament And Thou Shall Be Saved!
To lament, by definition, is to express profound grief or sorrow, usually as a result of something lost. We lament over the ending of a relationship, the loss of a loved one, or in Lamentum, the loss of the survival horror genre. Because in almost every way, Lamentum is a forlorn promise of those good days. Back when graphics were pixelated on 2D planes, saves were limited, and advantages over monster battles were determined by knowing tiny hitboxes and utilizing quick diagonal movements.
Developed by Obscure Tales and published by Neon Doctrine, Lamentum was released on August 27th. A gothic Victorian horror game about a man seeking to save his wife from a fatal disease and the subsequent elder horrors that followed. This game is in every way an homage to early horror survival titles like Resident Evil and Silent Hill.
A Horror Story Set In a “Mansion” Named “Hill”
Lamentum’s tale follows the young aristocrat Victor Hartwell. He’s a noble on a quest to save his beloved wife Alissa, who is ill with a fatal disease. After traditional medicine fails in curing her, Victor takes his wife to the secluded and mysterious Grau Hill Manor. Where, in a last resort effort, he seeks an audience with its enigmatic yet brilliant Count Steinrot, who may have the knowledge necessary to save his wife. Agreeing to the Count’s aid, Victor awakens to find a series of horrors, corpses, bloody rituals, and horrible monstrosities. Now, Victor seeks to find his wife and escape, all while discovering the dark mysteries behind Grau Hill Manor, its denizens, and its mad history.
Now, there is a surprisingly large amount of lore to discover in this world. Lots of items to collect, places and rooms to explore, and weapons to acquire, including blades, pistols, and even a blunderbuss along the way. Highlighting the backstory to this tale is the manor’s many journal entries scattered throughout the rooms, consisting of notes taken from different people who’ve also been stuck there. There are also multiple endings based on Victor’s decisions made in-game, but also based on the different collections of lore items found and used, such as coins and teeth. For the secret ending, it’s also highly likely a walkthrough is needed in order to achieve it.
Bit Monsters That Bite
Besides the pixelated artwork, what stands out regarding Lamentum’s design is its ambiance. The Gothic Victorian aesthetics are also callbacks to HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. And the mansion is also identical in almost every single way to the design of the original Resident Evil mansion, in both its map design layout and architecture. It even features lockpicks and locked doors marked with icons where specific keys of that icon are needed exactly like the RE games. If that wasn’t enough, there are also save rooms that require ink in order to save, much like the original Resident Evil’s ribbon system.
On PC, you can explore with either a keypad or plugged-in controller. Though in some areas, visibility is much more scarce depending on access to lighting. Walking around can also feel tense, filled with chilling music and quality sound design meant to evoke terror, keeping moments of uncertainty tense with sobs, screams, and even tiny pattering footsteps.
The earliest body horror monsters are slow-moving, none can drop loot, and most can be bludgeoned easily. This, however, gets a lot more complicated the farther in the game you get, as the bestiary in this game gets surprisingly elaborate. With creatures coming in all shapes, sizes, and forms. All with surprisingly different types of attacks and strength of attacks. To make it even more complicated, when a monster is on the screen, Victor becomes distraught and is restricted to a limited stamina bar, meaning he can only run so far before needing to catch his breath and rest. Also, the more exhausted he is, the more visibility fades to black.
Boom Sticks And Candle Wix
So despite really good design choices, I think players will be divided with how the gameplay in this game because a lot of it is meant to feel like old survival horror games, mostly in that it is sort of forced quality of life restrictions and a reduction in the user interface back to a system that was heavily utilized in the ’90s. For instance, much of this game is actually fetch quests to unlock certain doors by finding specific keys, all while managing a limited inventory space. However, knowing what’s junk versus what’s usable is never certain, especially given that some of these are collectible items meant for different endings. There’s also no dispose of item key, so if you’ve got wasted space, you’ll need to find a chest at a save point, even though due to the limited ink saves, it’s somewhat encouraged in standard mode not to head to these rooms often to save.
