Torment: Tides of Numenera Review
Writing a review of a game like Torment without giving away spoilers is something of a challenge because of the nature of the game. As the spiritual successor to the classic Planescape:Torment, it attempts many of the same features and almost everything that can be written about it could be considered a spoiler of some sort. However, I shall do my best to avoid anything major.
The first thing that must be understood is that this is not your average action RPG. In fact, it could be said that the 'action', or combat parts of the game are limited and while I don't think it is possible to totally avoid combat, most of it is optional. This is definitely not a Wizardry or Might and Magic game much as I love both of those series. Instead it is closer to a graphical text adventure game with massive amounts of reading to be absorbed. The majority of the progress one makes in Torment comes from choices made through dialogue and interactions with the environment rather than through killing things.
This is not necessarily a negative. Combat is always an option, but there appears to be no XP given for it. You don't have to kill everything that moves in order to advance to the next level. I have tried resolving issues both peacefully and through combat and it doesn't seem to make a difference. The XP is granted for discoveries (which make exploration important) and for completing quests (of which there are a lot). How you manage to complete the quest is not important, the XP is always the same. This actually allows you to employ your preferred playstyle and not miss out on anything important. I suspect though that how you resolve a crisis might impact your choices later in the game, so there are consequences for your actions.
In Torment, you create your main character (The Last Castoff) at the beginning of the game and then you recruit up to three more characters (from a pool of 6) to round out your party as you explore and complete quests. I found the initial character creation sequence a little weird and eventually useless as before you begin the main game you can totally change any and all of your initial choices.
I believe that the initial sequence was designed to allow you to make a variety of choices which would appear to indicate which character type would best suit your playstyle. You have three basic choices: Glaive, Nano, and Jack. These more or less correspond to your traditional Fighter, Mage, and Rogue. Your initial choices of Skills and Abilities are very important as they will have great impact on both choices you can make during the game and on general gameplay as well. While they are all given descriptions to help you choose, I found myself unsure which was best. After playing the game and seeing how things work I believe I could have made better initial choices. I guess that adds to the replay value.
Unlike most modern RPG's you don't get any choice with your avatar; it's either an ugly male or an ugly female. Gender has almost no impact on the game. As you progress in the game you will, as expected, gain XP which will eventually allow you to 'level up'. In Torment, it is done a little differently than in most RPG's. You begin as a Tier 1 character and every time you gain a level you can improve one of four areas, but you can only improve it once each Tier. These four areas are: Stats, Edge, Effort, and Abilities/Skills. Once you complete each of these four areas, you will rise to next Tier which will open up new skills and abilities. There are only four Tiers in the game, so you have limited choices over what to improve. This is further complicated by the fact that Skills and Abilities are different, but you only get to improve one of them each Tier.
Edge and Effort are tied to your three Stat pools which are: Might, Speed, and Intellect. Whenever you do something, either in combat, or dialogue and sometimes even in exploration, you (or one of your companions) will use a particular Stat pool. For example, trying to 'Persuade' someone to do something will make use of the 'Intellect' Stat. The amount of Edge you have in Intellect will determine how many 'free bubbles' you get where each 'bubble' represents and increased percentage chance of success. You may then add 'Effort' which will increase your chances of success while draining your Stat pool. The amount of 'Effort' you have associated with a particular Stat pool represents the number of extra free 'bubbles' you get before Stat pool depletion begins. Your Stat pools only replenish with resting (which usually costs money called 'shins') or by using expensive potions which you have to buy from a merchant. Merchants have limited stock and while eventually money becomes a non-issue, early on it can be quite scarce when you really need it the most.
The good news is that your companions can help you with 'skill checks' so you don't need to be a generalist if you have a balanced party. If your 'Jack' has the skill 'Quick Fingers' and you don't, then let them take the skill check rather than your main character if and when it is appropriate.
Your companions are important and each has an interesting back story and usually a quest associated with them. You begin with two who are immediately available, but within a very short period of time you are forced to choose between them as they do not get along. After that, you have to explore and complete some quests to obtain the services of the other possible companions.
