Go back in time, into the far distant future in this CRPG.
Back in the mists of time, pen & paper RPG players were able to take their Dungeons & Dragons adventures into incredibly detailed worlds using campaign packs, with the most famous being the Forgotten Realms. The popularity of these settings gave birth to the likes of novels and, later, computer RPGs, with Forgotten Realms being the setting for hugely popular titles in this genre such as Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale.
Another of these campaign settings that proved popular was Planescape, which spawned the computer RPG Planescape: Torment back in 1999. While not proving as popular as the more traditionally fantasy based Forgotten Realms RPGs, the game still managed to strike a chord with gamers that were looking for something a little more unusual from their PC gaming.
Whether it be through nostalgia of those that remember Planescape: Torment, or the promise of extraordinary writing and unique settings, there was obviously a desire for a sequel, be it actual or spiritual. And so, when InXile Entertainment began a KickStarter for a spiritual sequel with Torment: Tides of Numenera, the response was massive and the project quickly passed its KickStarter goals. Torment: Tides of Numenera is now out in the wild, available on both the Xbox One and PS4 alongside the more traditional PC.
The uniqueness of Torment: Tides of Numenera begins with the story. Perhaps having a hero with no memories is not the most original beginning, but it certainly gets a lot weirder from there. Set in the far, distant future, in the Ninth World, the player takes on the role of the Last Castoff. Not the most appealing title, but an appropriate one nonetheless.
The thing is, there is an immortal being known as the Changing God, who manages immortality by simply moving from one new and improved body to the next. When changing bodies, the old body is cast off and develops its own consciousness. It is as this last cast off that the player gains consciousness and awakens falling through the sky. After a short bout of memories that serve to help create their basic character, the player will be left to answer questions about their existence in a strange new world, all while being pursued by the mysterious The Sorrow.
The player will find themselves traveling through a selection of weird and wonderful environments which would astound and amaze if they were just a little better looking. The detail is impressive, there is plenty to look at in each area of the game, but it just feels too retro, and the character models reveal themselves to be quite dire if the player zooms in too far. The interface too, which the player will spend so much time concentrating on, is bland and uninspiring.
However, Torment is a game about the story, and it is here that things really shine. The game is littered with side quests alongside the main story quest, and they are all really well written. The player will come across other castoffs as well as all manner of different beings, and they all add to the incredible narrative. Players will really have to concentrate on what is going on and what they need to do as there is very little guidance or hand holding, but the those that can invest the time and focus, the rewards are plentiful. That being said, those who are not willing to read more text than they ever had before in a game, may find Torment too heavy going. Voicework is rarely used in the game, so page upon page of text is what players should expect.
In fact, Torment: Tides of Numenera could be described as an interactive novel considering the amount of text that the player will read. Choices that the player makes will have consequences on the rest of the game, and encounters can be resolved in many ways other than combat. Players are actually encouraged to avoid combat where possible, and can play through the entire game with only a handful of battles if they choose. Talking your way out of a battle, or indulging in a little deceit, are all options for avoiding combat and furthering the narrative.
Which is fortunate, as the combat in Torment is just not that great. It is a turn-based affair, and while it is not particularly difficult, it just drags on for ages. The opponents take so long to make their moves and complete their turns, that any time the player needs to plan their actions is topped off with ample thumb-twiddling. It is a perfectly competent system, but it just takes too long and is too fiddly.
Other aspects of the game struggle as well. Simply traveling around the game world can be troublesome due to the lengthy load times, and there are more than a few glitches along the way, including framerate drops. Technically, the game has problems on the PS4, but hopefully many of these will be fixed in time with patches and updates.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is a game that requires concentration and an investment of time. The setting is imaginative and really enjoyable, and the narrative through the game is some of the best I have seen. The varied approaches to encounters really gives the player choices other than combat, and should be applauded. But the combat itself is dull and drawn out, and multiple bugs and glitches take the shine off the adventure. Torment: Tides of Numenera tells a great tale and can be thoroughly engrossing, but players looking for more than just a good story may well be disappointed.