Tides of consequence.
Even though I’m someone known for having a rather extensive knowledge of JRPGs, the same could not be said of WRPGs. That is not to say that I don’t enjoy them, but when it comes to the older titles such as Baldur’s Gate or Planescape: Torment, I have little to no experience at all.
In the case for Planescape, I was told time and time again that it had some of the most compelling narrative ever told in a videogame, and even though I gave an earnest effort to get into it, it simply hadn’t aged well enough and I could not stick with it.
However, the release of Torment: Tides of Numenera presented the perfect opportunity to experience the talents behind Planescape: Torment in action, and I was happy to grasp it.
MSRP: $44.99(PC) $49.99 (PS4/XB1)
Platforms: PC, PS4, X1
Controller support on PC: Keyboard/mouse, console controllers as well as the steam controller.
Length: 25~ Hours
As the newest cast-off body of an immortal god, the player finds him/herself being chased by a force known as “The Sorrow”.
No, not the one from Metal Gear Solid 3.
Instead, it’s a creature created to restore balance by destroying the immortal Changing God and his various cast-off children he has sired over the many centuries.
Piecing together the truth behind the enigmatic Changing God and the menacing Sorrow felt compelling almost immediately, and I found myself seeking out every bit of information I could from the various denizens in the world of Numenera.
Character interactions, whether it was with my party members or some random NPC, always felt like an adventure unto itself due to their eccentric nature. One moment I could be talking to a vendor that sells artifacts who was fully embracing the fact that she was turning into some sort of insect, and next moment I was inquiring a child just exactly why she was talking to a rock.
It was an absolute pleasure to just wander around the various environments looking for new characters to talk to, and I found myself exhausting every dialogue choice as they presented themselves.
The various main and side quests in Numenera also impressed, almost always having more than one way of resolving a situation, and it wasn’t just the flavor text that would change as many decisions held lasting consequences that would echo throughout the rest of my playthrough in surprising ways.
One particular example of this was when I was tasked with investigating a murder scene and bringing the culprit to justice by analyzing the facts and listening to testimony. However, in between the sleuthing expedition, I decided to rest at an inn to recover my precious status points and woke to find news of another killing with the same MO.
When I loaded up my save from the previous day and fingered the likely culprit, I rested again and woke to find that there was another killing and this time, a different individual had become the victim.
Eventually, I was able to find the correct culprit on the first day preventing any more murders, but seeing the dynamic progression of the quest really gave the impression that time was of the essence and everything I did had meaningful consequence.
Visually speaking, Tides of Numenera is built using the same engine that powered “Pillars of Eternity”, and as such it shares the same perspective as well as a similar overall visual design.
It’s plain to say that the graphics are not the selling point of this title, but it doesn’t really take away from the experience either.
The major crux of the gameplay revolves around three stats- Strength, Speed and Intellect. After resting at an inn, these stats are fully refunded, and they are spent constantly during conversations to see if the player could get away with lying to someone or picking their pockets without them noticing.
Based on the proficiency of a skill, the number of stats spent expanded can vary wildly, and the skills/stats of the party members could often be used in the player character’s stead, which helps greatly when covering for areas where the player is not suited for.
As I played as a spell caster with high intellect, I relegated the tasks requiring quick hands or a strong arm to my party members.
In combat, these stats are used for increasing the efficacy of various skills, and even though it was tempting to use the maximum number of resources to guarantee that a skill will land, it was often smarter to leave it hovering at around 75-85% and conserve points whenever possible.
The turn-based combat was fairly easy to grasp, with attack and movement being separate actions. Positioning was paramount to success, as one wrong move could easily mark the death of all my party members. Luckily, the player has access to numerous one-time use artifacts with game-changing effects that they can use during a pinch, and even though I could only carry a handful at a time, they often turned around encounters which would have otherwise been completely hopeless.
Even though I found the combat to be mostly enjoyable, it would often hard-lock during an encounter forcing me to alt-f4 out of the game to the most recent save.
If this happened only once I could write it off as a freak accident, but it occurred a total of five times during my playthrough, and I feel obligated to mention it.
Also, there are no difficulty options to make the combat easier for those not looking for a challenge and simply wanting to enjoy the wild story Numenera has to offer.
Lastly, while by no means short, I felt the game ended a bit abruptly after I’d only explored a handful of hub areas, and frankly I was expecting there to be much more to do before the credits rolled.
Torment: Tides of Numenera impresses where it truly matters. The intriguing premise and a world filled with eccentric characters begs to be thoroughly explored from top to bottom. If not for the technical issues with the combat and the rather abrupt ending, this could have easily ranked with the best of what’s turning out to be one of the best years for gaming. While the issue of whether or not it lives up to the lofty standards set by Planescape is a question I’m not qualified to answer, I can say without any hesitation that Numenera deserves your attention either way.
Fun Tidbit – I highly recommend taking the perk that allows you to read the surface thoughts of people you interact with. The amount of context it adds is quite invaluable.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.