When Planescape: Torment first released for PC back in 1999, it received many accolades and was genuinely considered to be one of the best computer RPGs to be released for the way in which it told and immersed the player in its story.
Now, 18 years later, we get the release of Torment: Tides of Numenera – a game which continues the legacy of the original, now set in the world of Numenera – a table top RPG from Monte Cook.
Torment: Tides of Numenera: PC, Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Publisher: Techland Games
Release Date: 28 February 2016
Price: £39.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Torment: Tides of Numenera is based around the story of a man called The Changing God, who can jump from body to body, and when he does, he leaves the castoff bodies in his wake, which then go on to live their own lives. This man is constantly hunted by an evil being called The Sorrow, who believes him and his castoffs responsible for disrupting the balance of the world and changing the tides. The story itself is unique, and at first may seem very obscure and a little hard to follow.
Players take control of The Changing God’s most recent castoff who begins the game hurtling to earth. In the beginning, you’re faced with a lot of text and a lot of reading, that sets the tone for the whole game. Tides of Numenera is a role-playing game wth real depth to it, so be prepared to spend a lot of time reading, more so than any other in-game action.
The start of the game can be a little off-putting, but the influx of early text is essential to understanding the story, although I feel there might have been a different way to say what needs to be said more precisely, and less in a solid block of text. This text is broken up by the choices you will make and the responses you give to questions, but it is still overwhelming never the less.
Another way Tides of Numenera appears to unintentionally drown you with information is straight after you have finished falling. As you pick the personality and traits for your character, you are met by screens, traits, skills and abilities that you must choose between. For someone unfamiliar with the world or the genre as a whole, it can be a little too much so early on in the game. You have the stat pools, might, intelligent and speed, that affect how your character is able to respond to different situations and items in the world. You must also pick a class for your character, as well as their particular personality and the various skills and traits that go along with it.
Once you’re over the early phase and properly into the game, you have the usual main quests to direct you, as well as countless side quests to pick up along the way. The main quests are guided by your search for someone to fix the resonance chamber that you dropped onto as you fell, and this takes you through five or six different main areas. These areas may not be huge, but there are plenty of side quests to keep you busy and have you going back and forth a lot. Unfortunately, once you leave the games main area, you cannot return, so you need to make sure that you have completed all of the side quests you’ve picked up before leaving.
One of the best things about Tides of Numenera is the multiple endings that conclude each quest, which you can choose depending on your actions during your investigations. A quest can be ended early on if you chose the quick and easy option, whereas a little more digging and trawling of locations can lead to different endings, new in-game unlocks and more XP or rewards, amongst other things.
Using your might, intellect or speed, you can unlock new conversation options. This can be done in certain conversations and dependent on how many points of a trait you put into the prompt that appears. Even if you fail this, it can still lead the quest in a completely different direction, and this means that each person can have a quest end different to another person, making the game unique for each player.
The game also deals with death in a very unique way. As a castoff from The Changing God, who changes bodies instead of dying, you too are also invincible. When you die, you retreat back into your mind, which serves as a kind of mini-hub for a number of characters.
These characters may be in your mind already, or you can absorb certain people so that they can live on in your mind when they couldn’t otherwise. Some quests can also open up new parts of your mind, where you may have to fight off other characters, parts of the Sorrow that have escaped into your mind, or where quests can be completed. The concept of your mind being a location is a strange one to grasp at first, and it can be annoying trying to get into your mind without actually dying.
Another positive of Tides of Numenera is its fights, which, like its missions, can also be completed in a variety of ways. Entering into a fight doesn’t necessarily mean you will end up in the middle of one, you can sometimes talk your way out of it, or interact with an item to finish it, or complete it in a different way. You’ll be able to pick up some companions along the way if you play your cards right, and these companions can also help you either talk or interact your way out of certain situations.
Much like its predecessor – Planescape: Torment, Tides of Numenera relies far more heavily on its story than it does on its combat, which is turn-based, with players having a circle of movement and a choice of action that can be completed with each turn; all of which can be easily avoided with the right thing spoken.
Finding the right response to a question, or the right interaction with an item that will get you out of a sticky situation is certainly an exciting way of playing and there’s nothing quite like attempting to sweet talk your way out of a likely scuffle.
Visually, Torment: Tides of Numenera isn’t overly impressive to look at. Its graphics feel a little dated and its locations are not particularly pleasing on the eye, but this is not what the game is about, Tides of Numenera wants to charm you and pull you in with its story as opposed to its graphics.
Unfortunately, I encountered a few problems with movement and fights in my time with Tides of Numenera. The walking around can be a little disjointed at times, and on numerous occasions, my character would become stuck on a non-existent wall that I just couldn’t escape from. While fights might be avoided, when too many enemies got involved, the game also appeared to stall and had to be restarted on multiple occasions.
Torment: Tides Of Numenera is a unique turn-based RPG that thrives on its storytelling. While the game may not look all that impressive, you can be completely drawn into the stories being told, once you actually grasp a better understanding of it all. There’s a lot of information fed to you early on and you will have to do a lot of reading throughout your journey, which may feel a little off-putting at first, but is worth persevering with. Tides Of Numenera is not without its issues, and the stalling in fights and on invisible walls is more than a little frustrating, however, there’s definitely an exciting and unique experience to be had here.