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Torment Torment: Tides of Numenera Thread

Luckmann

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btw is everyone in the inxile writing team a walking stereotype? Just saw callistege's writer on cmcc twitter and :prosper:


check her twitter for extra lulz

So it's Callistege's little brother with Calllistege's writer? But who's who?
 
Last edited:

Luckmann

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[...] vaguely [...] still very excited [...]
I love how the former completely explains the latter. Total ignorance is bliss.
By the way, how do you guys think, should I take "scan thoughts" on my first playthrough? Does it diminish a sense of discovery when a plot twist occurs?
On the other hand, I'm not sure I'll play through the game twice, so there's that.
If you are a Nano, you should absolutely take Scan Thoughts. There's literally over 1500 extra lines of text just by having that one ability.

In terms of choices and content, a high-int Nano with Scan Thoughts gets by far, far, far, far, faaaaaaar more out of the game than anyone else.

In the december build there's
207 Intellect checks.
72 Speed checks.
54 Might checks.


3 checks for Nanos.
2 checks for Glaives.
1 check for Jacks
.

With Scan Thoughts, there's 1540 lines of extra descriptive text throughout the entire game and in the December beta alone, there's 50 extra dialogue options based on Scan Thoughts.
In fact, I would consider it a total trap choice not to take Scan Thoughts, and it's basically a Feat Tax for playing a Nano.
 
Self-Ejected

Excidium II

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In the december build there's
207 Intellect checks.
72 Speed checks.
54 Might checks.


3 checks for Nanos.
2 checks for Glaives.
1 check for Jacks
.

With Scan Thoughts, there's 1540 lines of extra descriptive text throughout the entire game and in the December beta alone, there's 50 extra dialogue options based on Scan Thoughts.
what the fuck, and people thought the checks in PoE were lopsided
 

Infinitron

I post news
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Messages
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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
HERE WE GO:

Eurogamer Recommended

Torment: Tides of Numenera review
Planescapism.

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recommended-large-net.png

Smart and commendably weird, InXile's homage to Planescape Torment doesn't exceed its inspiration but certainly does it proud.

By Richard Cobbett Published 28/02/2017 Version tested PC

Kickstarter-fuelled nostalgia or not, it takes more than a little self-confidence to name your game after one of the smartest, most beloved, most respected RPGs ever made. That's not a percussion heavy soundtrack you're hearing in Not Planescape Torment: Numenera, just the clanking of its giant brass balls. And yet somehow, against the odds, inXile does it proud. To be clear, Planescape remains by far the superior Torment, but Numenera is as close as anyone's gotten to not just recreating what it did, but the experience of discovering it.

Both games have their roots in pen-and-paper universes, though as with Planescape, it actually helps not to know much about the world so that you can learn along with the main character. You're not an immortal amnesiac this time, but rather the 'Last Castoff' - in brief, there's an entity called the Changing God who likes building himself new bodies every decade or so, then just dumping the old one. That's you this time, though like your brothers and sisters, you retain your consciousness, and are a relatively common sight in the world.

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Enough options for you? There's no Journal to remember what everyone's said, unfortunately, though key characters will repeat themselves as often as you like.

It's a fantastic world, too. Numenera is SF rather than fantasy, set on top of eight civilisations' worth of toys and wreckage that range from familiar robots to full-on demonstrations of Clarke's Third Law that any sufficiently advanced technology can be combined with a silly hat to make its user look like a wizard. It's a multicolour world of strange floating doohickies and spinning triangles and particle fountains and ancient clocks the size of buildings, and honestly a real breath of fresh air after the far more traditional settings of recent RPGs like Pillars of Eternity and Tyranny and even The Witcher 3.

It's not just enjoyable for letting the artists play with the full colour palette, though - it's a great setting for quests and stories. One of my favourites from early on involves the 'Levies'. Like all the best RPG quests, this one is both an assignment and a way of learning about the world in a more active way than just being told the lore. The basic concept is that the first area, Sagus Cliffs, is protected by golem style creatures called Levies, powered by a year of life donated by new citizens. One however has gone horribly wrong and is perpetually in tears. It turns out that its donor was a petty criminal who was planning a big heist that would have ended in tragedy. Instead, after becoming a citizen, he shaped up. However, his Levy remains a product of that year that never happened, complete with all the terrible memories and guilt. Your task is to persuade his creator to gift him a better one.

