by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
A Rising Tide
Planescape: Torment is nearly 17 years old, meaning an entire generation of players weren’t even born when the classic role playing game came out. Consistently cited as one of the best games of all time, it has a crazy high user rating across all sorts of aggregation websites. Will the spiritual successor, Torment: Tides of Numenera, live up to the legacy laid down by its predecessor? Developer inXile Entertainment and publisher Techland certainly hope so, and they showed off a demo of the latest build at Gamescom this year.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is the number three most popular video game Kickstarter of all time, raising over $4.5 million. So the budget is there to create something truly epic. And that is indeed what the developer is trying to do, as we were told the game’s currently has one million words. If that’s tough to comprehend, that’s almost double the length of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The game is set on Earth, a billion years in the future. Civilizations have risen and fallen, people who could reshape the planet, punch holes through time and space, and make the fundamental forces their plaything. These civilizations are gone now, but they’ve left their tools behind.
Humans have returned to Earth to find these tools, and as Arthur C. Clarke’s third law states, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” They’re living at a medieval level at technology, but they’re surrounded by futuristic technology, and inXile has really gone places with what this “magic” can do. Dying isn’t the end in a Torment game, as you can simply unlock ghosts in your mind which may tell you secrets about the real world. You can enter someone’s memories and change the past, which will change reality when you get back to the real world. You can help a giant robot give birth, and use its babies as explosives. There’s even a gigantic, city-sized predator with people living inside its veins.
As for the actual gameplay, you’ll be controlling a party of adventurers in isometric environments. Given the sheer amount of words in the game, you can expect a lot of dialogue, and your choices in this dialogue will help shape the world. You might want to intimidate someone, and to do so you’ll want to change companions to the one best suited for the job, in order to increase the chance of success. Certain characters in the party may have information about the world that others don’t, and if they’re not in the party, you might miss out on some vital information. This is one way of encouraging players to play through the game multiple times.
Not Morality, But Judgement
There will, of course, also be a lot of combat. It’s turn based, and usually you’ll be able to move and attack. InXile boasts a huge number of abilities and attacks to choose from, although we were only shown a handful in the demo. For example, a successful mind control spell will make enemies fight for you. The game’s “Crisis system” will have you planning your way through battles which combine things such as environmental puzzles, social interactions, and stealth. InXile is also doing away with the standard RPG alignment system, instead opting for a new one called “The Tides.” These are a psychic energy force which are mapped to your actions. Instead of Good and Evil, the various Tides correspond to various actions. For example, rash, impulsive actions will bump up your red Tide, while using wisdom to overcome an obstacle will bump up your blue Tide, and so on.
A full storyline playthrough will take you around 30-40 hours, but there’s a lot of additional content too if you start to get completionist. There will also be some subtle nods and easter eggs to do with Planescape: Torment, however we were assured you don’t have to have played the original game to understand what’s going on in the new one. Long time fans might get a kick out of the rare voice over line where the main character sighs and disdainfully says “updated my journal.”
Torment: Tides of Numenera is currently available on Steam Early Access, however development is coming along nicely, and the full game is due for release in Q1 2017. Old school RPG fans are getting ready to be spoiled over the coming year, and the next Torment game looks set to add to the tide of big titles.