The spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed RPG Planescape: Torment, Torment: Tides of Numenera is unlike any other RPG you’ve played. Set on earth billions of years in the future, the game introduces us to an earth where the wonders of technology are considered magic and where you won’t find a Starbucks around the corner. It’s an earth filled with strange and powerful artifacts and vicious inter-dimensional beasts out to get you. Basically, it’s Earth like you’ve never seen it before.
In anticipation of the game’s release this month, I’ve put together a few things to get you hyped for all the questing that lies ahead.
Ok, so what’s the story?
It’s a billion years in the future, thousands of civilizations have come and gone, leaving behind technologies that many now view as magical relics. Players assume the role of the Last Castoff, who served as the final vessel for the consciousness of an ancient man called the Changing God. The Changing God’s ability to cheat death by placing his consciousness in a new vessel has had the undesired effect of awakening a fearsome ancient monster named The Sorrow (which sounds quite intimidating). This beast seeks to destroy the Changing God and all that is associated with him, which unfortunately includes you, the Last Castoff. You need to find the Changing God before The Sorrow destroys him. Of course, in true RPG style, you will be making loads of friends (and enemies) and completing your fair share of quests.
A questing we will go.
It was important for the team at InXile to avoid the RPG cliches we’ve grown so accustomed to. You know, like venturing out into the unknown on a quest to heroically save the world by going there and killing X amount of those things. The story is designed to be much more personal by placing more focus on the player and the choices they make. There are also some, to put it mildly, unique quests like helping a robot give birth and stealing the babies for use as bombs later on, or being able to sell companions to a robotic slaver. And while these quests might sound really bizarre (because they are), they also help color in the world and lore of Torment: Tides of Numenera.
Of, course questing alone is no fun at all, luckily Torment: Tides of Numenera will have quite a few companions willing to join you on your quest – companions like Aligern, whose arms are covered in tattoos which can be wielded as weapons. And although players will be able to control their companions in battle, they each have their own unique set of goals and agendas when it comes to conversations. Should you want your companions to risk their lives for you (and why wouldn’t they), they might not agree if your relationship with them isn’t in good standing. Heck some of them won’t even travel with you if certain other companions (who they don’t get along with) are in your current party. Balancing these relationships, like in real life, is part of the challenge and just like in real life this can be quite difficult.
Combat is not just about punching people in the face.
As one would expect from the developers of Wasteland 2, combat is a turn-based affair in Torment: Tides of Numenera, but this is where the similarities end. Combat tends to be a lot more involved and layered than other RPG games (think of them as boss fights), and it’s for this reason that the number of potential fights players can get into has been scaled back.
InXile calls the moments where you are forced to unsheathe your weapon ‘crisis moments’. These ‘crisis moments’ tend to be more like major set pieces than small squabbles against a few weak foes, as they require more than just wildly swinging your weapon at your enemy or chucking a rock at them hoping to hit your mark (and by that we mean their face). During these ‘crisis moments’, players will be able to have conversations with their foes in hopes of persuading them not to attack or, should that fail, intimidating them. This, hopefully, leads to no one ending up with a sword stuck in their neck. It’s this freedom that make combat so much more interesting than just storming into battle with wild abandonment. Although, there are still moments where this could work.
It’s not all just black or white.
Torment: Tides of Numenera has replaced the old tried and tested black and white morality system/alignments found in most RPG’s with a more subtle Tides system. It interprets the players actions rather than forcing them into a role of a stereotypical good or bad guy. When facing potential challenges, players are afforded with different options which are tied to the five Tides, with none of the options being inherently good or evil.
‘The Blue Tide’ is related to seeking knowledge and information. ‘Gold’ is related to sacrificing yourselves for others. ‘Red’ to following your passions. ‘Indigo’ to justice and compromise. And ‘Silver’ to admiration, power, and fame. And while it might seem like these Tides might be tied to specific moral choices, this couldn’t be further from the truth. For instance, the ‘Red Tide’ can be attached to the passion for others or rushing into action without thinking, each Tide can be seen in a positive or negative way depending on how you look at it.
The Tides system will allow players to craft a much more nuanced character, but be warned, some in-game characters will be able to sense your Tides and adapt their arguments to manipulate you. This forces player to think long and hard about the choices they are given as it can have lasting consequences for the world.
Death is not the end.
With so many choices and decisions to make in Torment: Tides of Numenera, it can be quite intimidating trying to figure out which of these could potentially lead to your death and then hoping that you choose the one that keeps you alive a little longer. But this is exactly what InXile doesn’t want players to do. Unlike real life, there is no right and wrong decision in Torment: Tides of Numenera, there are only decisions and consequences. Players are encouraged to not only experiment but also to learn to live with the consequences of their decisions.
While death usually leads to a quick re-load, InXile didn’t want this to be the case. Instead of having death be an indication of a crap decision made by the player, death in Torment: Tides of Numenera opens up more avenues for exploration. Dying allows players to explore the labyrinth that is their consciousness while their body heals. Of course, players could just find the quickest path out of this labyrinth and return to their body, or they could explore this vast dreamlike realm. Deciding to explore this realm can offer players some great rewards, but this is completely optional and, like everything else in the game, the choice remains with the player.
Torment: Tides of Numenera seems like a worthy successor to Planescape: Torment, and sets out to innovate and bring new ideas to the RPG genre. The new Tides system, crisis moments and cheating death are all governed by the choices players make. In the end, the team at InXile have set out to create a game that gives players true freedom of choice but also forces you to face the consequences. We’ll have to see if the game will live up to these lofty goals, but I find myself excited and intrigued by the bizarre and interesting world the team has created.