Torment: Tides of Numenera Evaluation
InXile’s resolution to crowdfund a religious successor to Planescape: Torment was an expression of audacious ambition. Their Torment: Tides of Numenera might use a distinct setting and rule-set to the 1999 unique (Monte Prepare dinner’s Numenera, versus the D&D realm now owned by Wizards of the Coast), however the construction, presentation, and themes are particularly designed to evoke its celebrated RPG namesake. That is a particularly difficult path to stroll, with the tar pits of nostalgic pandering and inferior re-telling awaiting any misstep.
There are some wobbles in direction of each of these precipitous drops all through Torment: Tides of Numenera’s novel size, dimension-spanning story. However whereas it clearly attracts from related ruminations on consciousness, morality, and particular person energy, there’s sufficient unique thought right here to set inXile’s launch aside from its forebear. The tone is comparable, the themes acquainted (as common classics of philosophy are typically), but the inventive entire is essentially distinct.
That’s partially because of the Ninth World setting, which encompasses individuals, locations, and circumstances simply as weird because the Planes of the unique. Once more, there are echoes of the earlier Torment within the uncommon civic guidelines of the town of Sagus Cliffs, and the implications of a near-immortal being misplaced within the pursuit of information above all different price. This time, although, your individual participant character embodies a type of penalties.
In Torment: Tides of Numenera, you’re the Final Castoff, a product of a being often known as The Altering God who creates and discards physique vessels as his consciousness hops between types. Every of these discarded our bodies types a brand new consciousness when The Altering God departs, and yours begins to manifest because the physique hurtles in direction of the bottom at super pace. Including an additional metaphysical layer to the story, your thoughts exists as an precise, labyrinthine house that may periodically (and usefully) be explored throughout loss of life; recalling the advantages of exploiting your immortality in Planescape.
It’s an excellent premise for an RPG. You’re dumped in a barely acquainted metropolis (Sagus Cliffs), a spot actually constructed upon the strata of billions of years of forgotten historical past, with the thriller of your individual delivery and a dispassionate, elusive creator to confront.
What follows is an ocean of studying to dive into. Similar to its most important supply of inspiration, Torment: Tides of Numenera is overwhelmingly a recreation of textual content, dialogue decisions, and much more textual content. It has the identical great isometric location ‘maps’ as Pillars of Eternity (and in reality appears to make use of Pillars methods of their creation), wealthy in unusual particulars like fountains of residing, purple fish and fleshy, Hieronymus Bosch-like horrors; however a lot of the imagery is exterior, conjured by passages of textual content or choose-your-own-adventure model interludes.
There are periodic moments of turn-based fight too, their oft-avoidable nature neatly summarised by the terminology ascribed to them. In Numenera conflicts should not inevitable, grinding RPG encounters, they’re, in each case, a ‘Disaster’.
As inXile have at all times said, Disaster occasions are distinctive encounters. Each has a definitive place within the story, and also you’ll by no means simply randomly run right into a bunch of fellows who need a battle. Many of those encounters are avoidable, however even those which aren’t have methods out that don’t contain slaying all people within the room. There’s at all times an choice to, say, sway a foe to your mind-set with a dialogue verify, or beat a hasty retreat. It’s not likely correct to say you may make it by means of the sport with none fight in anyway, however so long as your get together are able to a preventing escape they need to have the ability to deal with issues.
In case you do decide to go all-in on fight, Torment: Tides of Numenera is a comparatively easy ‘one motion plus one motion, or an extended motion’ flip primarily based affair. Characters and foes have each melee and esotery (just about tech-magic) expertise at their disposal, there are primary guidelines about weapon strengths vs armour, particular assault varieties vs resistances, flanking, and so forth. You even have entry to (normally) one-time use devices known as Cyphers, that are so highly effective that every character can solely carry a set quantity at any given time (maintain too many, and debuffs and even loss of life await).
