Dealing with certain issues in games can be tricky, even though many attempt to deal with subjects like heroism, good vs evil, and light overcoming the dark. In the last decade or so though others have gone further, trying to tackle trickier subjects; mental health, alcoholism, and abuse. In The Sorrowvirus – A Faceless Short Story the game places itself in a fantasy setting but within that tackles subjects like terminal illness, mortality and torment. It’s a strange, fragmented story that takes us on an intriguing and unique journey. But are we ready to become infected with The Sorrowvirus?
The Sorrowvirus feels like part of a series of short stories under the Faceless collection. This one follows the journey of a young man called Wyatt Heyll, who has faced illness and cancers that have made his life expectancy short. His desperate parents give him, just before he dies, a strange magical substance called The Sorrowvirus. What this substance does is infect the soul of the subject and stop it from going into the afterlife. It takes Wyatt to purgatory, where he can heal and then return to the waking world. But the downside is that the cancers and illnesses come back quicker and soon Wyatt is in an endless loop; backwards and forwards between life and purgatory. His parents are still researching to find a cure but meanwhile, Wyatt is having to live through this pain and horror. Your job is to guide Wyatt through the strange world and relieve him of his pain, and nicely there are four different endings for you in which to achieve this.
The story and premise are fascinating and excellent places to spend some time in. As you journey throughout the world, you pick up pieces of lore and narrative through documents and audiotapes. There are some creepy elements too which involve dolls that have come to life, strange tormented souls, and rooms that change orientation as you move around them. The environmental storytelling – and the writing – are key here to the game’s progression.
Here’s the rub. The Sorrowvirus – A Faceless Short Story will take you roughly an hour to complete, as you look to take in one of the four endings. BUT, there is no save throughout these run-throughs, with the whole thing designed to be played in one sitting. I can see why this has been actioned, but, honestly, it’s annoying and might put some people off completely. Thankfully, it’s here where Xbox Series’ quick resume functionality comes into its own.
You play the game in the first person, able to walk around this amazing-looking playing space. You can interact with items and grab key items for your inventory; doors, levers, and so forth can all be operated. But it’s more about moving forward through the game and exploring each area. There are clocks that you need to use as checkpoints on your way too, as the character needs to be rooted to time or he will lose his mind.
Regarding the puzzles in The Sorrowvirus and they aren’t very complicated at all, but that doesn’t mean some are not very well designed. You sometimes have to read all the documents to get clues to padlocks, or just examine your surroundings thoroughly. After the first ending, when you go back you will be able to do things you haven’t done before and the environments will change according to what has just happened; this is quite clever. It also gives a good reason for returning and trying to progress the story further.
Visually the game looks great with its use of Unreal Engine 4. It reminds of Bioshock in regards to its art style, and at other times to We Happy Few. It is certainly colourful, unusual, and thought-provoking throughout. The lighting, atmosphere, and attention to detail are outstanding and the doll’s design is exquisite; great work and a pleasure to explore the world.
The music and soundtrack are highly atmospheric as well, whilst the key storyteller importantly paints this universe well. There is some brilliant work going on from the actors involved in the voice overs; that and the text bringing the whole thing to life.
Even though you’ll only spend a short amount of time with The Sorrowvirus – A Faceless Short Story, it’s one that you’ll enjoy. It combines an intriguing narrative with an amazing world that you’ll want to spend some time in. I’m not wholly convinced about the decision to not be able to save after each playthrough, because you take the choice away from the player to dip in and out; I really don’t think it benefits the gameplay in any way. This is, however, a game that deserves multiple playthroughs and gathering up all endings is a must.
So come and give The Sorrowvirus a go and help poor Wyatt escape the purgatory hell he is living in.
The Sorrowvirus – A Faceless Short Story is on the Xbox Store