Torment: Tides of Numenera

Tides of NumeneraTorment: Tides of Numenera is a Kickstarter-backed video game recently released by Inxile Entertainment. It’s the spiritual successor to the much acclaimed Planescape: Torment.

Numenera?

The first question you might have is who or what a Numenera is. To answer that question we have to look at the setting of the game. Tides of Numenera is set in the distant future. A number of societies haven risen and fallen, leaving behind a broken world. The remaining population lives amid the remnants of the societies that came before them. The countless artifacts and devices left from earlier times are called Numenera. And as Arthur C. Clarke said ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’, which definitely applies in this game.

This means the game is not an actual sequel to Planescape: Torment, but a spiritual successor. The setting is different and based on the Numenera setting and game system, not Planescape. Since the story of Planescape: Torment was done, this makes sense.

The main character of the game is the so-called last castoff. He or she is born falling from the sky – literally – after her body has been used by a being called the changing god and then cast off. The game revolves around figuring out who you are and what is hunting the changing god, you, and the other castoffs.

The story is original enough to be interesting, although it suffers from the ailment of many roleplaying games: the main character has no personality as it’s up to the player to make their choices for them.

Gameplay

Tides of Numenera is a classic roleplaying game in the style of Baldur’s GateIcewind Dale, and the original Planescape: Torment. It features an isometric view of the world, in which the player controls a group of characters.

The group of characters consists of the main character and up to three other recruitable characters. There are six of these characters to recruit, so you’ll have to choose – another staple of the genre.

Like its predecessors, the game features a turn-based combat system. Actually, that’s only half true. The originals had a turn-based system that you could set to continuous mode, which made it seem real-time. I enjoy both a good turn-based system (Shadowrun Returns) and a real-time one (Mass Effect), but I’m not thrilled about the choices made in Tides of Numenera. I’ve read it follows the pen-and-paper Numenera game system; maybe that doesn’t translate well to a video game. I haven’t found a better strategy than ‘run towards enemy and attack them until they all drop’. However, that could also be because I’ve played very combat-averse.

Luckily for me, Tides of Numenera offers a lot of options besides combat to resolve situations. This is one of the charms of the game, actually.

All in all, I like the feel of the game, as much as I liked games like Baldur’s Gate and the original Torment.

Text, text, and more text

Tides of Numenera has a lot of text. A whole lot. I don’t mind a good read, though – as you may have guessed. Still, the game focuses so much on textual explanations, that it sometimes feels more like a text-adventure.

This starts at the opening of the game, which is a black screen with a wall of text explaining how you fall from the sky. That could have been handled better. Not with a movie, or even a playable screen, but a single picture would have helped.

The same goes for the characters in the game. The six that can join your party have a portrait, but the rest don’t. We have to make do with a tiny 3d figure and expository writing.

I know that this is faithful to the original game, but times have changed, and I like how games like Shadowrun use character portraits to set the mood.

Conclusion

Tides of Numenera is fun roleplaying game, reminiscent of games like Baldur’s Gate and it’s predecessor Planescape: Torment. If you’ve got some time to kill because Mass Effect Andromeda is still too buggy, give this game a whirl.

Author: Martin Stellinga

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands

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