It’ll be largely acquainted stuff to anyone who’s performed a flip primarily based get together technique recreation earlier than, however the lack of an excessive amount of complexity retains the battle encounters centered and tight.
In spite of everything, although it has loads of cRPG trappings, Torment: Tides of Numenera is propelled much more by its writing than by any tactical fight mechanics or interconnected means programs. That writing is strongest when the mythos of its world connects with a given quest-line, and when the sci-fi-medieval-cyberpunk setting (or nevertheless you need to classify it) makes use of its strangeness to make a degree about recognisable, human traits.
Sagus Cliffs, for instance, has a system of buying citizenship which calls for that its contributors actually surrender one 12 months of their life. That 12 months of life takes semi-sentient, bodily kind as a Levy, who police the town for twelve months. Tides of Numenera is ready to discover and develop on this intriguing idea by means of the town’s establishments (such because the Order of Fact whose equipment creates the Levies), and thru particular quests.
One such mission has you coping with a malfunctioning Levy, who has been mistakenly fashioned from a hypothetical 12 months of life the place the supply mainly suffers from a traumatic stress dysfunction. The presentation and supreme decision of that quest (and there are a number of methods to cope with it) handle to merge worldbuilding and private dilemma in a very elegant method.
These moments are Torment: Tides of Numenera’s biggest achievements, and the place it will possibly match Planescape: Torment in narrative-based quest design. They don’t come as steadily or as persistently as in Planescape, however there are sufficient impressed sections within the recreation’s two most important metropolis ‘hub’ areas, and thru sure companion story-lines, to maintain an actual fascination with the setting and its individuals.
In Numenera’s weaker intervals, although, the prose can slip right into a purple hue and start to tug. The weirdness of the Ninth World (and a number of different, ‘off-camera’ areas) is a boon to the story general, however there are occasions when yet one more reminiscence digression into mysterious alien environments with difficult fantasy names begins to really feel overwrought. Particularly in circumstances the place the recollection has, at greatest, fringe influence on the principle story. An excessive amount of summary transdimensional musing could make even probably the most mind-expanding ideas really feel bland, and Tides of Numenera skirts that boundary a bit of too usually.
Mechanically talking, the sport revolves round three core stats: May, Pace, and Mind. Attendant expertise and talents will enhance speech or fight rolls to various levels (or degrade them, when you’re untrained in a given space), however these stat checks can usually be boosted by ‘spending’ factors out of your three most important swimming pools. In case you’re making an attempt to nab an merchandise from an NPC, for instance, then your Fast Fingers means would be the main issue, however your odds might be a lot improved by utilizing some further Pace.
The three stat pool caps are elevated by means of levelling up, and might be replenished by consumable objects and by sleeping. It appears designed with the intention to make spending your restricted stat swimming pools on speech or means checks a tough resolution, however the ease with which you’ll replenish these swimming pools (or dip into the swimming pools of your get together companions) implies that with a little bit of primary stat administration you’ll be able to really go nearly each verify you come throughout. Sleeping very, very not often advances quests in a destructive approach (this occurred to me as soon as in the complete recreation), and is usually both free or (when you’re just a few hours in and have a bit of wealth) fairly reasonably priced. Consumable stat top-ups are additionally fairly quite a few.
The result’s a central system which seems as if it needs to make you suppose twice about spending factors from stat swimming pools, and agonise over whether or not to retain your benefit for a extra vital occasion in future, however finally ends up surprisingly muted. That’s odd, as a result of failing stat checks in Torment: Tides of Numenera can generally result in fascinating outcomes or information gamers down various quest paths, so the builders needn’t have feared this consequence.
Those that’ve been following the event will know that Tides of Numenera has been topic to some late within the day cuts (or late within the day admission of cuts), and which may be emblematic of a deeper wrestle to reconcile the sport’s enviable ambition with obtainable sources. Definitely, facets just like the Legacies are diminished from their unique Kickstarter description. The Legacy of your character remains to be related, but it surely now quantities to an ongoing Tidal alignment which modifications in line with your actions, concluding with a fairly superficial paragraph through the finish recreation credit.