There are also several maps you can find in the game to help make exploring easier, but the system is heavily pixelated and rather hard to read. From what I gathered, blue rooms are the ones your player is currently in, green ones are save rooms, and the keys needed to open doors are poorly etched above each respective room. Though none of this was explained and figuring out what areas are impassible wasn’t straightforward. There is also no map ledger and no way of checking off what was found in a room, so tracking this for collector’s items (if you want one of the secret endings) becomes somewhat of an annoying chore.
There is a surprising amount of things you can interact with in the game. Items for collection are often found by shining pixels where items can be but can also be found by exploring desks or shelves. Items are restricted in a 9-slot inventory. Like in Resident Evil, you can combine and equip items as well as shortcut items in slots 1-3. One aspect that is annoying, however, is that you’ll have to equip some items before certain character interactions within the story (the game doesn’t let you do a ‘give’ option, so you’ll have to equip things before interacting). And though limited inkwells limit the amounts of saves, a new feature just added allows for an infinite save mode.
For players who like to scavenge everything, you’ll thankfully also be able to find plenty of ink as well as laudanum potions. I can’t stress enough, healing and saving in this game is important because of how easy it is to die during combat, from a surprise trap, or even, just a surprise boss battle. Like old-school survival horror, there are no checkpoints, which might sound appealing for some players, but it can also be annoying, specifically when having to reface a boss battle, which starts back to where you last saved instead of the battle itself.
A Good Game With An Outdated Feel
Even though it’s meant to be an homage, there’s a little bit too much taken from the games that inspired it. The manor’s layout feels like an exact copy of the Resident Evil mansion, and the fight-or-flight mechanics in an altered reality is almost exactly the mechanics in Silent Hill. Even the names feel somewhat uninspired, like Count Steinrot, which is obviously a mix of Count Dracula and Frankenstein. There isn’t as much originality with the story here as much as it was borrowing things that worked in other horror video game plots from back in the day.
However, I think the combat is easily one of my least favorite things about this game. Especially in that you don’t actually need to battle anything and can simply outmaneuver enemies by running in large circles around the map. Fighting is mostly with melee weapons that take advantage of hitboxes and diagonal evasion (which is somehow slightly faster). I will stress that patches are being released to try and fix some of the combat issues. Weapons are being rebalanced, and, as of 9/3/2021, enemies can no longer cancel your attacks — which is a great improvement as you could get staggered to death before. Unfortunately, boss fights are still much less straightforward, and like most combat, require outrunning them or using the environment to your advantage. Probably the biggest qualm about the game is that Victor can’t attack downward with any weapon, so unlike monsters, you’re forced to attack from the sides or to the north — which is a giant combat oversight that really should be patched.
Finally, puzzles seem to be the selling point of this game. But with limited inventory space, a lot of the puzzles are actually just knowing what items are needed in what location, and what to keep in storage to pick up for later. None of the puzzles are all that thought-provoking, and most clues or solutions are just answers found elsewhere that need to be jotted down physically by the player for later. I also found it irritating that you couldn’t leave key puzzle pieces in a puzzle to finish for later, and that oftentimes, the only actual puzzle was in knowing what inventory needed to be brought when players went out to explore. It was also annoying that some puzzles also needed to be done in a very specific order — despite having all components or ingredients.
For Better or Worse, It Brings Survival Horror Back
Lamentum’s story and puzzle-solving challenges do feel too much like a rehash of those very same games that inspired it. In some ways, being an almost 1-1 repetition. However, thanks to its spine-chilling atmosphere and old-school survivor horror mechanics, it does play like a survival horror game from the 1990s. So if you like those, this is definitely the game for you.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Switch; X-Box One; PS4; Developer: Obscure Tales; Publisher: Neon Doctrine Productions; Players: 1; Released: August 27th, 2021; MSRP: $14.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a Lamentum review copy to Hey Poor Player.