Review: Torment: Tides of Numenera

 Kickstarter has become the catalyst for the return of many gaming trends whether it’s the side scrolling platformer with Shovel Knight, the space sim with Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen, or the CRPG with Path of Exile or Wasteland 2.  Developed by inExile and published by Techland Publishing Torment:  Tides of Numenera is the most recent Kickstarter success to hit the market.  After over a year in Steam’s Early Access program its released as a finished product to consumers.  The pitch was a spiritual successor and pseudo-sequel to Planescape:  Torment, though with big shoes to fill will this game measure up?

Set one billion years in the future in the Ninth World, Torment:  Tides of Numenera has you embark as the Last Castoff.  Newly awakened with no memories of your creator the Changing God.  Quickly learning that the Castoffs are prior bodies of the Changing God that he has learned to live forever by creating a new body and transferring his consciousness.  Though, when he does so the body he last inhabits becomes home to a personality of its own.  The most interesting thing about the game is the opening, while most CRPGs start right away with the character sheet where a race, class, and abilities are selected this game instead runs the Last Castoff through scenarios, the choice of which will dictate the starting setup.  It tries to tailor the class to the early choices that were made.  Though if you’re unhappy with the choices there is a character sheet shortly into the tutorial where the class, starting skills, and starting abilities can be changed.

After dealing with a threat from beyond called the Sorrow which is an interdimensional entity that gives off Lovecraftian vibes you awaken in the world, setting off to fix the chamber you awoke from hoping to regain your lost memories.  The most striking thing about the game is that outside of a few key areas death is not permanent.  Each time you die you awaken in a metaphysical plane called the Labyrinth, and not only is death not a game over, in some instances death is required to complete certain quests.  Progressing through both the physical world and the Labyrinth as the Last Castoff learns their role in the machinations of the Changing God and of the Tides which is a psychic plane that the Castoffs are capable of tapping into.The world itself is both familiar and yet alien at the same time.  While there exist researchers studying the Numenera which are remnants of past societies similar to anthropologists and archaeologists that we see today.  Science and technology have also advanced to a point where it has become indistinguishable from magic.  Yet despite these advancements societies rose and fell, this Ninth World is really the farthest progression of humanity, an alien remnant of Earth one billion years in the future.  The period of this civilization itself is more along the lines of medieval times, while there are guns, melee weapons like swords, axes, and hammers are still very common.

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Ruins just outside of the dome where the Last Castoff falls to earth at the start.

The world itself is both familiar and yet alien at the same time.  While there exist researchers studying the Numenera which are remnants of past societies similar to anthropologists and archaeologists that we see today.  Science and technology have also advanced to a point where it has become indistinguishable from magic.  Yet despite these advancements societies rose and fell, this Ninth World is really the farthest progression of humanity, an alien remnant of Earth one billion years in the future.  The period of this civilization itself is more along the lines of medieval times, while there are guns, melee weapons like swords, axes, and hammers are still very common.

Each of the tides is linked to an emotion or action and the choices you make will shape the character in some way.  There are five tides in the game:  Blue-reason and wisdom, Gold-empathy and sacrifice, Indigo-justice and compromise, Red-passion and action, and Silver-admiration and fame.   In this way, there is a karma or moral system without being blatant.  Choosing to end a conflict non-violently or refusing a reward will up either the indigo or gold tides respectively.

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Part of a quest to look for an adversary, this portion took place on a metaphysical plane.

Each of the tides is linked to an emotion or action and the choices you make will shape the character in some way.  There are five tides in the game:  Blue-reason and wisdom, Gold-empathy and sacrifice, Indigo-justice and compromise, Red-passion and action, and Silver-admiration and fame.   In this way, there is a karma or moral system without being blatant.  Choosing to end a conflict non-violently or refusing a reward will up either the indigo or gold tides respectively.

Along the way, you meet an interesting cast of characters including Rhin an orphan with a mysterious past that is trying to find her way home or Matkina a fellow Castoff who is a feared assassin.  There are other companions as well with these two just being examples, each companion has a deep and interesting backstory as you travel with them you can learn more about them.  Each companion has their own personality and is also ruled by certain tides.  Certain actions will please or displease certain companions, if they are happier with you then they more dialogue will open up or even a quest.  If you keep making choices that conflict with a companion they will choose to leave your party, there are even situations where the Last Castoff can choose to get rid of companions.

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Character sheet where you can see your skills, experience needed to level and manage equipment and inventory.

However the length leaves much to be desired, while there appear to be multiple endings based on main story choices that can be made at the end of the game, the game can be completed in about twenty hours on the first run and even quicker on subsequent runs once you know where everything can be found.  The ending of this particular run also felt rushed, with a static screen instead of any cutscene or dialog, almost as if the developers ran out of money and this was the best they could do with the resources they had available.  Unlike other CRPGs which have had a resurgence in recent years there is only one difficulty level so no added challenge, there is also no version of a permadeath or iron man mode.  This leaves the feeling of missed potential as the world is engrossing and the characters are interesting.

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