There are a handful of games people bring up when they discuss amazing story and writing, and the list usually includes seminal cRPG Planescape Torment. The cult classic followed a protagonist known as The Nameless One who can’t figure out why he can’t die. It was weird, elaborate, and totally engrossing, and it’s a terrific title. So when inXile Entertainment announced that it would be making a spiritual successor to Planescape Torment called Torment: Tides of Numenera, everyone knew they had some pretty big shoes to fill. Would they manage to create another strange world that explored the themes of fate, death, and existential crisis?
Well, to begin with, they’ve certainly managed to create another bizarre, engrossing world. And Torment: Tides of Numenera tosses you right into the action – in media res as the lit types like to call it. You literally crash land into the ground and spend your first moments working out who in Christ you are. Eventually, you figure out you’re a being that exists in connection with a mysterious, godlike figure. So, at its core, Torment: Tides of Numenera starts off with yet another protagonist trying to work out why they’re not quite normal.
’m hesitant to expand on the storyline because a) there’s only so much space and b) it really does warrant discovering on your own. What I can tell you is that it is *very* open-ended, and in your quest you can go in a number of directions and follow a variety of companions. You start with a singular goal of using a mysterious device which purports to have powers to help you and avoiding a sinister entity called The Sorrow, but you end up discovering so much more along the way. The game’s story is almost never predictable because the Numenera universe is such a strange place. It’s a mix of futuristic tech and plain’ old magic, and the characters you meet only get stranger and stranger. The funny thing is how much you get acclimated to the world after long enough. Whether you’re trying to deal with eccentric cultists or trying to schmooze with some big shot, you start to feel like you’re really in control.
Speaking of control, the game’s RPG mechanics draw on a mix of old-school pen-and-paper and modern design concepts, and the result is a fairly streamlined system. It’s familiar while also doing its own thing. To begin with, you have three basic classes: Glaive (essentially a warrior), Nano (more or less a wizard) and Jack (short for ‘jack of all trades’, and basically a rogue). On top of that you have special abilities and talents. I quite liked how the game helps you spec these. In the beginning, you’re presented with a bunch of disconnected scenarios that are depicted as ‘memories’ and in each one you get to choose exactly how you react. Your reactions then form the basis for your character’s setup.
Combat is actually not that important here, and you’ll find most of your work involves making the difficult choices and figuring out your best option in a scenario. I will say that the game has a heavy amount of dialogue, but it’s well-written and once you get into the story, you’ll find yourself wanting to explore it more thoroughly. Much like with Planescape, you won’t recall much of the combat encounters after the story. It’s a lot to keep track of, but it gets really, really deep. It’s grim, it’s dark, it’s sardonic, but above all else it’s a great story. While the Nameless One seeks to understand life and death, your character ‘The Last Castoff’ strives to understand if s/he has a greater purpose. It’s a wonderful kind of storytelling that echoes classic sci-fi and horror like H.P. Lovecraft, where we seek purpose in an otherwise chaotic world.
In particular, the character of the Changeling God is a remarkable one, because his immense power masks some very human qualities that you explore throughout the game. All in all, Torment: Tides of Numenera lives up to the legacy of Planescape: Torment, and that’s no easy feat.
Torment: Tides of Numenera was reviewed using a PC and Xbox One digital copy of the game provided by Inxile Entertainment and Techland. The PC version was tested by Mazen Abdallah on a PC running Windows 10, with an 8GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM, while the console version was tested by Nazih Fares. The game is also available PlayStation 4 in both digital and retail stores. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• An amazingly well-written story
• A bizarre and captivating world that mixes technology and fantasy
• A memorable cast of characters
• A solid list of character customization options
• Combat is fairly basic
• Some conversations are too long