This approach as much as anything is what Numenera takes from Planescape Torment. There's more overt things, like shout-outs to a past castoff called 'Adahn', villains called the Sorrow that look exactly like the Shadows, and the unnamed main character not usually being able to die, albeit mostly for plot convenience rather than anything really justified in story. However, the interesting parts are invariably the moments it finds more philosophical takes on quests, to wrap the familiar in strange and twisted new imagery, and build a bigger picture of the world through smaller, seemingly isolated nuggets of plot and character.

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You do notice the lack of combat after a while. Sections of Sagus Cliffs are supposed to be dangerous, but it's hard to feel that when walking with impunity.

Where it stumbles, it's typically because very few of these details feel as personal as The Nameless One's slow realisation that he's basically behind every scrap of pain he encounters. The Last Castoff isn't completely disconnected from past actions, obviously, but is a big step away from being personally responsible for anything, in a story that often feels afraid to get truly dark, and whose philosophy leans more towards long speeches and debates than the perfect simplicity of Planescape's central question "What can change the nature of a man?" or Mebbeth's exquisite deconstruction of classic RPG fetch quests.

Again though, we're talking about a stone-cold RPG classic here. Working on the same levels is already more than most even attempt, and falling a bit short is nothing to be ashamed of - even if it's impossible to overlook that 'Tides of Numenera' is the real title here, and 'Torment' less a summary of the plot than a general statement of design intent.

It's also worth noting that a lot of the above is mostly an issue in the first couple of thirds of the game, with the third - a genuinely alien place called the Bloom - finally showing real teeth. I'm glad the whole game's not set there, as I did enjoy the sunlight and lighter touch of the Cliffs, but I would have liked more of its lingering menace and threat to kick in a bit earlier, when the Last Castoff doesn't face a whole lot except socially awkward "Hey, haven't we met?" conversations and hunting for the plot in a maze of side-quests.

Mostly, questing is standard issue fare, with a bit more focus on picking text-based options to get things done, and occasional breaks into full-on interactive fiction when exploring the past. The most dramatic break from the norm is what Numenera calls its 'Crisis' system, and it really is a refreshing way of handling more active encounters and retaining player choice.

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The Bloom is easily the best location. It's as dark as Sigil, operates on brutally alien morality, and feels oppressive to explore even when there's little going on.

The idea is simple. There's almost no combat in the game, and none of it is the usual ambient goons just standing around, or NPCs going from "Hail, friend!" to "WE MUST FIGHT TO THE DEATH!" at the slightest nudge or insult. Action encounters are sparse but complex, initiated only at key story moments and often possible to cut off before even that by using your party's pool of Might, Intellect and Speed points to intimidate or persuade or slink away in silence. When it does, the world shifts to a turn-based system. Instead of just fighting, however, you can still talk, use items, manipulate the battlefield, and more.

The system often works great, as the first battle showcases. Normally it would be a straight-up fight. Instead, you can play with light bridges, intimidate the enemies into fighting poorly or straight up giving up, weaponise the arena with the right skills, or simply surrender, be knocked out, and wake up wherever it was they planned to take you in the first place. The second big one takes the system in more of a stealth direction, using musical devices to distract not-immediately hostile enemies and with failure causing a diplomatic incident between two species, rather than simply dropping you back in for a second attempt.

The further into the game you get though, the less inspired these sequences become. By the end there are far too many characters taking forever to take their damn turns and the initial sequences' complicated, interwoven mechanics have been boiled down to stuff like 'kill everyone or hit that crystal three times. Yes, that one just sitting there in the open.' The final really big fight - surviving until a certain event - was so boring, I put on a movie. While there are options to avoid combat at times, having a non-combat build didn't help me avoid taking shots and knocks on the way to these non-violent solutions.

