Release Date: 2/28/17
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Publisher: Techland Publishing
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4
This game is very interesting, in the best possible way.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, an isometric RPG from 1999. Now, I haven’t played Planescape, so I can’t really comment to any similarities between the two games. But I can still say that I found this one immensely enjoyable (so much so that I went out and bought Planescape, though I haven’t had a chance to play it yet).
Torment: Tides of Numenera takes place in the very distant future, where humanity is basically at the level of the Middle Ages and past technology (called numenera) is considered magice. The game puts you in the shoes of the “Last Castoff,” the latest in a long line of bodies created and used by an entity called The Changing God. There’s also a creature called the Sorrow that’s been hunting the Changing God and his creations (which unfortunately includes you), and you have to find some way to stop it. Of course, it’s not really all that black and white.
Of course, along the way you recruit some companions for your quest. There are six in total, but the kicker is that you can only recruit three of them. They each have their own interesting quirks and backstories. For example, one of the first ones you can recruit, Callistege, exists in several planes at once, so she has a bunch of echoes of herself floating around. Then there’s Erritis, who comes across as a sort of comic relief character, until you learn his actually kind of dark backstory.
Then there’s the Last Castoff themselves. One thing that kind of disappointed me about the game is that there isn’t a whole lot of character customization. You can choose the character’s gender, but you can’t change anything about their appearance. This makes sense, because an aspect of said appearance (the tattoo on the side of their head) is very important to the game’s theme, but I like playing around with customization options. There are also three classes you can choose from: glaive (which is basically a warrior), nano (mage), or jack (rogue). You can also choose a short description of the character that also affects various stats and abilities.
The gameplay is fairly standard for an isometric RPG: you click on areas in order to move to them, as well as objects or characters to interact with them. There are certain times where you enter a turn-based encounter (referred to as “crises”) where you click on enemies to attack them, or allies to heal or buff. In order to do certain actions, you spend points out of three stat pools (might, speed, and intellect). What I found interesting is that you can use those stat pools to basically talk or intimidate your way out of some crises (although there are a number that are unavoidable). They can also be used when interacting with the environment; for example, you can use speed to pickpocket someone or might to move a large boulder.
Then there’s one of the most important mechanics, and what the game is named for: the Tides. Tides are basically “the currents of urge and emotion that flow through humanity’s collective psyche,” according to the game’s official wiki. Gameplay-wise, they serve the same kind of purpose as other games’ morality meters, but with a lot more nuance, and the Last Castoff’s dominant Tide changes based on their actions. For example, my character’s Tides frequently changed from Gold (empathy and sacrifice), to Silver (desire for fame), and Indigo (justice). These shifts don’t change dialog options, but do affect how other characters react to you. So, it’s not as simple as say, the character being good or evil.
Another sticking point here is the length. The game is relatively short for an RPG. I finished my first playthrough in under 20 hours. However, after I finished it, the first thing I did was start a new game. This is mostly because I realized that there was quite a bit that I had missed in my first playthrough, and also because making different choices in the game results in different outcomes and I wanted to see what kind of changes I could make.
Graphically, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. Backdrops and locations look amazing, with a lot of really cool things to look at; however the actual character models aren’t all that impressive. This is not as big of an issue as it could be, however; due to the nature of the game, you aren’t usually going to get a very good look at them. There isn’t a lot of voice acting in the game, but what’s there is quite good.
Generally speaking, I highly recommend this game, The story and characters are engaging, and it brings up a lot of interesting themes.