Torment: Tides of Numenera (Mini Review)

What becomes of a God’s waste is the challenge facing you in Torment: Tides of Numenera: the latest game from inXile Entertainment and billed as the spiritual successor to the classic Planescape: Torment. After a VERY successful Kickstarter campaign back in April of 2013, the game finally arrived in February of this year and gives players an old school RPG with a mountain of text and an impressive knack for giving you nonviolent options.

The opening of the game is going to be confronting to many players simply through the sheer amount of text that you are going to read. There is A LOT. I’m not saying that there aren’t other modern games that have a comparable amount of reading but it seems by the game’s own design you will rely more on the text window at the bottom of the screen than the graphical view above it. It is somewhat appropriate then that the opening does push the player to reading because little else is revealed at that stage.

Dark beginnings for your character…

The story begins with you knowing nothing about who you are or why you’re stuck in a rather unfortunate situation but the game quickly makes it clear to you that choices can have lasting (perhaps fatal) consequences.

It is from there that your character begins to take shape too. As you try to make sense of the world, decisions are made through flashbacks which help to define who you are. When the time comes to commit to those choices you can make some alterations if you prefer but I found that the game’s initial selection to work well enough for how I wanted to play. To me, it was an impressive way to start.

There are only three defined “classes” for you choose from and these fit into the archetypes of fighter, rogue and mage but the number of skills, attributes and buffs you can apply look like that might go a long way to letting you make someone unique. For my character I ended up choosing the mage type (known as a “Nano”) and there was an option for my character to literally read the thoughts of NPCs as I interacted with them which allowed further insight into conversations. That something like that is possible really shows the amount of work that’s gone into the game.

It’s pretty neat to see how the spirit of Planescape: Torment is maintained here. Role-playing games have always been about giving players choice but their electronic versions have a tendency to put combat above all else. So it is rare to see one that can make conversation your greatest weapon, let failure be as important as success and make a story less about saving the world and more about simply saving yourself. The world itself is reminiscent of Planescape by it creating a world of possibilities where seemingly dissimilar characters and settings can coexist.

Where Torment revolved around a city hub linking various planes of existence, Numenera is about a single world where civilizations have come and gone so often that if one civilization were a sheet of pasta this place is like a Lasagna you sat on, dropped a couple of times then tried eating without knowing which side was meant to be on top.

Companions are a big part of the game and Torment makes sure that you are not alone from the outset.

Visually the game is serviceable and does effectively present the game world to players but by the nature of the game you’ll find yourself leaning more on the text for making sense of what you see. And that text does a fantastic job of it too as what you might see as a human-like NPC turns into something far more interesting thanks to detailed and colourful descriptions. Audio is okay but don’t expect a lot of voice acting as it appears to be used sparingly and only for key moments. The game has received considerable support post release, including an additional companion with their own related quests, so the game 

Hard to say more about this game except I am barely scratching the surface of it at this time. The amount of text you face could be intimidating but if you’re willing to give it a chance the quality of what’s there will justify it in spades. And the game doesn’t ease you into the story either – it isn’t long before you are in a position to have an impact on the world around you and that is pretty cool. Usually it feels like you have to go through a lengthy tutorial stage before you get into the real meat of the game but here you step into the first town and you can literally find a life or death quest path right there in front of you.

One thing is certain about Torment: Tides of Numenera and that is you’re probably going to want to sit down in a quiet room for a few hours at a time to absorb all that the game brings. I think I’ve barely scratched the surface in my time on it so far and will probably need to lock myself away for a few more nights to really get deeper into it.

Torment: Tides of Numenera is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Reviewed on PC.

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