The later sequences aren't helped by the fact that while, technically, you're supposed to be balancing a limited number of Intellect, Might and Speed points to spend on physical challenges and conversations, with the more you spend increasing your odds of success, Numenera never really puts the screws on. You only spend a few of them per choice, most challenges can be given to any member of the party rather than just the Last Castoff (big exceptions being calling back on previous memories) and it rarely takes many to get an almost guaranteed success. The result is that it's almost never worth gambling instead of just straight-up buying a victory. In addition, not only does a full team have points pouring out of every orifice, there are boosters, and while staying at an inn to recharge them is expensive, it's not so expensive that it's ever actually a problem to do that as needed.

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Not knowing Numenera as a setting, it's hard to tell how many seeming Planescape shout-outs are part of the setting - the Castoffs having their own Blood War for instance, or the Bloom's voraciously biological take on Sigil's Portals.

I don't want to be too down on either system though, as both are good ideas and preferable to the bland combat and tedious skill-checks they replace. When the Crisis system works, it feels like a GM is controlling the fight, just as the points system has a few clever subtleties, like combining with individual skills such as Persuasion to distinguish between, say, talking a character down versus shouting them down. That guiding touch isn't always there, though, and the longer the game clicks on, the more it feels like the passing of time itself should probably have been listed as co-designer - its razor hands slicing away the early subtlety in favour of brute-force solutions.

In particular, there's a certain awkwardness to much of the world. It's hard to put a severed finger on exactly what it is, because it's not that Numenera lacks for quests, locations or content. At the same time though, you can't go into many buildings on the map, areas are small and fairly sparsely populated, and much of the content on offer is oddly shared out. Take for instance Sagus Cliffs. For all of its quests, in practice you only need to complete a couple to get to the second hub. That's a full third of the game that you could easily spend ten hours investigating, or almost complete by sheer accident- not least because the lack of combat/difficult skill checks removes any sense of how powerful you currently are or need to be at any given time. Your current level really tells you nothing.

Luckily for Numenera, the audience most likely to enjoy it is also the audience most likely to be tolerant of such mechanical things. The obvious comparison is with Pillars of Eternity, a game rooted in the RPG mechanics of Baldur's Gate et al, and the feel of the old Infinity Engine. Torment however, then and now, is a game built on story and narrative; of seeing promises of over 1.2 million words and going "Hurrah!" instead of emitting the kind of groan that normally involves a regrettable curry washed down with a whole cheesecake. If you're the kind to just click through the text, avoid. That's where most of the fun is.

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The people of Numenera have no shortage of technology. But usually no manuals for it, no way of replacing it, and often no idea what anything was originally meant to do.

And in that regard, it's successful. Like its predecessor, Numenera may not have invented its world, but it makes it one you'll want to spend time in. Where other RPGs are still content with a dragon or some apocalyptic end of the world boom, here the stakes are personal, as well as both asking and inviting far more interesting questions than how much fire you can fling from your fingertips. It's a far more welcoming game than the original Torment, though a slower burner as far as the main plot goes, and one that never quite has its predecessor's dark confidence. It is, however, as close as we've had in the last 15 or so years, and certainly doesn't invoke the name in vain.
 

crakkie

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Goddamn Steam install is stuck at 100% for the last 20 minutes, with an estimate bouncing from 1 minute to 20 minutes remaining.

 

Zed

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Codex USB, 2014
so if you roll an int nano with scan whatever you'll never have to play the game more than once?
 

Urthor

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Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
By the way, how do you guys think, should I take "scan thoughts" on my first playthrough? Does it diminish a sense of discovery when a plot twist occurs?
On the other hand, I'm not sure I'll play through the game twice, so there's that.

It doesn't help in critical path or leak anything but it's an occasional neat route through sidequests and opens up some nifty dialogue. It'd definitely worth it I reckon
 

Infinitron

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
PCGamesN 9/10

Torment: Tides of Numenera PC review
By
Jeremy Peel

Torment%20Tides%20of%20Numenera%20PC%20review.png


After a long day of intense conversation, my party lay their heads to rest in a tidy hostel on the high cliffs of Sagus - a port for airships where homes slip regularly into the sea.

