For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed using a review code provided by inXile Entertainment. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of this product.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is the spiritual successor of Planetscape: Torment. The type of game that Torment is not usually my cup of tea, and games I would not really take the time to play, but, did Torment change my opinion of this genre?
The story revolves around someone known as the Changing God, who is a seeker of knowledge and wisdom. In his mission for his legacy, he discovered an ancient technology that allows him to transfer his consciousness to bodies of his design – known as cast-off vessels. His original vessel was not perfect, but each transfer gave him chance to improve, making them healthier, more intelligent, and resistant. Due to moving between these vessels is where his name spawned from.
He discovered that his cast-off vessels did not remain hollow when he fled to the next one, and were capable of living on their own. He originally treated them like children, however, soon his immorality changed him, and he took no interest in their fate. In escaping death the Changing God spawned a creature known as The Sorrow, a creature whose only goal is to kill the death-cheater, and his entire lot of cast-offs. This is where your character is introduced; you are the latest cast-off vessel rejected by the Changing God. You start falling from the sky, and already being hunted by The Sorrow, your death seems highly likely – but this is where you story starts, and what happens next is up to you.
Your adventure takes place in the Ninth World, within the world of Numenera – which is created by Monte Cook Games from the table-top RPG, the same company who worked on the original Planetscape settings. The Ninth World is meant to represent Earth in the future (one billion to be precise). Given this setting the world is inhabited by a number of races, creatures, mutants, automatons and many others.
For me the main element of the gameplay is all about the narrative, and how you answer and speak to the other non-playable characters in the quests and areas you visit. The answers and attitudes you give can result in either you talking your way out of a situation, or to a battle with them. Using some of the options in narrative can use up points from your characters point pool, with the more you use resulting in the higher the chance of success of it working. But, there are plenty more sides to the narrative within the game that can be useful like;
- Talking to your companions throughout the game – these could give useful information for your quests, and also give you more of a back-story to them.
- When you are placed in Crises (a battle that automatically starts) if a character has speech bubble, you an attempt to use your skills to talk your way out of the battle.
- Talking to non-playable characters around the world, can sometimes grant you more XP or better rewards than you receive from some battles.
If you would prefer to go into battles, rather than avoid them – they have included a tried and tested battle system. The battle system is turned based, and you can monitor which character or enemy is next to attack with the stack system across the top of the screen. This can be used to see who is next, and you can eliminate an enemy before the next attack if possible. In some cases, your move might not result in being able to attack an enemy, this is because you have to move your characters with a point and click system, and moving too far or too many times can class as your action move (eradicating what is needed to complete an attack).
When either in conversation or in battle, make sure to use your companions when completing some of the tasks, you might find the skills they have are what you need to swing the conversation/battle in your favour. In regards to the conversations/battles I found that sometimes taking risks and failing can make the development of your character and the game more interesting, so I’d advise on taking risks.
You have multiple skill options and get skill points to spend across them when levelling your character. The skills you take can be more important depending on the character class and how you want to take the game on – do you want better influence/persuasion to avoid battles, or better attack options for taking on battles. So, make sure you use you skill points wisely, and consider what you are spending them on.
In Torment: Tides of Numenera death is not permanent or final, if you die you are placed into the labyrinth. This is a place in the cast-off’s mind, where you will wonder this setting and find truths, advance parts of the story and much more – which in all will return you The Ninth World wiser than before.
As mentioned above the gameplay is all about the choices you make, these choices will define your character as good or evil to the other inhabitants of The Ninth World. Your decisions are represented by what they call Tides, these are represented by five colours (blue, gold, indigo, silver, and red), which stand for different emotions, convictions and acts – meaning your choices can be very important in how they mould your experience with the game.
In the game you get to choose from three character classes; you need to think carefully about this as you would with any isometric RPG. You will need to make sure they suit your favoured style and how you are approaching the game. The three classes are the following;
Glaives: This is your warrior class; these are the champions of The Ninth World, and have abilities in beyond any mortal in the art of carrying a sword. This class deals a lot more damage than any other, and can take a substantial amount of extra damage – so, while in battle use weapons, armour and martial arts to take care of the enemies.
