I was lucky enough to have been invited to the preview of a game called Torment: Tides of Numenera. The game continues the legacy of Planescape: Torment, which is reportedly considered to be one of the best RPGs of all time. I had never heard of the game before, but having read the game’s short description on Steam my interest had been piqued.
“Torment: Tides of Numenera is the thematic successor to Planescape: Torment, one of the most critically acclaimed role-playing games of all time. Immerse yourself in a single-player, isometric, story-driven RPG set in Monte Cook’s Numenera universe. What does one life matter? Find your answer.”
Now I can’t tell you an awful lot about the story, the devs were very persistent that they wanted the story to remain a mystery. Having played it, I can understand why. Here’s what I can tell you.
The player plays as The Last Castoff, a consciousness which was born in the body of an aoens-old being known as the Changing God. The player is fleeing from a creature referred to as The Sorrow, which hunts the Changing God’s castoffs across time and space. Being a video game, shenanigans happen leading to all kinds of quests that the player must undertake that sees them explore the vast world of Torment: Tides of Numenera.
Unfortunately I can’t discuss the story any more than that but I can tell you I thoroughly enjoyed what the parts of the plot I did see. There certainly seems to be a lot of lore there for us to get into once the game releases. But enough of that though let’s jump into what I can discuss; the gameplay and it’s mechanics.
In the briefing before we actually got to play the game, it was made very clear that choices and their consequences would play a heavy role in the game’s mechanics. That for me was a big deal. I am a massive fan of games that place a heavy emphasis on choices, but have often found that these choices become irrelevant in the long run. You often find yourself in the same situation regardless of the choice you pick. Telltale games are a good example of this. Either person A dies, or person B dies. Yet the end result is always relatively the same. However this didn’t seem to be the case with Torment. In my 2 hours with the game, I made many choices. While playing, I would chat to the gentleman next to me and find that he had made a different choice and had received a completely different outcome. Not a tiny change in outcome either, this was quite a fatally big change. So it certainly seems that, at least during my 2 hour stint with the game, decisions and consequences actually had some weight to them. How this plays out in the grander schemes of things remains to be seen.
Ability Pools & Sharing
Next we should discuss a very cool mechanic in the game. Each character in the player’s party has 3 Tides. These are basically skill pools, and you are shown how much of each pool you have left. Certain actions will use certain pools. For instance, persuading an NPC will use the Tide associated with Intellect. These don’t naturally restore over time. The only way to restore them is to rest so Tides must be used wisely. You may find yourself low on Tides, but here’s where the cool part comes in. In Torment, it is actually possible to use another character’s pool to complete a task at hand. Let’s take the example we used a second ago; persuading an NPC. If you have used all of the Intellect Tide pool for your character, it is possible to use the Intellect Tide of another character to persuade that NPC.
Performing actions work in a way similar to probability. You have to use the Tide to increase the probability of the action being successful. The more you use, the more likely it is to succeed. Yet at the same time, the faster your Tide empties. Characters with more Intellect than you will have bigger Intellect Tides, meaning it may be worthwhile alternating between the two characters when performing tasks that use that Tide. This seems like a more viable option when you learn that each character has certain traits that give them advantages in certain tasks. One character in my party had a trait that meant that she had a higher chance of succeeding in tasks that required speed or nimble fingers, such as picking a lock. Therefore, using her meant she naturally had a higher chance of completing a lockpicking task and so I had to use less of her Tide associated to lockpicking. It is admittedly a complicated system to get your head around, maybe even more so when you are reading this having never experienced what I am talking about. Trust me though when I say that, after having played the game for a little while, you will understand what I mean. It sounds complicated, but when seen in action it makes sense and proves to be very helpful.
The game does have a combat system, but it refers to the whole event as a crisis. It seems that it is referred to as a crisis due to the fact that combat is not the only way to remedy the situation. A crisis is carried out as a turn based combat system. The player can move the character they are controlling closer to an enemy and then either attack them or, if possible, talk to them and diffuse the situation. It’s even possible to stir up trouble and sit back and watch NPCs kill each other if that is your thing. There is also the choice to move the character further away from an enemy. Now this may sound a little stupid, but sometimes it will be necessary. There were a few times where I found myself being flanked and consequently trapped in a corner by the enemy. It’s easy to forget that they can actually cover a great distance, so thinking one step ahead is highly recommended.
The combat system itself is fairly standard. You move, then attack assuming you haven’t used all available action points for that round. Not much else to say here. The combat system itself isn’t really all that innovative, it’s the tried and trusted method. Now that isn’t by any means a bad thing, but I do feel that the ability to talk to NPCs during the crisis and being able to influence the crisis in that way saved what would have felt like an otherwise stale combat system.
Console Vs PC: Which platform should you grab it on?
Now this topic is not normally one I would delve into, I would simply say that you should by the game on whichever platform is your primary platform. However my time with Torment made it very clear that this game was intended for a a PC release. I played the game on a PS4 at the preview, and the game was playable. I only ran into one problem. That was interacting with NPCs, or leaving the area. These fall under the same issue as you leave the area by interacting with the leave area section of the area you are in. For reasons I am unsure of, interacting with these two things took a while. NPCs weren’t too bad at first. It was a case of waiting for all characters of the party to be next to you, then waiting as your character moves themselves into the position to trigger the conversation. While mildly irritating at first, the irritation seemed to accumulate as I spoke to more and more NPCs. When you combine this with the same thing happening every time you leave an area (which I did plenty of during my 2 hour stint) it becomes even more frustrating. It is worth noting that the game is in Early Access and this may be a reason for that.
While playing I used an item to restore health to my character, and I managed to break the game slightly. When playing on PS4 the left stick moves the player and X interacts. I somehow managed to revert the game to it’s PC controls, meaning that the left stick now acted as a mouse and X acted as a left mouse click. Again, this was an Early Access version of the game. I informed someone from the event that I had broken the game slightly and while they went to grab someone from Techland (the game’s publisher) I continued to play the game.
While “broken” it was still playable, and it turns out it was in fact more playable with the mouse cursor. The delay when interacting with NPCs was now gone, leaving the area was immediate. It eventually did revert back to console controls (when I died in a crisis), and with it the interaction lag returned. This lead me to decide that, given the choice, I would personally play the game on PC. Even when playing the game it was very clear that the interface was made with PC in mind, and then adapted to fit on console. It is playable on console, however navigating the menus feels slightly tedious.
Now what I played was a preview of the game, and was not the finished product but I did get a good feel for the game. My interest in this game went from 25% to 100% in the first hour of me playing the game. The plot is good, the lore is rich and the consequences are very real. It feels refreshing to play a game where I can dictate the outcome of a crisis while the crisis is happening. This on the fly decision making, mixed with the other elements I mentioned beforehand, makes this game a must have for RPG lovers. Just grab it on PC if you can.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is set to release February 28th for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. You can check out more of the game on it’s site, and be sure to check back in in February when we have a full review of the published game on the site.