‘Torment: Tides of Numenera’ Review: Old Is New

out of 5

Torment: Tides of Numenera is a spiritual sequel to the original 1999 PC release Planescape: Torment. A Dungeon & Dragons-based world and game, the original release is known to be one of the best RPG games of the ‘90s. Now 17-plus years and a kickstarter campaign later, Torment: Tides of Numenera brings players to a different world, a different system, but still the amazing text-based story and dialogue the original RPG set the bar with. Sadly, there’s no Morte and his wisecracks following you around this time.

It’s been a long road to get Torment: Tides of Numenera made. Developer inXile Entertainment undertook the task knowing that expectations would be high. What they have made is something that not only honors the original, but in some ways is even better. This is not an RPG for everyone. Torment: Tides of Numenera is a complicated, mature, TEXT dialog, story-driven game. If players are not prepared to spend hours reading, absorbing the plot, doing side quests, and learning the many intricate systems, they need not apply. I however, absolutely love games like this, they suck me in and give me a nostalgia high, because developers just don’t make games like this anymore

In Torment: Tides of Numenera players take the role of “The Last Castoff,” and can choose their sex, and via a long series of questions, be assigned a base character class depending on certain answers. These are Glaive (warrior), Nano (wizard), and Jack (rogue). Further customization will happen as players level (or Tiers they are called) up based on their choices. That’s what Torment: Tides of Numenera excels at: every choice players make, be it character stats, or dialog answers, or their actions in general, will affect the story and how the game is played. It’s like a “choose your own adventure” book in a grand scale.

Torment: Tides of Numenera takes place in a completely new setting, based on Monte Cook’s recent table-top game Numenera, on earth in the distant future. The world has regressed to a new dark ages they call the “Ninth World,” but the decaying technology and relics of past cultures are still present. The more powerful of these artifacts are known as the “numenera.”  Players explore beautiful and masterfully-designed areas in an overhead view. Nearly every NPC can be interacted with and I spent hours just talking to folks and picking up side quests.

These interactions will award experience and also affect the alignment of the Last Castoff. Alignments are based on “Tides” that will increase or decrease based on your answers in dialog, they appear in different color codes to help make it easier to keep track of. These, in turn, affect your “Legacy” or the path you have taken in the game morally and ethically. Your Legacy will grant different stats, powers, and special abilities so make sure to really own your character and not flip flop around in your stances and choices.

There are so many systems in Torment: Tides of Numenera that I cannot even begin and won’t try to go into depth on them all. I highly recommend players do some research online to really understand them if still confused after the few couple hours of the game. While not difficult to learn, truly mastering the way Effort, Tides, skill checks, combat, and more really work, will take time. RPGs like this encourage and reward players for their knowledge, and most players who enjoy this kind of game like the nitty gritty of the systems and will try to really maximize stats properly. Torment: Tides of Numenera isn’t about visuals (although it doesn’t look bad, just deliberately dated), it’s about story and systems. It is what all table-top games are built around. That’s the type of player that will enjoy it.

Torment: Tides of Numenera is a not the longest RPG, taking at about 30 hours to complete, 40-plus if you go for all the side quests. But it does have one of the most interesting and well-written stories I have seen in a long while. The game translated surprisingly well to the PlayStation 4 controller and gives current gen console owners a chance to experience this type of game. The systems are fantastic and reward sticking with your character’s alignment and personality. This means replays are always different; players can be a totally different Last Castoff the next time.

Torment: Tides of Numenera should feed your nostalgia and provide a new and well crafted story as well. Developer inXile Entertainment has passed my expectations and made something for us old gamers, and while not for everyone, if you have missed games like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment then pick up Torment: Tides of Numenera.

Torment: Tides of Numenera is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on a PS4 copy provided for that purpose. 

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