Though the inn is open to the air and its rooms rest on long stilts that disappear into cloud below, Tranquility’s Rest is the first true calm we’ve found in the bustle and intrigue of the city. Perhaps that’s thanks to Tranquility herself, a honey-voiced proprietor and mutant, stretched tall as if from too many lie-ins. Perhaps it’s the pheromonal perfume she wears.

When we wake, it’s as if our own world has collapsed into the ocean. While we slept, a serial killer has struck again in Sagus’ Underbelly, stripping a casual acquaintance of their life and their skin. Meanwhile, in another questline, adventurers who needed our help were forced to fight a great psychic battle alone. Not all of them made it.

The passage of time, normally the sole preserve of the player to push forward, is just one of the quiet ways in which Torment: Tides of Numenera breaks and remakes the rules of the RPG.

Who knew this bewildering and brilliant game was going to work out? Well: nearly 75,000 backers did. Kickstarter projects have a way of taking the tension out of an outside success story. But it’s true Tides of Numenera didn’t necessarily have much going for it, as a spiritual sequel. Not the wild and impossible Planescape setting, which remains locked away in a tower at Wizards of the Coast. Not Chris Avellone, the man who contributed countless words to the original Torment. In lieu of those things, developers InXile have chosen to inherit vibe, themes, ambition, and a certain frustration with RPG convention.

That’s inherent in the premise, which finds you not chosen for greatness but disposed of. Shed like a snake skin by a body-hopping immortal named the Changing God, your body is a castoff - and your character the consciousness that rushes to fill the God’s space in its head.

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Ahead of you, somewhere, are the Changing God and answers. And behind, always following, is the Sorrow - a sort of psychic octopus who relentlessly pursues the Changing God and his castoffs, like some horrific policeman of mortality. The upside is that for you, death is impermanent: a fleeting moment of pain from which you quickly recover and often learn something.

You’re far from the only abandoned thing in the Ninth World. Built on the ruins and technologies of past civilizations, here is a far-future Dark Ages in which the internet is an ancient and little understood form of magic. A city like Sagus Cliffs has its seat of government in a space shuttle encased by rock, while the engines act as forges for the Underbelly below. Even the sand burbles with the grains of degraded machine intelligences.

If that sounds a bit odd, times that by weird, tack on some strange and you’re getting somewhere close to how out there the new Torment is. The Numenera setting - a universe dreamed up by tabletop designer Monte Cook, himself a Torment veteran - proves a wonderful stand-in for Planescape, and InXile have carved out their own corner to have fun in. It’s a place where no side-quest or NPC need be disallowed on the grounds of canon.

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In exploring Torment, I’ve met a man whose tattoos map the known world. City guards built from sludge by a machine, itself powered by a single year of each citizen’s lives. A visitant from another world who gave his arms to create his children, as per his race’s reproductive process. The personification of the letter ‘O’. I’ll never see Sesame Street in quite the same light.

It’s important to point out: the experience of playing Torment is at least 75% prose (with the occasional diversion into verse, which isn’t nearly as dreadful as it sounds). If you’ve played Pillars of Eternity or any of the recent Shadowrun games you’ll have some idea of what to expect - but Torment takes it further than either. InXile use the dialogue box as a platform for full descriptive passages: drawing characters in more detail, fleshing out scenarios with threatening postures and revealing tics. Occasionally, they gently enhance the effect using sound, though voice acting is sparse and reserved for key characters. The environments onscreen, vibrant and intricate though they are, serve only as a visual guide to the imagination.

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It’s an unusually high burden to place on the player, and that prose won’t be for everyone - I hope you’re up for learning some new or archaic words, like lambent, stentorian or ovoid - but it’s unusually rewarding too, in its novelistic way.

