The Sorrowvirus: A Faceless Short Story markets itself as a riveting horror story packed with unique ideas and chilling atmospheres to terrify its player. Unfortunately, what follows are cheap jump-scares, a frame-rate more choppy than Jason Vorhees and an uninteresting protagonist whose illness isn’t enough to leave me feeling sympathetic.
An Endless Cycle
You control Wyatt Heyll, a man plagued with various diseases that have led him to inevitable death, over and over and over again. This recurring spiral is caused by The Sorrowvirus, an essence administered by Wyatt’s bereaved parents that prevents his soul from passing on and keeps it trapped within Purgatory. This paranormal world is depicted as a place of danger, terror and tragedy. A saddening tale, indeed, but The Sorrowvirus leaves much to be desired, and I felt the need to rush through the story in hopes of reaching the ending.
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Be(u)tter
Upon opening the game, I was met with some of the worst frame-rate issues I’ve ever experienced. The Sorrowvirus is ‘optimised for Xbox Series X/S’, but unfortunately, it felt frustratingly janky and had broken any sort of immersion I could have gained by playing the game. The Sorrowvirus’ horror elements, including its jump-scares and the creepy atmosphere, are heavily toned down and make much less of an impact when it feels like the game is running around 10fps. I found myself hoping for an area of the game to be smoother than the rest, but alas, my dreams were crushed, and it made my playthrough more difficult than it should have been.
A Short Story, Indeed
On a positive note, The Sorrowvirus has a very unique storyline in which the parents of our protagonist refuse to let their son to die and forever place him into Purgatory using the Sorrowvirus, an ailment that traps the soul to wander a fake reality. Wyatt is critically ill, and by injecting him with the Sorrowvirus, his fate is delayed and brings his parents time to find a cure for his ailments. Contained within Purgatory are dolls that taunt Wyatt but also act as guides and even as key items for certain event triggers. Wyatt must also avoid dangers such as zombie-like anomalies that prowl Purgatory, which cause instant death upon being touched. As intriguing as the story may be, however, the experience is too deflated to really provide any enjoyment.
Plin Plin Plon
Promising an ‘atmospheric soundtrack’, my playthrough of The Sorrowvirus on the Xbox was fairly lacking. From the beginning to the end of my first playthrough, only one piece of music played throughout the entire duration of the game. There were only certain audio cues that offered some difference in atmospheric tone, making for just a slight change of immersion before drawing back to the same overplayed, however quite soothing, music track. One section of the game did ramp up the horror by dropping the music in favour of diegetic sound effects, such as enemy growling and echoing footsteps. However, this lasted ten to fifteen minutes at most before reverting back to the previous, already too familiar piece of music, as if the character had left their Spotify playlist on repeat. In fact, the music piece is an exact duplicate of the one used for the most recent gameplay trailers. Hopefully, this will be patched soon, and console players can enjoy a more varied soundtrack in future updates.
Check Your Surroundings
Thankfully, the game’s environments are richly detailed and offer some excellent imagery. For instance, Wyatt may look out a window and notice a giant doll-like figure looming beyond the night sky. In other areas, figures wrapped in white sheets hung on coat racks or nailed against walls can be seen around the Purgatory, possibly teasing Wyatt as we know his penultimate fate is yet unknown through his constant and reoccurring spiral of death, then life and then death once again. Documents and audio files are scattered amongst Purgatory. Documents themselves might as well have their own chapters, dwelling deep into the lore of the Sorrowvirus through paragraphs so wordy that they could be worth 20 marks on an English exam paper. Audio files offer a deeper look into Wyatt’s illness and try to build upon his character through an array of up to par voice actors.
At times, The Sorrowvirus: A Faceless Short Story is empowered through its environmental storytelling and satisfactory voice acting. However, the game is sadly plagued by an awful frame-rate and, quite frankly, an unfortunately boring style of gameplay. One might feel like they are stuck in Purgatory themselves if they dedicate a couple of hours to this version of the game. The PC version of The Sorrowvirus seems like the place to go until the console versions are patched and optimised more closely.
Developer(s): EastAsiaSoft, Watchmaker
Publisher(s): Adam Sklar, EastAsiaSoft, Watchmaker
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC
Release Date: 27th April 2022 (consoles), 28th February 2019 (PC)