By Fabrice Stellaire / March 20th, 2017
|Title||Torment: Tides of Numenera|
|Release Date||February 28th,2017|
Planescape Torment was memorable to many RPG fans. An enthralling universe unfolded above the player, with rich dialogue and numerous possibilities to solve complex situations. Most fights could be avoided, and the game constantly reminded us of the superiority of mind over body. Eighteen years later, we are given the opportunity to play Torment: Tides of Numenera, a spiritual successor of Planescape Torment, with a different universe but a similar philosophy. Does it live up to the legend?
Set in a distant future, the game tells us the story of a Castoff. Castoffs are bodies who once hosted the spirit of The Changing God, a former human who achieved immortality by constantly switching bodies. The hero, who we will call The Last Castoff, is hunted down by an unstoppable being called The Sorrow, who pursues the Changing God and his Castoffs. The tutorial starts after the main character wakes up and allows us to understand how the gameplay works. I must say there are some unusual rules, even for people who are used to playing western RPGs.
You have three pools of statistics – Might, Speed and Intellect, with a certain amount of points that depend on the class you choose to play. Those three pools will be used during dialogue and fights. Spending points increase your odds of succeeding in performing an action, like an attempt to hit an enemy, intimidate someone, steal an item, persuade someone to help you, etc. The only way to restore those points is to sleep or use items. Fights are called Crisis and are turn-based, but you will quickly figure that you can avoid most of them.
Fights are one of the main flaws of the game. I agree that fights are not always essential in a RPG, and that it is interesting to be able to avoid them but even so, I feel they are much too scarce in Numenera. Even in Planescape Torment, there were times where you had to face enemies and try to use a good strategy to beat them, and while those fights were not really exciting, they allowed a change of pace in the gameplay. There was a situation where I was forced to fight during a sidequest. Fights had been so scarce that I felt a bit lost, so I had to restart the battle several times to understand how to defeat my opponents. Even so, I did not get the feeling I was really applying a strategy. I could use cyphers (powerful items you can use to help you) to turn the tables, use my spells, send my warriors to defeat the dangerous foes, but in the end, I did not get the feeling of excitement I experience while playing RPGs like Baldur’s Gate 2 or Shadowrun Dragonfall. This issue makes the game a bit more monotonous with time, and may affect replayability.
Fortunately, the quality of the writing is good, very good, and it is always interesting to talk with the different NPCs of the games to discover their past and learn about the lore of the Nineth World. Depending on how you build your character, you may have access to unique options that unlock specific content. For example, the exploration talent Anamnesis makes you more likely to remember past memories that do not necessarily belong to you, and gives you precious information that you can exploit. There are six companions you can recruit (you can only have up to 4 of them in your team, however) and they have interesting conversations, but overall I found their background less interesting and developed than in other classic RPGs. Aligern and Matkina, for example, have a past filled with secrets, but interactions are nowhere near as deep as they were with Dakk’on or Annah in Planescape. Likewise, Erritis, the comic relief of the group, does not have the charisma of Minsc in Baldur’s Gate.
I tried to play the game without being blinded by nostalgia, and without being tempted to compare it to references of the genre, but even so I think I experienced a legitimate feeling of disappointment. The environments are wonderful and mix technology and magic and the sound design fits the atmosphere perfectly, but overall I think the game missed some opportunities in the gameplay department. The skill system does not let you build something really elaborate. I read a comment stating that Torment: Tides of Numenera was intended to be closer to what you experience when you play a pen and paper game, and I think this is true but it comes at the cost of the tactical aspect of the game, making fights clunky and slow-paced. This issue will probably be polarizing and prevents the game from being a masterpiece but if you can overcome it, you will still experience a good adventure. You should be able to complete the game in about 20 to 30 hours, depending on how you approach the experience. Sold at the price of $44.99 on GOG and Steam, Torment: Tides of Numenera may not be the successor we expected but still delivers a complex and well written story.
Review Copy Provided by Publisher.
inXile EntertainmentSteamTorment: Tides of Numenera