by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
A novel game
In a way, Torment: Tides of Numenera starts off much like an interactive novel. And there is a heap of reading to do in this novel, which may turn some people off the game right from the beginning, especially since it isn’t mixed in with much action. But Tides of Numenera is an RPG and, as such, you should reasonably expect to have to do some reading in order to get up to speed with the backstory. Tides of Numenera has a delightfully immersive story, but it is the equivalent of a War and Peace size novel. Players will need to work through the initial few hours of the game in order for it begin to take shape.
The game is a spiritual successor of the 1999 game Planescape Torment, but, not having played it, I jumped into this as a complete newbie. The story has the player in the role of a ‘Cast-off’ of the Changing God. The citizens in the strange land of Numenera fall mostly within two categories: those who love the Changing God and those who despise what the Changing God has done to them. There are dozens of local inhabitants with whom you can converse, and each of them has their own story to tell or problem that needs solving. Within the towns there are also various factions that have opposing views of the Changing God and how you interact with one faction can often determine how the other factions perceive you.
How you interact with the other locals will also determine your dominant Tide. The Tides (from the title) relate to the various personality traits of the player. Each quest or response to queries from the locals will give of one of the five types of colour Tides. The Tide which the character has the most of, will affect how your character is perceived. Indeed, some of the characters will only seem to interact with you if you show a leaning towards a particular Tide.
Apart from the main story line, quests can be undertaken quite easily, simply by speaking with the inhabitants of Numenera. Each will offer advice, information or a reward for completing quests. Some characters will even be able to be recruited as companions for your journey. Companions can aid in quests and in combat and will each bring with them varied skill sets. Like many other party based RPGs, it is best to recruit companions that have skills that complement your own. Using your skills uses up skill points and these can only be recovered through resting at various locations throughout the land, usually for a monetary cost.
Combat (or lack of)
Depending on your style of gameplay, you can virtually forego combat altogether with the use of a sharp tongue. Persuasion is a valid tactic throughout the game, one that seems to be strongly encouraged, along with the option to use stealth and distraction techniques within your party. Also encouraged is the use of the environment in battle - using bottlenecks, for instance, to narrow your focus. Once in battle, the turn-based system works reasonably well. A little bit of planning before jumping into each battle goes a long way into deciding the victor, as does using special Cyphers and your inventory items to your advantage. Again, combat does not seem to be the main focus of Tides of Numenera, which may be a negative for some players.
From a visual standpoint, the game reminded me much of Pillars of Eternity with the isometric view, familiar to old-school role playing gamers. But the visuals are far from retro. Like the story, characters and locations are wonderfully detailed. The camera can be zoomed in and out for overhead views or close-ups of the locations. Numenera itself has the look of a medieval–type fantasy setting, despite the technological advances of the world. The world has a somewhat sterile feel, with clean cobblestone streets and strange buildings, and the interface also has a clean uncluttered look. The well laid out information allows you to select important items and skills quickly when required, as well as making it easy to keep track of quests and inventory with the touch of a button, not that there is much need for speed.
A slow burn
I never got the chance to play the original Planescape Torment, and so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect with Tides of Numenera. But the game brings with it a story that is wonderfully detailed. Each choice you make and each person you meet along your journey seems to alter the course of the game and those within Numenera. And this is to be commended. Unfortunately, though, many may feel that there is not enough action or combat, and I’d probably agree with them. The game did take me a long time to warm up to it and I’m still not totally sure if it was worth the time I’ve spent. But the story has drawn me in as I delve further into the story of the land and its characters. With some wonderful visuals and some beautiful locations, Torment: Tides of Numenera is well worth a look for RPG enthusiasts.
Detailed story, wonderful visuals.
Very little action, especially early on.