If sections of the principle narrative needed to be trimmed, nevertheless, Numenera covers it pretty effectively. The sport’s two hubs (Sagus Cliffs and the grotesque, residing Bloom) are joined by considerably extra linear connective tissue within the type of Valley of Lifeless Heroes (which additionally neatly serves as a crypt depository for Kickstarter backer names), and result in a ultimate, climactic stretch. Every little thing is wrapped up, and (barring, arguably, one companion) there aren’t any sequel hooks. This isn’t a Tyranny-like state of affairs the place the sport manages to conclude but additionally really feel a bit like Half One. The tip stretch is, nevertheless, a little bit of an accelerated race to the end. Threads are concluded and tied off, however in a approach which suggests there might have been extra intensive sequences deliberate.
By the tip the in-game counter had me at round 26 hours. Development on this title most likely owes as a lot to studying pace as anything although, which means it’s not significantly simple to evaluate a mean completion time. Evaluation code got here in early, so I used to be capable of discover as many aspect avenues as doable within the play-through. Notice additionally that I’d performed all the Sagus Cliffs space earlier than, within the beta, in order that space was all acquainted and handed a lot faster the second time round.
Given what number of totally different outcomes might be tried and achieved in a few of the quests, it most likely received’t shock you to study that Torment: Tides of Numenera has a lingering bug or two. It was uncommon, however generally dialogue choices or responses appeared to react to info which hadn’t but been revealed. At one other level, I’m fairly certain my ‘Tidal Affinity’ ability quickly vanished from my character sheet (awkward, as a result of it’s helpful), and solely returned as soon as the protagonist had gained one other stage.
Probably the most irritating bug was additionally the strangest. My save appeared to get contaminated by a persistent noise greatest described as ‘digital glowing’ (belonging, I feel, to one of many Ninth World’s items of esoteric equipment), which might solely ever go away when one other vital background sound impact over-rode it. Till that occurred, every reload was both a kind of gentle audio torture or an invite to play in silence for a bit.
On the extra constructive technical aspect of issues, the sport managed a agency 60fps all through on my 380X (except for one scene heavy with fireplace results), and had acceptable loading occasions even on an HDD. As anticipated, maybe, however after Pillars of Eternity at launch neither of these issues might be taken as a right.
Taking over the mantle of an absolute traditional of the PC RPG canon was at all times going to be ballsy transfer for inXile. Doing so absorbs loads of the fondness for the Torment identify (witness the success of the crowd-funding marketing campaign), but additionally entails the acceptance of an incredible stage of expectation. Even perhaps an quantity that might be inconceivable to reconcile with a single videogame.
Torment: Tides of Numenera does meet a few of these expectations. Crucially, it nails most of the very important ones; tone, premise, setting. And it will get awfully shut with significant parts of its narrative. The peaks of its quest design, when characters, theme, and reactive selection all chime collectively, are excellent. That it will possibly’t preserve this extremely excessive normal all through each portion of the sport is a disgrace, however neither is it damning; even Planescape: Torment had its weaker spots. There’s a readability to the interaction of talents and stats in Numenera (although an excessive amount of ease with speech checks), and a refreshing, hand-designed really feel to the mechanically easy fight encounters.
Typically distinctive, at all times formidable, and periodically falling brief in its goals, Torment: Tides of Numenera is symbolic of the tribulations concerned in retreading the trail of a long-established inventive work. That components of this recreation can rival Planescape: Torment in execution means it’s an RPG effectively price enjoying, however, whether or not because of issues throughout growth or an exhaustion of sources, some areas haven’t fairly lived as much as their said objectives.
Additional studying: Torment: Tides of Numenera Beginning Information – Hints & Suggestions for Novices