Torment: Tides of Numenera is a Tactical RPG Unlike Anything You've Played Before

Torment: Tides of Numenera is a Tactical RPG Unlike Anything You've Played Before

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Richard Walker

I'll readily admit that I'm not really one for RPGs that require an emphasis on tactics and forward thinking, but somehow Torment: Tides of Numenera has still managed to draw me into its unique fantastical world. Set a billion years in the future within the sprawling innards of a gigantic creature known as 'The Bloom', Torment is pretty much unlike anything you'll have seen before.

Its sci-fantasy scenario is frankly bizarre, but the pedigree is in evidence as a spiritual follow-up to 1999's Planescape: Torment, a game considered to be one of the best strategy RPGs of all time. Tides of Numenera boasts similar gameplay mechanics and a rich narrative laden with all sorts of choices and ensuing consequences, so if you happen to be familiar with Planescape, you'll already have an idea of what to expect.

However, in today's world of Witchers, Dragon Ages, Mass Effects and Final Fantasy games, Torment feels like something from a lost, bygone age. Dialogue is almost purely text-based, with only a few conversational asides reserved for moments while your party is running around exploring. Given the depth and wealth of branching dialogue options crammed into the game, though, Torment would require a voice cast of hundreds and a budget to rival the biggest Hollywood blockbuster. Probably.

The story too is incredibly complex, placing you in the role of the 'Last Castoff', “a consciousness born in the discarded body of an aeons-old being known an the changing god.” You're also fleeing an ancient creature of unimaginable power known as the Sorrow that destroyed the Castoff sanctuary, leading you to The Bloom, the aforementioned organism whose tendrils touch other dimensions, enabling you to travel through time and space. With us so far? Good. Keep up.

Developer inXile Entertainment – also purveyors of the superb Wasteland games – is looking to tell a personal story that's about your journey as the Last Castoff, but this is just one of several “pillars” the studio has built Torment upon. “It's a world unlike any other,” says Game Designer and Writer, Colin McComb. “And we help you tell (the story).” This is at the heart of Tides of Numenera, as is reactivity, choice and consequence, and the eponymous artefacts known as Numenera, left behind by countless civilisations that have risen, fallen, then vanished. It's all a rich tapestry.

The result is an SRPG game that takes some time to get acquainted with, but once you're swept up and immersed in the story, you'll be wondering where it's going to head next. Quests and narrative beats are always intriguing, based on the few hours we've played thus far, and the writing is excellent; certainly not to be skipped through at a brisk pace. The combat, on the other hand, isn't particularly enjoyable. Percentage chances of even successfully striking an enemy seem nonsensical, giving you a 65% possibility when you're stood right in front of them. And even then you're still likely to consistently miss your target, which is hugely frustrating.

It seems like random number generated madness, and it made me feel incredibly hard-done-by on innumerable occasions. Battles lack the immediacy and intuitive controls of a modern-day RPG too, leaving a mind-boggling array of options, skill, abilities and items to wade through, as the turn-based action unfolds. It all feels a bit too convoluted.

No doubt, mastering combat in Torment requires careful, considered forethought and a chess-like approach to tactics, which unfortunately just isn't my cup of tea. I'm sure it's definitely to a lot of people's tastes, though, if not necessarily mine. There are other stat-based elements to take into account at certain dialogue or story junctures, again dictated by a skill level and RNG that determines your chance of success or failure.

Despite my few misgivings, Torment: Tides of Numenera is brimming with imagination. An SRPG that takes place in a remarkably unique realm, it's the stories and quests that take place within Torment's sci-fi fantasy world that ought to make for a memorable experience, assuming you're able to wrap your head around the intricacies of its various gameplay mechanics and master them, or indeed have the patience to do so.

Torment strikes me as the kind of game that will reward anyone willing to put in the time and effort with something that's worthwhile and unfathomably deep. Hopefully this won't be too high a barrier to entry that puts players off and a broad audience will get the most out of what Tides of Numenera has to offer, which is a hell of a lot. These days, there don't seem to be very many games like this, so here's hoping Torment can deliver on its promise when it launches next month.

Torment: Tides of Numenera is out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on 28th February 2017.

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