Nanos: This is your sorcerer class; they earned their reputation in The Ninth World for their mastery of ancient technology, which to the untrained mind seems like magic. If you chose to be Nano in combat you’re best to take on the enemies for a distance. Other useful skills are healing or even teleporting your allies around the battle area – you could even summon creatures to fight by your side and possibly change the course of the battle.
Jacks: These are your jack of all trades; as explorers and adventures they don’t conform to one style – and are more deadly when you mix all their tools. While in combat Jacks will use every weapon, armour, and anything else that could possibly give them an edge. Your offensive skills are brute force and the use of cyphers.
What are the cyphers I have been mentioning? These are hand-held and powerful numenera that can act as weapons. Each cypher is unique and can offer a wide range of attacks, be it area of effect, sucking life from your foes or summoning creatures/aliens for help. Where these are useful in battle, you must remember each one can only be used once, and over burdening your character with them can affect their combat skills, and even cause cyphers to explode and kill you. Over the game you can increase you cypher limit and this is an option I would recommend using whenever it’s possible, as these can turn a battle because your combat cyphers never miss the enemy.
Previously I mentioned the uses of companions; these are a big part of the game. In the game there are a total of six companions you can recruit – but you can only have up to there following you at one time. You gain control of your companions when in battle; each come with their own skills, abilities and cyphers, and you have full control on how they level. Taking into account the different skills and abilities, it is important you chose your team carefully and to suit how you are playing the game.
The visuals are similar style to what you have seen in most isometric RPG’s, but being created by Monte Cook there is a high standard to the world you are exploring. Each area of the world seems well detailed, different and like a lot of thought has been put into the design to make it aesthetically pleasing. The character models do seem very generic, but they all have their own styles and look.
You can use the analogue to zoom in and out on the world, and getting closer to the characters and non-playable characters. For me personally when zoomed in some of the textures seemed off, but from the furthest distance the world could be taken in and parts of it did look visually beautiful – I found that I played as much as the game as possible from this furthest view.
The overall use of sound is what you would expect in the fantasy setting of RPG’s. The music is very faint and ambient in the background, over powered by the hustle and bustle of the populated areas or the general environmental noises of the less-densely populated areas. When in battle the music becomes more intense, and louder in order to build the feeling around the situation at hand. Other than this its all the generic movement sounds, and grunts and connection noises you would expect in the battle situation.
However, one thing that let me down a bit was; given the high importance of the narrative I was surprised that a lot the game had to be read and the audio dialogue is not there. In a number of the main quests, and some of the more important characters have audio dialogue available. However, thinking about it if the amount of narrative in the game and all the non-playable characters you can interact with, maybe it was not possible to offer such a wide range of audio dialogue.
I did come across some very frustrating issues when playing through the game. One of them was crashing mid-quests, the only thing that did not make this game breaking was the games use of a regular auto-save, meaning after the reset you were never too far behind where you were. Another I came across was it suffered some frame-rate issues in densely populated areas within The Ninth World, and in some battle situations. However, this was a review code, so these could be ironed out with a day one patch, but only time will tell.
One other frustrating thing in the first play-through was finding out some of the side quests are time sensitive. Meaning if you decide to have a rest in an inn to regenerate all your health and stat pool points, you might lose a side quest. This can be avoided easily once you know this piece of information (this is why I thought it was worth mentioning in the review).
Given my earlier comment on the genre, this is a game I would not of normally chosen to play; so finding myself enjoying Torment: Tides of Numenera took me by surprise. Overall it took me around 40 hours to complete my first play-through of the game, meaning the game offers a decent play-time. I would recommend giving the game more than one play-through – as your choices do really make a difference. This also gives you the opportunity to try out the different classes, while having a different experience with the game – meaning if you’re a big fan of the genre the game could last you a long time.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is a solid entry in the isometric RPG genre, making it a game that I was shocked to find myself enjoying. The game puts you in control of your own destiny; with the choices you make changing the game completely. They have played safe with a tried and tested battle system, but this is not a bad thing. With the choices you make changing the game, it gives fans of the genre and the game a great reason to return to the game – and given the 40 hour play-time for one play-through it’s a lot of gaming for your money.