Let me digress slightly for a moment. One of the things I enjoyed the most in the original Planescape, were the incredibly written companions and their at times hilarious comments. Sadly, that is lacking in this game. Aside from the very beginning there has been no interchange between the characters except for some between your main PC and a companion; usually as part of their personal quest. I don't find them all that memorable either; certainly nothing to compare with 'Fall-From-Grace' for example, or 'Morte'. This is definitely one area where the game could have been improved considerably.
The quests are many and varied with nary a Fedex in sight. Be warned, however, that some have a 'hidden' timer attached to them. For example, you are tasked with solving a gruesome murder, but if you delay more than a couple of days (while completing other quests), then suddenly you will discover that someone else has solved the mystery and you have lost the XP. Also, each of the three main areas in the game are independent and once you leave one for the next, you will be unable to return, so it is important to complete all quests in an area before moving on.
As the game is very heavily story based and many of the quest resolutions come from dialogue options (though certainly not all), it is difficult to talk about them without spoilers. One interesting point though, is that sometimes failing a quest, or even a part of a quest can actually produce more options than if you actually succeeded. There are many ways to approach and eventually complete nearly every quest which adds to potential replay value. Sometimes, success in one quest will make another more difficult, and vice versa. Variety is certainly the spice of life here. All are well written and well-conceived.
As in the original, Death in T:TON is used as a tool to either move the story forward, or open up new quests. Sometimes it's even necessary to progress in a quest, much like in the original Planescape. When you die, either in a fight, or by your own hand/choice, you are taken to a part of your mind called the Labyrinth, where you can discover new information, talk to special characters, or take on new quests. There are many ways to enter this place and discovering some of them is part of the fun of the game. What you do there can affect events in the real world as well. In fact, certain quests can be determined by the choices you make there. Losing a fight and going through the Labyrinth can actually help you to finish a quest. Remember, there is no XP given for winning a fight, only for completing the quest in which the fight occurred. This certainly saves on reloading a previous 'save game' every time you die during a battle.
Aside from the Labyrinth, there are three main areas, or locations in the game. Two are massive while the second is relatively small. You begin in the Sagus Cliffs, proceed to the much smaller and far more linear Valley of Dead Heroes and finally finish up wandering the weird and wonderful Bloom. Each area has side quests, though not many in the Valley compared to Sagus and the Bloom which have a myriad; all of which are different and able to be completed in different ways. Completing one easy side quest in the Bloom, for example, can potentially offer brand new optional solutions to both other side quests and the main quest itself. This inter-relationship between the quests is well done and encourages the player to both explore everywhere and attempt every quest on offer. This I believe is good game design.
Eventually, though, events begin to narrow down to the 'end-game', but even here there are choices and options which can lead to a multiple of different possible endings. Every choice you make will have an impact on the game at some point and especially with the various endings. Again, this adds further replay value to the game. Every quest can potentially change various aspects of the game and your dialogue options will vary depending on which characters are in the party, so there is definite replay value here.
In conclusion then, while this is definitely not a game for everyone, especially those whose main idea of fun is to run around killing everything that moves, it is a game full of rich and thoughtful content. Yes, you must be prepared for a massive amount of reading, but the majority of the text is well written and quite often very engaging. You will need to think carefully at times about how you approach each and every main NPC and how you inter-relate with them. As I said earlier, story, dialogue and to a lesser extent character are central to this game along with a great deal of exploration. If that's the sort of game you enjoy, or like me you absolutely loved PS:T, then this is definitely the game for you. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
Information aboutTorment: Tides of Numenera
Developer: InXile Entertainment
Play-time: 40-60 hours
Voice-acting: Partially voiced
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2017-02-28
· Publisher: InXile Entertainment
- A Spiritual Successor to PS:T
- Great Atmosphere and Setting
- Tons of varied and interesting quests
- Heaps to explore and discover
- Well written and dialogue based
- Relatively short (about 30 hours)
- Walls of text for those who don't like that
- Limited combat opportunities
- Character interactions are lacking
- Steep learning curve for some