The people and particularly the objects of the Ninth World (the Numenera of the title) are described with wonderful specificity - so that you know what they’re made of, how they make you feel, perhaps even have an inkling of what they might be used for, even if you have no idea how they actually work. This is how Torment stays grounded. Just because something is strikingly weird, doesn’t mean it can’t be tangible - real enough to care about or be afraid of.

It’s an approach not always flawless in its execution. Occasionally the backgrounds will let down the writing with asset reuse. Once in a while, somebody will stay standing up when they should be lying down dead - a source of less confusion in a different setting, you might imagine.

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And sometimes, environments can feel too dense, at least for my overloaded mind - exhausting in their array of near-bottomless nodes to plumb for vivid text. Thankfully, InXile tend not to fill their maps with too many unavoidable scripted encounters, leaving you to start up conversation with NPCs whenever you’re ready, tackling the meal at your own pace. It helps that the text attached to those NPCs is always unique and alluring.

The central story, too, is a chain of compelling mysteries that pulls you onwards. Without spoiling anything, it’s a story that provides you with so many different opportunities to be caught on the line, emotionally speaking.

The murder in the Underbelly? That propelled me through later, related events in the main plot and coloured the decisions I made there - providing motivation which wouldn’t have shown up had I not slept in during that particular side-quest. Maybe for you that motivation will come in another series of events I never saw, or the plight of a companion I didn’t pick up. More often than you’d imagine, those smaller stories feed back into the main one, infusing it with personal investment. It’s a super neat trick, and one only The Witcher 3 has managed similarly in recent memory.

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If you’ve ever played an RPG and thought of an offbeat solution to a quest - perhaps one that involves something unrelated you know about the world - well, there’s a chance Torment supports that. That kind of thinking is its stock in trade. This is the game for those frustrated by the RPG forever-promise of consequence, the illusion of choice that doesn’t always hold up once you’re seasoned enough in the genre to see the seams.

It would be unparalleled if not for the release of Obsidian’s Tyranny not six months ago - and Tyranny achieved its reactivity by sacrificing overall playtime. That Torment matches it over a much lengthier period goes some way to explaining why it’s been this long in development.

I’ve been umming and erring over whether or not Torment has a pacing problem. If it does, it’s only because it’s advanced outside of its genre’s comfort zone. In a more traditional RPG, combat is part of a loop that breaks up the more dense chunks of storytelling. Torment removes the onus on combat, to its credit - but doesn’t fully replace it with anything.

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It’s not for lack of ideas. Torment’s combat is highly accomplished. When it comes around, InXile call it a Crisis - since there’s often a way to resolve a situation via stealth, conversation, or even simply by embracing death and coming back once your enemy’s have moved on. Crises are a turn-based affair resembling Divinity Original Sin, in which each combatant can make one move and one action per turn. Everyone hits hard, and getting the win is often about taking advantage of your quicker companions, who get to go earlier in the queue.

It’s also about making use of your Cyphers: technological oddities which, whether through intent or by accident, have some powerful combat function - healing and buffing allies or reducing your enemies to chemical goo. Carrying too many Cyphers creates unpredictable interference that bestows increasingly negative effects (I met one merchant who had sprouted little claws all over her body, so be warned). It’s a brilliant way of discouraging hoarding. Instead of keeping them for a rainy day that never comes, you throw out Cyphers without hesitation during Crises to turn the tide. As it were.

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These are clever, satisfying solutions implemented by seasoned RPG designers who know exactly what annoys them about RPG convention. But a side-effect of that same philosophy means that the Crisis system can wind up underused. Depending on how diplomatically you play, combat can come around very infrequently indeed, and the weapons strapped to your back will see barely any use. In that scenario, Torment can feel like one long improvement on Baldur’s Gate II’s crammed hub city, Athkatla. That might be your dream game. Or, uninterrupted by any text-free combat sequences to cleanse the palette, it might feel like too much of a good thing.

That’s a matter of taste. What I can tell you is that it turns out there’s a power in picking your battles. When I did fight, I did so at the very edge of my abilities, using every trick I’d learned and every gadget in my robes. When I did fight, it was because I’d made a very deliberate choice to do so. Resorting to violence out of revenge, out of desperation, out of malice? That’s a powerful set of feelings, and one RPGs generally rob us of by making combat the default.

