Torment: Tides of Numenera is an RPG which could work as a showcase of what video games in the past did beautifully. For any nostalgia junkies out there it is an obvious choice to waste away a few days. Whether or not this trip into the past of gaming is a good move for the developers remains to be seen. All I can offer is a humble opinion, from a veteran of the games this title attempts to emulate.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is described as a spiritual successor to 1999 RPG cult classic Planescape: Torment. The game first appeared on my radar in 2013. I heard that a game had reached it’s $900,000 Kickstarter target in just 6 hours. Kickstarter as a platform to fund games excites me in general as it allows the developers of games a lot more freedom and therefore I placed this game on my watch list and awaited its release. Fast forward four years and the game has finally been released and I feel I’ve played enough of it to now give a proper critique.
Introductions Done Right:
The game begins as it means to go on. A good opening is a key component of a game and the beginning of Torment is definitely gripping. All of the game’s opening salvo is presented with multiple choice questions, informing you that you are falling. The voice over and text-based nature of the opening is strangely calming. I slowly meandered through the text options, selecting actions for my character to perform until suddenly: Splat! Within the first 3 minutes of the game, I had died. Lulled into a false sense of security by the games text heavy opening, I had received my first message from the game that every choice in this game would have serious ramifications.
Nowadays it is common for game devs to baby the player in the introduction of their game. It’s now the norm for a game’s opening chapter to be full of yawn-inducing prompts, telling seasoned gamers how to jump and walk forward. With this in mind, the opening segment of Tides of Numenera is flawless. There is a level of difficulty which makes you sit up and pay attention. The voice over work keeps the player engaged and engrosses you in the world. All of the games little quirks and gameplay tropes are expertly laid out and displayed for the player in this section.
Making character creation interesting or even thought provoking, is a daunting task for any developer. I mean how do you make something so simple interesting? Most don’t bother and go with the usual sliding bars and drop down options in which you can adjust your characters nose, hairstyle and chin. Not Tides of Numenera. The player is introduced to a few key plot elements as you make some decisions which will affect your overall gameplay. You can change these to suit your own playstyle if you wish but I decided to just go with the options the game had decided for me based on my choices. This game’s opening is a masterclass in how character creation should be. One niggling problem I had in this area was the inability to change my characters appearance. I understand that this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for most, but I personally enjoy the investment I feel to a character I have created myself.
A Masterclass in Story Development:
Tides of Numenera is unashamedly a story centred game. Gameplay and graphics noticeably take a back seat but more on that later. No-one can fault the story of the game, the setting is simply massive and the characters have deep and interesting stories. You can get wrapped up for hours doing all the little side quests in the game’s first town and easily lose track of what you are meant to be doing. Without spoiling anything in this intriguing, sometimes twisted, story every choice you make, no matter how seemingly insignificant, will more than likely have far-reaching consequences. Even the supposed side quests very rarely end the way you expect. It’s all very reminiscent of the classic point and click adventure games of the early 90s, but on a much larger scale.
The problem with this, however, is that it can all get a bit tedious. The first time you take on a seemingly small side quest only for it to explode into a long and far-reaching moral dilemma with a multitude of paths of varying lengths it’s exciting. After an hour or two of this, however, you begin to yearn for a silly little pointless quest you can complete with one trip that won’t result in death or slavery for anyone. It seems like a silly thing to complain about but the decisions are very heavily weighted and it can distract you from the main storyline. That being said, the story is wonderfully crafted. There is serious emotional investment to be made in the companion characters you meet along the way. Depending on decisions made throughout the characters you meet can change the game you play completely. They can be potential allies or your worst enemies. The replay value for this game in terms of story alone is quite simply staggering.
Gameplay, or Lack Thereof:
The gameplay in Torment is laughable. The combat is absolutely dreadful. Whilst this can be blamed on the game trying to stay faithful to the 90s CRPGs from which it draws influence, the gaming industry has taken too many strides forward that this game ignores. When faced with a situation that may turn to a fight you are usually given a chance to avoid combat. Whilst this is a nice feature, the fact that the rewards are completely disproportionate makes it redundant at times. For example; if you talk your way out of a problem, you’re likely to gain a paltry 25 xp, however, if you give in to the little dark voice in your head and kill them you gain 150 xp and all of your victim’s items. It just doesn’t balance out.
Balance seems to be an issue throughout the game. There are many abilities and traits in the game but the vast majority of them are pointless and there are four or five of them which are completely necessary if you want to move forward in the game without sinking weeks of your life muddling around the game. The companions themselves are also critically unbalanced. If you select some line-ups, you will only ever see around a quarter of what the game has to offer, and whilst this does offer replay value, it’s still a pretty big oversight.
We’ve seen the good, and the bad, now let’s take a look at the downright ugly. The character models for the main characters in this game are absolutely dreadful. A look at the portrait for the female main character genuinely made me wonder if the animator had ever seen a human being before. The rest of the game is average enough graphically speaking. There are some moments of great beauty but honestly, nothing spectacular.
Overall I was pretty disappointed by this game. The story is wonderful, but story alone doesn’t make a good game. The whole thing played out as more of a visual novel. Given that the game spent 4 years in development I expected much more. People pledged over $5 million to the developers of this game and it just didn’t deliver. Fans of classic point and click games and nostalgia junkies will get a kick out of this title but it just isn’t worth the asking price. My advice? Pick up the game’s spiritual predecessor Planescape: Torment. If you enjoy that, you’ll definitely be able to sink a fair bit of play time into this.
- Quality Story
- Meaningful choices
- Immersion masterclass
- Awful Combat
- Ugliest Game Characters of 2017
- Almost every facet of the game is unbalanced
- Expensive Visual Novel