Torment: Tides of Numenera tries to turn back the clock and recapture the magic of the RPGs of old. Going back to the days of heavy text based adventures and isometric views, Torment: Tides of Numenera tries to appeal to a more niche audience. Consequently, this is not the sort of game that everyone, or I believe most people, would enjoy. For those who do though, you are in for a real treat.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is first and foremost about the strange world full of wonder you find yourself in and the excellently written text-based interactions you have with various people and objects. It isn’t about combat, open-world mechanics, character customisation, graphics or well-constructed quests. Most these things are in-fact done quite poorly, much to the detriment of the game.
The world it is set in is foreign to not only our own but also to the fantasy worlds we typically see in video games and books.It is a rather curious blend of super futuristic, stereotypical medieval and atypical magic. While imaginative and interesting, oft times the mix of these things just doesn’t fit together. The biggest example of this is the weapons. Despite all sorts of mind boggling technology you will find throughout the game, the standard weapon set mostly comprises of generic medieval weapons which just feel out of place with the mystical and futuristic setting around you. Ignoring these contradictions, the world is hugely imaginative, littered with strange devices and people that draws your curiosity.
While the physicality of the world draws your attention, the lore behind it is what hooks you. Much of the lore behind both the world and the main story is driven by the Changing God. This seemingly eternal and god-like being gets his name from his habit of changing bodies every decade or so. The results of his actions are castoffs, a person born in the shell he leaves behind. Castoffs possess the gift of near-immortality, along with several other super-human powers. Unfortunately, the Changing God and the castoffs are not without their enemy. A strange entity known as the Sorrow hunts them down.
The game begins with the birth of your character, the LastCastoff. With no memories and no understanding of the world, you set out into the world to find your place in it.
Despite a graphical interface and a large amount of movement throughout the world, the game often feels more like a text based adventure. Everything from the subtle movements and reactions of a character to dialogue is primarily communicated through text rather then through images and voice acting.A good imagination and a love of reading is a must.The upside of this is that it has enabled extensive dialogue options for you to explore if you want to do so.
The text does get too much though. While excellently written and detailed, the text is oft times way too descriptive and verbose for non-important dialogue. I found that you have to exhaust every dialogue option as sometimes seemingly unimportant options can lead to something bigger. Thus the art of knowing when to skip dialogue and when to read is an essential skill to gain. For most people, trying to read everything would just be too dull.
While the story in the quests are well-written, the quests themselves tend to be poorly put together. This is especially the case for the main quest. I found myself interested in what was happening, but not the way in which I had to get there. I also kept running into dead ends, unable or unsure how to progress.While I inevitably got there in the end, the means in which I had to progress seemed too restrictive or not-obvious.
Combat in the game feels like an after-thought or something added just to tick the box. It uses a turn-based system, a system that should be employed to allow greater strategy. The mechanics and your options are too basic however to allow much strategy to be utilised. As a result, battles tend to be overly long and just boring. While it should be a nice refreshing break from reading pages and pages of text, I actually found myself hoping I can avoid combat altogether. Thankfully, combat is rare, something rather surprising for an RPG.
On the PS4 version I played, the game runs very poorly. Both low frame-rates and unforgiveable load times make the game difficult to play. The load times are a big issue as the world is broken up into so many different sections which you find yourself continuously going between. I’d imagine that it may perform much better on decent PC, I’d also argue that a keyboard and mouse set-up would be much better suited to the game as well.
Whether Torment: Tides of Numenera is an exceptional game or a snooze-fest really depends on the player. I think most people would fall in the latter category. If you love exploring unique and well-crafted worlds and don’t mind reading a lot of well-written text, then you may just enjoy this old-school RPG. The game outside of the reading is overall a let down, between boring combat, some badly put together quests, and extremely long load times, at least on PS4, a lot of the game leaves much to be desired.
Released: March 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG, Action
Developer: inXile Entertainment