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Outside Crises, InXile have worked hard to incorporate your party’s skills into conversation. You’ll quickly get used to rolling the dice to see whether or not you’ve succeeded in breaking down a barrier, or persuading a city official to give you the time of day, or dodging a lethal blast from malfunctioning numenera. You’ll select the right companion for the job and spend their skill points as ‘Effort’ to influence the outcome. Just as in Crises, failure can lead to its own intriguing outcomes too. More than anything, Torment rewards curiosity - certainly over good sense or planning. After all, what do the undying have to fear but transdimensional squid beasts with tentacles thicker than your head?

When you do rest, it’s usually not because you need to tend physical wounds, but that you’ve had a hard day’s discovery or diplomacy. There’s more than a touch of the Fighting Fantasy books about the whole thing, and in some senses Torment feels at its purest during the lovingly drawn choose-your-own-adventure sequences that bridge its key story moments.

In a non-linear experience of time that befits the setting, we already know that Torment succeeds. At least 75,000 people are behind it, willing it into being. What’s so delightful is that it succeeds not primarily as a nostalgia exercise but as as a genre-pushing RPG, and a beautifully told story about things left behind.
 

Tigranes

Arcane
Joined
Jan 8, 2009
Messages
10,350
Fired it up.

1) Holy shit, that run acceleration thing WHY WOULD I WANT TO WATCH MY DUDE ON ICE SKATES 8000 TIMES IN AN ISOMETRIC GAME YOU RETARDS

2) I knew it, the Sorrow is retarded and 5 minutes into game you get the whole BIG EPIC EVIL THING WITH MYSTERY EVIL POWERS SO SCARY.

3) Fucking inXile completely incapable of good looking UI and now it's consolified until you have a 2003 B-grade adventure platformer on the Playstation style oozing through every part.

Otherwise, intriguing/promising!
 

Infinitron

I post news
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Messages
96,980
Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
PC Gamer 89/100

TORMENT: TIDES OF NUMENERA REVIEW
By Chris Thursten 5 minutes ago

Torment occupies a special place in the history of PC roleplaying games. It sticks in the memory: Baldur's Gate's stranger, sexier, smarter sibling, interested in headier stuff than swords and sorcery. The original Torment was highly regarded and its influence is felt throughout the RPG genre, from Pillars of Eternity's soul-reading to the warped denizens of Fallen London. Yet it's never, until now, had a proper follow-up. Other designers have borrowed pieces of Torment, but never the whole.

Torment: Tides of Numenera is that successor. Following in the footsteps of Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity as Planescape Torment: once followed Baldur's Gate—and based on the same engine—inXile have recaptured much of what made the original game special. This is a free-roaming, dialogue-heavy isometric RPG that places thought resolutely before action. Although combat features, the entire campaign can be played without acting violently.
The Planescape setting is gone, swapped for the Ninth World—the far-future background to Monte Cook's Numenera pen and paper roleplaying game. This is an unrecognisable take on Earth one billion years in the future, with the accreted technological detritus of innumerable vanished civilizations underpinning a medieval society that brings Clarke's third law to life.

There's magic, but it's really science—and the science is strange, spanning time travel, the transference of consciousness, parallel universes, and nanomachinery. Michael Moorcock and Jack Vance are other prominent influences, from Torment's writing to its look: this is science fantasy done in the psychedelic pastel shades of a 70s paperback.

You enter this world as the Last Castoff, coming to terms with your new identity as you plummet to your death like the doomed whale in Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. You're an immortal creation of The Changing God, a futuristic sorcerer who transfers his consciousness into new bodies to unnaturally prolong his life.

His discarded former selves—the castoffs—spontaneously form their own consciousnesses when they're abandoned. After death you enter the Castoff's Labyrinth, a dimension within your own mind where your character's class and key traits are determined by a memory-probing personality test. And after that you awaken, miraculously healed, in the city of Sagus Cliffs.

