Torment: Tides of Numenera Review

General game information


Game name: Torment: Tides of Numenera

Release date: February 28, 2017

Price: US$ 44.99

Available on: Steam Humble Store

Genre: Computer role playing game

Developer: inXile Entertainment

Publisher: Techland Publishing

Launch trailer

Torment: Tides of Numenera is a CRPG billed as a spiritual successor to one of the greatest games of all time, Planescape: Torment. Successfully crowdfunded thanks to a Kickstarter campaign that attracted 74,405 backers who pledged over four million dollars, this title has a lot to prove, and its success could cement inXile Entertainment‘s reputation as one of the best Western RPG developers active today.

Playing as The Last Castoff, a body discarded by an entity known as the Changing God and taken over by its own consciousness after its previous owner decided to vacate it, gamers will attempt to survive in a mysterious world full of remnants of the past, where science is often confused with magic and fantastic vistas are commonplace. Of course, since this new Torment game shares a lot with its spiritual predecessor, we don’t have to get through our journey on our own, and we can recruit several characters in order to form a party that will not only offer an advantage during combat segments (dubbed Crisis events) but will also let us use their skills to achieve less warlike objectives.

Torment: Tides of Numenera environmental artMost of the companions are interesting and well written, and they will talk with The Last Castoff from time to time, offering their point of view and even generating quests (there is one particular companion quest line that could have been a main plot element for another game thanks to the quality of the writing). Of course, since Torment is all about choice, we may end up skipping interesting bits of information due to our personal approach to things.

Speaking about companions and skills, Tides of Numenera features an innovative system that lets players use points from their stat pools (Might, for tasks that require brute force, Speed, for tasks that require agility, and Intelligence, I’m going to let you guess that one…) to complete skill checks. For instance, a character might have some information that could help with a quest, but they refuse to hand it over. A range of options may be offered to the player, letting them use stat points to influence the outcome of their choice (for example, if we choose to intimidate our target, we can use points from the Might pool to show that we can actually follow through on our threats) Using stat points increases our success rate, and the most interesting thing about this system is that for many events we can use our companions’ points, making them quite useful, even when we are not in battle.

Thanks to the above mentioned skill system, we can approach situations that would lead to combat in other games and come out not only unharmed, but maybe even friends with our potential enemies. Every quest can be completed in many different ways, and things aren’t always what they seemed to be at first glance. Characters that seem friendly may actually be the opposite, monsters may be less evil than the humans who hire us to exterminate them, and innocent looking environments may harbor terrible secrets. Thankfully, the game never judges our our choices, there are no Paragon/Renegade meters to be found, and every action affects the world in wildly different ways (which we may or may not have foreseen before embarking on a particular path). The closest thing Torment has to a morality meter is the Tides alignment system, which can change the way other characters react to our actions, depending on their own worldview.

Torment: Tides of Numenera Crisis EventTorment‘s combat system follows the same logic, letting us solve most battle scenarios with different tactics. Combat situations switch the game to a turn based mode, and depending on our foes, we can try to get through them in many ways. For example, if our enemies are rational beings, it could be better to talk with them and attempt to convince them that we aren’t worth their time (or that we are so terrifyingly powerful that they don’t have any hope of defeating us) instead of outright murdering them. Or, if we are in a bloodthirsty mood, we may use our weaponry to reduce our opponents to a bloody pulp (and here we can also choose to spend stat points in order to improve our critical damage rates, or our odds when trying to pull off complex attacks) Other options could include taking advantage of single use items called Cyphers (buffs that can be used for many purposes but may also burden the player with unwanted side effects) or even manipulating the environment to defeat enemy groups without firing a shot or uttering a single word. Interestingly, almost all the Crisis events can be failed without getting a “Game Over” screen. Instead, we could inadvertently discover new ways of completing quests, or even access areas that were previously sealed off.

Thanks to the many different approaches that can be taken to solve every situation, Tides of Numenera is an extremely replayable game, which is probably the reason for its relatively short length (most CRPG titles are designed to last for more than 50 hours, Torment lasts about 20). Sadly, the fact that the game is short also means that, while we can replay it and see enormous differences with regards to the plot, the environments will always stay the same. In a game full of wondrous places to explore, this can feel like a missed opportunity, though I can understand that creating environments that players may never visit may not seem like a good way to spend development time and budget.

Torment: Tides of Numenera modelsMoving on to the tech side, inXile‘s latest creation is a strange beast. On the one hand, environmental art and character portraits are incredibly detailed and bring the world to life in a way that surpasses any other game in the genre. On the other hand, the 3D models for most characters didn’t get the same love, so at some points it’s hard to reconcile the people we see in the 2D portraits with the models displayed in the game world. The game’s audio department does not suffer from any issues, thankfully. Mark Morgan did an amazing job with the soundtrack and the voice actors who bring the most important characters to life perform admirably.

Of course, since Torment is a CRPG, most of the world building is actually accomplished through text rather than fancy graphics, and I’m happy to report that the game never disappoints in that front. Every named character we meet has their own backstory, and we may end up caring for people who would be window dressing in any other title. Vivid descriptions immerse the player in Tides of Numenera‘s strange sci-fi world, and the main storyline never disappoints.

To conclude, Torment: Tides of Numenera is an excellent spiritual successor to one of the most influential RPGs ever released. inXile Entertainment has created a game that dares to be different, letting players approach the task at hand in a staggering amount of different ways. It may be a bit short when compared to similar titles, but what it lacks in length, it more than makes up for in replayability.


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