Torment: Tides of Numenera holds the distinction of being the "#1 Most-Funded RPG on Kickstarter", and there's a good reason–with the pedigree of inXile Entertainment behind it, and promoted as the spiritual successor to the seminal PC RPG Planescape: Torment, this title has a lot to live up to.
Luckily, Torment: Tides of Numenera comes to the table prepared. Trading the world of Dungeons & Dragons' cousin Planescape for Monte Cook's pen-and-paper RPG world Numenera, Brian Fargo and his team of developers have crafted an adventure RPG that boasts bizarre and numerous quests, NPC's, party members, and fantastic game mechanics that make conversations more rewarding than they'll ever be in real life.
With great console controls implemented on top of all that, it's worth checking out. The Day One Edition of Torment: Tides of Numenera for the Playstation 4 can be picked up at Amazon.com, and clocks in at $49.99 US.
Much like Planescape: Torment, the game opens with you taking charge of a nameless character who knows nothing of their past. Unlike that game, Torment: Tides of Numenera begins with your character falling from a stratospheric height, plummeting towards the unforgiving ground below.
You awaken after impact in a construct of your mind, where you learn that a tentacled inter-dimensional monstrosity known as "the Sorrow" is set on eradicating you from existence. After fending it off and making your way back into the waking world, you discover that you are a "castoff". A castoff is a person created by an immortal body-swapping god known as a "The Changing God", and not everyone is a fan of that particular deity, whose selfishness is well-known. The Changing God built the Ninth World (the world Numenera takes place in), and then treated it as it's own plaything; it's your task to learn what your role is in the Changing God's game.
Oh, and there's one more thing–you may actually be the changing god, itself. Everything's up to you, and your decisions massively affect the game. We're not talking Mass Effect changes, but radical, character altering and impression shattering changes. Multiple playthroughs, anyone?
The writing is amazing, which you'd expect from the spiritual successor of Planescape: Torment. What may not be expected is that the writing is even better. Torment: Tides of Numenera has, without a doubt, the best writing we've ever come across in a game (and we've been playing them for a helluva long time.)
While Torment runs on the Pillars of Eternity engine, there are some radical mechanical departures that make the game feel very different. First, this game is focused on conversation. What does that mean? Lots and lots of reading. We're talking novels here, folks; however, since the writing is so fantastic, and your dialogue options majorly alter story outcomes, this reading is a joy.
Also, since this is a traditionally PC-centered game genre (Baldur's Gate spin-offs, essentially), it's nice to be playing Torment: Tides of Numenera on my PS4. What's even nicer is the option to increase the text size, which is crucial when playing a text heavy PC game on console. Playing the excellent Grim Dawn on the big screen was excruciating because of it's minuscule text, and developer inXile addressed that potential downfall quite well, though we could do with an even larger option than the maximum currently allowed.
The conversations are driven by your choices in dialogue, but also by the "Tides". These are essentially emotional vibes, and they are huge in Torment, as they drive how characters react to you, and how events unfold in the world. The tides are coded by color, and there are Blue, Gold, Indigo, Red, and Silver tides; as you make decisions, you'll be advised that certain tides rise. The more decisions you make, the more you'll be able to discern which tides relate to which emotional states. This adds a new layer of strategy to the overhead western RPG formula, as you can weigh decisions based on how you want the tides to be balanced.
There are also unique options in conversations that may be revealed depending on your main character's stats. If you have high intellect, you will perceive NPC's ticks, or other details that can help you get what you want. Many of these options will allow you to spend "Effort", which can increase your chances to succeed in whatever you're trying (whether it's an act of deception, persuasion, or just plane smashing something). You have effort pools for Intellect, Might, and Speed. The amount of points in each only replenish after a stay at an inn, or through the use of items; this means that you may want to save points, even at the risk of failing a task, since staying at inns or buying items is fairly costly. Your party can pitch in their points for many tasks, however, but not those specific to your character (such as tasks that depend on remembering forgotten moments).
After all this talk of the amazing conversation, tidal, and effort systems, players might be thinking we're avoiding talking about potentially sub-par combat. Thankfully, the combat in Torment is actually very good. It is turn-based, which takes place during a "Crisis"; the crisis system is similar to the original Fallout 1 and 2's combat system. Once a crisis occurs, all movement and action stops, as each character's initiative is rolled to determine which characters act first. Players have control over both the main character (referred to as "the last castoff"), and up to 3 other party members. The party members come in all shapes, genders, species, and alignments, and talking to them frequently can bring about quests, grant bonus experience, and affect how a party member treats you (they may even leave or attack, if the relationship is bad enough). Why are we mentioning conversations even during combat? Because it can be done! In fact, crisis moments can be ended or altered often by trying to talk to your enemies, which is both unique and effective.
During a character's action phase, they can move, and attack, and one does not expend the other. Characters can also use skills and items, the former of which can be learned through purchasing enhancements, completing missions, and by leveling up. There are both passive skills that are always active, and those that you have to initiate, which generally have a limited amount of uses before you need to rest. There are also status effects, which are called "fettles" in the world of Numenera; these can be good (such as offering damage boosts), or bad (such as causing lowered defenses when flanked by opponents).
To add to the effective combat system, there are also many environmental objects that can be utilized to your benefit, such as a pipe that spews acid in the direction of your choice. Pile on top of that "Cyphers", which act as spell scrolls, artifacts, which act as reusable scrolls or wands, and "Bonded" items, which increase your stats and grant abilities, and you have a robust and varied combat system that is never dull.
While the PC version offers traditional mouse-click driven gameplay, inExile followed their Wasteland 2 porting work with a unique controller setup that allows players to use the shoulder buttons to cycle through nearby interactive items/characters. The D-PAD and face buttons all cue up different menus, and character movement is direct and via the left stick. It all works well and feels natural after only a few minutes, and is also available as an option for PC owners of Torment.
graphics and sound
The graphics are pleasing, and the design is excellent. Airships, sculptures, towering cliffs, and ruined remnants of worlds past are all rendered in vibrant colors and have well animated moving parts. They are more reminiscent of Pillars of Eternity than Planescape, but it does fit the world more accurately, and feels in-line with the story. One minor criticism is the character portraits–they aren't terrible, but neither did we find them particularly pleasing. Most characters' portraits are ugly or plain, which adds to the rundown vibe of the game, but overall seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity in a game where every other detail is crafted to perfection.
There were the rare moments when the graphics stuttered, moments where the gameplay had to catch up with character movements; though incredibly minor, it does seem as though the PS4 should be able to handle the minor toll of the game engine, leading us to believe the game could be optimized a little better with future patches.
The music and sound is excellent, and makes the ominous and strange Ninth World feel as though it's in your living room. Leave it on in the background, though, and it's got the potential to bum you out with it's morose nature.
If you like reading, bizarre worlds, and have a console or PC, you'd be well-advised to give Torment: Tides of Numenera a try.
|+ The best writing in a game. PERIOD.||– Character portraits are a bit ugly.|
|+ Conversing is as rewarding as battling.||– Could be slightly better optimized.|
|+ World design and graphics are fantastic.|