Castoffs like you are being hunted by a mysterious killer called the Sorrow, and finding a way to escape this seemingly-inevitable fate motivates your first steps into the Ninth World. Quickly however Tides of Numenera becomes more about discovering this new world and the people who inhabit it, with your own story intertwining closely with what would be considered sidequests in any other game.

The term fits less well here, because Tides of Numenera is cleverly designed to thread a diverse array of different plotlines together. Sagus Cliffs is relatively compact by RPG city standards, but the game gets a lot of use out of each character and location.

There are multiple ways to encounter each storyline, with the way you happen to discover a quest often proving as important as the decisions you make at its conclusion. Your choices really do matter, too: an early roleplaying decision that I expected to result in a 'game over' screen meaningfully changed the way my adventure began. If you pick a trait like mind reading for your Last Castoff, you can trust that this'll be incorporated thoughtfully throughout the entirety of the campaign.

Your actions also influence the titular Tides, an abstract expression of different aspects of the human psyche as colours. The red tide represents passion, for example, while selflessness is gold. The tides you align yourself with change how characters respond to you, and they form a crucial part of the Last Castoff's journey.

The pace of the game does struggle a little during its initial hours, however, particularly if the setting is new to you. I had an advantage—I've got a big pile of Numenera corebooks next to my desk and I've run multiple campaigns. Tides of Numenera has the unenviable task of introducing the Ninth World alongside its own complex interpretation of it, and this means a lot of picking through unfamiliar terminology for a new player. Things improve with both fluency and progress: by the time the plot really kicks into gear, you'll have all the knowledge you need.

This isn't your RPG if you want to spend a lot of time thinking about item stats and party strategy: that's Pillars of Eternity's domain, not Torment's. Instead, a relatively simple skill system dictates how you use might, speed and intellect points to achieve your character's goals—from climbing a wall to convincing someone to see things your way.

What's impressive about this system is the way it is adapted to suit different circumstances. Succeeding at a task works the same way whether you're having a conversation in the open world, working through a Mere—a fragment of a memory that takes the form of an illustrated choose-your-own adventure—or fighting a battle. During dangerous encounters, the game becomes turn-based and combat-specific abilities can be used: but your regular skillset is still there, and if you want to solve a 'fight' by talking or hiding or rewiring an ancient device then you have that option.

Although the Ninth World is weird it's arguably more grounded than Planescape: your companions are an unusual bunch, but they're people too. This new Torment misses out on the levity provided by having a flying skull for a best friend, but it also feels more mature. Its designers have decided that busty rogues in bondage gear are best left to the late nineties.

A NOTE ON PC PERFORMANCE
As a game that consciously evokes the isometric RPGs of the late nineties, Torment: Tides of Numenera's technical demands are low. It ran well on multiple modern machines, with stable framerates and fast loading times.

Instead you'll meet, for example, an academic accompanied by the ghostly shades of herself split across infinite alternate timelines, a girl with a god in her pocket, and a glowing young man possessed—perhaps literally—by a manic need to turn every situation into an adventure.

A little bit more humour would help disarm some of the game's more self-serious moments, but I found the quality of the writing and the genuine philosophical complexity of Tides of Numenera's questions compelling in a way that games rarely achieve. To say this is an RPG written of shades of grey is an understatement: in fact, given the multi-hued Tides of the title, you could say that it's written in shades of everything.

Where the writing is consistently evocative, however, Torment's art direction is mixed. There are moments when it really comes together: particularly the Bloom, a city built into the bowels of a vast extradimensional creature. Yet a few areas feel like they could have done with a second pass—the Valley of Dead Heroes, supposedly a vast collection of memorials to all the world's dead, is a little drab and underwhelming. It's here that Torment falls on the wrong side of 'show don't tell'—a challenge for any story like this, and one that Tides of Numenera doesn't always successfully negotiate.

Your imagination is always there to pick up the slack, however, and if this game wants to give any of your muscles a workout, it's that one. The people who get the most out of Tides of Numenera will be those who want to do the reading, to infer their own connections between people and ideas, to roleplay as 'their' Last Castoff. When you've come to terms with the parameters of the Ninth World and internalised the type of RPG this is, the imaginative investment it requires becomes much lighter.


