Xbox One, PS4, PC
February 28, 2017
Torment: Tides of Numenera is a game whose lineage is solidly rooted in RPG’s of the past. In fact, the game is a direct successor to 1999’s classic – Planescape: Torment.
Created by inXile, a development company who is almost single-handedly keeping the isometric role-playing genre afloat, Tides of Numenera manages to create a profoundly detailed and intricate RPG experience for the player. With narrative and dialogue written as fluently and elegantly as a novel, Tides of Numenera is an incredibly refreshing and sophisticated example of the video game medium.
Torment: Tides of Numenera offers an intriguing narrative and a world absolutely brimming with lore.
The story revolves around a character named ‘The Changing God’. A being on an insane quest to achieve immortality by creating and inhabiting one body after another. You play the game as ‘The Last Castoff’, a character whose consciousness was born into the void of the most recently abandoned body or ‘shell’ of The Changing God. Your body falls to Earth, as many castoffs have before you, and you soon learn of a much feared creature called ‘The Sorrow’ who hunts The Changing God and by association now hunts you.
The world you inhabit is describes as the ‘9th World’ because it is believed that 8 great ages existed prior, all of which had disappeared or were destroyed. The current age is fairly primitive but there is remnants of a high-tech past scattered around you. These remnants of the past are known as the Numenera and their affect on the world isn’t completely understood.
The lore of the game is also fantastic. Examining your surroundings, talking with NPC’s or talking to your own party members will give a huge amount of backstory into current happenings, areas, characters or the Numenera. The game has found a way to create a world worth inhabiting and some lore absolutely worth uncovering.
Here is where Torment: Tides of Numenera really shines. The game is written with the quality and complexity of a novel, something that is just all too rare in video games. The depth by which the game will describe a character or an event is staggering with intricate detail and multiple dialogue options always present. The game refuses to dumb itself down to pander to a wider audience and for that it has my commendation.
Here’s where I will issues a bit of a warning however. Whilst the game’s writing is superb, reading those beautifully crafted words may genuinely take around 60-70% of your total play experience. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a knock against the game, it achieved exactly what it set out to do, but I just know there are people out there who will suffer from narrative and dialogue fatigue. The game isn’t interested in being a product of mass appeal. It wants to be niche and novel in the current gaming space, even at the cost of its own accessibility. This leaves Tides of Numenera in an interesting place – it is a great game, but not a game I could recommend to every gamer.
Even as somebody who did appreciate the game’s writing, it occasionally felt like it went too far. This is because Tides of Numenera didn’t utilise the video game medium as well as I thought it could. There was moments when it felt more like a choose your own adventure book than a video game. As an example, the game would describe a sound rather than play it, it would paint a word picture rather than show an image, and it would even describe an entire set of actions, decisions and consequences rather than have the player play them out. Whilst I understand this is an artistic choice, it did sometimes feel like my time wasn’t being respected.
Torment: Tides of Numenera offered quite the RPG experience. It was a little shorter than what I expected but there was enough depth for me to forgive it. The questing and mechanics of the game had variety and intricacy and it structured itself perfectly to promote multiple play-throughs. In fact, as soon as I completed the game, a second play-through was exactly what I did, because I wanted to find all the quests and items I knew I had missed, play the game with different party members and spec myself out differently with new skills and abilities. The game also had enough complexity to its systems that I wanted to implement my new found mastery right from the get-go.
“the game can be played in its entirety without engaging in a single fight”
Tides of Numenera is crafted to be the perfect game for that DnD player who is cunning or persuasive enough to avoid every combat encounter they can. This is because the game can be played in its entirety without engaging in a single fight. In fact, Numenera does a fantastic job of being viably played in multiple ways with multiple solutions existing for any given quest.
Whilst combat can be avoided, I actively sought it out because some of the best moments of that game came from what it called a ‘crisis’ situation. Whilst combat only exists within a crisis, the crisis can often be dealt with via non-combat means as well. A couple of moments in particular stood out where I had to make decisions during a crisis and split my party to achieve multiple tasks at once, it was genuinely thrilling and tense.
- Fantastic lore & narrative
- Superbly and intelligently written
- Satisfyingly complex RPG mechanics
- Quests can be solved multiple ways
- Too much reading for some
- Doesn't always utilise the video game medium to full effect
Torment: Tides of Numenera offers the perfect experience for fans of Planescape: Torment or fans of any isometric RPG for that matter. The detail, intricacy and sophistication of the game’s writing and questing was something to behold. If you can get through the dialogue and narrative density that the game has on offer then you may have just found your newest love.