Torment: Tides of Numenara Spoiler-Free Review

The original Planescape: Torment is one of my 3 favourite games of all time.  The actual order of the three varies a bit depending on which cool bits I remember and how I’m feeling at the time but Torment is probably on the top-spot the most.

I kickstarted Tides of Numenera immediately;  a spiritual successor to my (mostly) favourite game of all time ?  Yes please!

It’s taken a while, but it’s here.  Yay!  And I’ve played it!  Double-yay!  And now, I’ve finished it.  Boo.

Here’s some thoughts about it…

I’ve not had any experience with the Numenara role-playing setting so I went into Torment pretty cold.  You’re dropped into the world (quite literally) at the start of the game and there’s tonnes to take in.  Torment has a massive amount of text (1.2 million words) and you can read as much or as little as you like about the surrounding world but there’s always plenty to read.

Some of the reviews have said the initial hour or two is a bit slow for this exact reason;  lots of text to digest and an overwhelming, different new setting.  I didn’t find this at all and loved all the freshness of discovery.

Character creation is very cool;  your initial character is based on choices you can make in a handful of hypothetical events.  After you’ve gone through the choices it presents you with your character (though you can override the decisions it’s made for you).  There’s only a small number of classes and sub-classes but there’s plenty of skills and abilities you agonize over.

The graphics have a ‘hand-painted’ look to them like the original game and there’s plenty of interesting, alien environments to explore.  The text is the main focus for showing the new world but the graphics are more than simply functional.  I had quite a few “that’s pretty cool” moments poking around the world 🙂

Combat has been vastly improved since the original where it was a bit of a chore.  The new system uses the Crisis mechanic for when something time-sensitive or threatening happens.  This includes (but isn’t limited to) combat.  You can use all your skills as normal during a Crisis to beat the situation any way you can; you can talk your way out of a fight even when people are taking a swing at you already 😀

It’s a very cool system.  It means you don’t have to kill anyone to finish the game but you DO still end up getting into fights.  There can plenty of tension even when you’re trying to get someone to see a different point of view;  though that’s probably more down to their sword / gun / razor-tentacles.

The Numenera Skill / Effort system is clever too.  You have a pool for each of 3 statistics which you can burn off to complete tasks (via effort).  When your character improves you can increase the maximum pool for one of the stats, increase your maximum effort you can burn in one task or improve your “edge”;  a free contribution to skill checks for a pool.  The same system is used for combat and non-combat checks so you’re constantly burning through your pools (which can be replenished using rest or items).

The item system itself tries to solve the ‘horde everything’ mentality that goes along with RPG games.  Numenera are ancient items you find from one of the 8 past civilisations.  Most have a one-use special effect (like an attack, or healing) but you can only hold a limited number at one time.  Go above the limit and you start taking penalties.  It means you’re encouraged to use the numenera as you go rather than stock them all up in case you meet The Three-Headed Uber-Boss Of Bossness later on.  All the items in the game have nice flavour-text to go with them, even “junk” you’re going to sell to the vendor.

In summary, if you like immersive RPG’s this game is for you.  The characters are interesting and the world itself is immersive.  I spent 3 or 4 hours in the first “room” after the tutorial talking to people, solving quests and interacting with the world.

Is it as good as the original?  It’s hard to say.  I replayed Planescape quite a few times and I’ve only run through this once.  The gameplay is much better (the original was shoe-horned into a D&D system that often didn’t suit it) but there’s a few things I don’t think hold up as well;

  • The skill system is a lot more versatile and it’s much better at giving multiple ways through a problem but it seemed like with sufficient effort you could solve most problems even you’re character wasn’t “trained” in it.  There may be some options that only appear if you’re pool is high enough in one area, but I didn’t notice that often.  That might mean that the ability to replay and see wildly varying outcomes might be limited.
  • Combat, while far better, sometimes can still be tedious.  There’s lots of fights where the enemies generate constantly until you win and in a turn-based game that means you end up waiting around quite a bit.
  • The characters that accompany you don’t feel as connected to your story as in the original.  That’s probably down to different story this time but sometimes you feel quite disconnected from them (though there seems to be a bug which I experienced where they don’t “chatter” among themselves which might have given them far more involvement).

These are small gripes though; if you like role-playing games with a heavy story / world component and don’t mind lots of reading, it’s amazing.


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