After Torment sheds its initial inertia, however, a few problems persist. Companions sometimes move erratically and get stuck on scenery, although this never really hinders your progress—it just looks strange. Animations can be stiff, particularly when viewed up close, and particle effects aren't as dazzling as the phenomena they're supposedly representing.

This is also the sort of RPG that might frustrate serial completitionists: if you're the type of person who wants to rinse out every area and ace every quest, recalibrate your expectations before jumping in. Trying to min-max Torment misses the point, which is to live out your character's decisions. This is an RPG that you roleplay, not an RPG that you game.

I also found myself wishing that they hadn't recorded a voice for the Last Castoff. There's very little voice acting in the game as it is—only a handful of characters, chiefly companions, and even then only during key conversations—and the protagonist's own lines are limited to 'I'm on my way' and 'I just leveled up'-type barks. Yet the voice they chose feels completely at odds with the person expressed through the writing. In fact, you have so much freedom to determine the Last Castoff's personality that I suspect no one performance would be a good fit. It's far from a dealbreaking issue, but it was persistently distracting.

Despite these issues, I'm impressed by Tides of Numenera both as a follow-up to a beloved RPG and as the digital debut of a fascinating setting. I've deliberately avoided specifics in this review, but I'm confident that if you've got a part of your brain dedicated to clever sci-fi story prompts you'll find a lot to love here. There's no escaping that Torment is a strange beast—it's a game for readers, an adventure for people who don't necessarily want to fight—but it's great to have it back.

THE VERDICT
89

TORMENT: TIDES OF NUMENERA

A slow start gives way to a thought-provoking adventure in a remarkable setting. A fitting follow-up to a beloved RPG.
 

Luckmann

Arcane
Zionist Agent
Joined
Jul 20, 2009
Messages
3,759
Location
Scandinavia
so if you roll an int nano with scan whatever you'll never have to play the game more than once?
Add to this the fact that you can pretty much spend the other stats with impunity, easily passing on most checks anywhere, there'll probably be very little point, yeah. When it comes to stats in Tides of Numenera, there's really nothing stopping a Nano from passing Might or Speed checks. But since Nanos get Scan Thoughts and benefit from high Intellect, and with the Intellect tests so massively outclassing the other checks, a nano with high Intellect is definitely the way to go. Worst case, you can let the other party members handle the Might/Speed checks - the game treats it as if you were the one doing it, anyway.

The only thing the other party members cannot do are the Memory tests, which are... Intellect.
 

Smoker

Scholar
Joined
Feb 10, 2017
Messages
120
It's p. funny how in a game with only 3 character types they can't even make the checks even. Makes u appreciate AoD

One thing Torment has in common with AoD is if you go full conversation character expect to get your ass reamed in the miniscule numbers of fights there is. I don't even know why anyone would go might/fighter tbh
 

biggestboss

Liturgist
Joined
Feb 16, 2017
Messages
528
After reading Darth Roxor's article about RPG writing, the dialogue and descriptions really do come across as amateurish. It's somewhat embarrassing to read, but not as embarrassing as this terrible UI. The button awesome prompts at the top where you cycle through interactable objects (I'm playing with a controller) aren't even centered properly. Whoever designed this UI should be blacklisted from the industry. The UI icons themselves look like stuff I would see in a smartphone game.

I'm still optimistic that I will enjoy the game, since I liked what I played in early access, but some of these design decisions in the post-console/EA build are baffling to me.
 

FeelTheRads

Arcane
Joined
Apr 18, 2008
Messages
13,716
btw is everyone in the inxile writing team a walking stereotype? Just saw callistege's writer on cmcc twitter and :prosper:


check her twitter for extra lulz

Did I pledge to have her write for the game? I don't remember. I seem to remember others that have since disappeared. You can always count on Fargo for bait&switches.

TheSixthAxis 5/10 (somebody's not getting a review copy of BT4)

Which you probably think would be fair and funny.
 

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