Torment - Tides of Numernera by inXile is the spiritual successor to the popular and groundbreaking Planetscape Torment developed by Black Isle studios which was released in 1999. It's set in the same universe, in the ninth world era and is again focused on a story driven Role Playing experience with some elements of combat.
It's an isometric, text heavy design, but far from this putting me off, I found myself captivated and entranced by the depth , emotional context and level of choice presented throughout the game. One of the most important aspects of this successor is that it preserves Planetscape Torments strange philosophical tonality and imaginative character design.
You enter this world as the 'Last Castoff' a vessel for a deity called the "Changing God", this deity having long since moved on, you are allowed to move on with your life. Tides of Numenera is placed in more of a Science Fiction setting than a Fantasy based one, set in the distant future, the rise and fall of numerous civilisations have brought mankind to a feudal state. Most live not in technologically advanced cities but in simple settlements with the remnants of the distant past surrounding them - relics with a mysterious past.
The scholars have dubbed this the era of the "Ninth World", they believe that eight eras have passed for mankind and littered around the world are curiosities and artefacts which represent the last remnants of science and technology of the past, unknown civilisations - these are known as Numenera.
As a Castoff you begin to be presented with confusing memories of your past and this is where your story begins and you begin to shape your destiny and the world around you
Tides of Numenera brings the RPG genre back to it's roots, there's no grandiose, complicated menu screens or cluttered inventory screens. Instead the game concentrates on placing you squarely in the shoes of the protagonists, Tides of Numenera brings the emphasis back to role playing rather than tactical management of your character.
As with most RPG experiences, we begin the story with shaping your character, this comes from presenting the player with a series of scenarios that encourage you to try and decide who your character is. The developers have understood the importance of allowing the player to craft their own experience through the beautifully crafted text and intensely character driven writing prevalent in this title.
Tides of Numenera features beautiful environments, rich and detailed and full of strange creatures and creatively animated effects. Each area introduces the player to a multitude of different, intriguing characters and encourages you to explore dialogue options and talk to everyone you encounter.
Admittedly the game throws an incredible amount of text at you, it's sometimes overwhelming, but it's prose is rich, describing the atmosphere - the sights, sounds and smells, and when you relax into the reading, it crafts an immersive experience unlike any you have encountered before in recent years.
Combat is rather less important than the exploration of dialogue and the world environment. It does play it's part however and occurs during what the game describes as 'crisis points' and similarly to Divinity:Original Sin, it's not as simple as clicking on your enemy and offers the player a myriad of choices as how to proceed. You can utilise the environment or even talk your way out of the situation, in fact you have to go out of your way to trigger combat in this title.
Actions take the form of morality based system called Tides, these shape how other in-game characters perceive you. Each tide is represented by a different colour depending on the set of standards it represents. Justice for example is represented by Indigo - if you choose an action which is lawful and just, the Indigo colour will grow more dominant. These tides rise and fall throughout the game and eventually effect what ending your character will experience.
This is an engaging game, rewarding but it must be continually stressed throughout this review that it is Text heavy and very light on combat. The overall gameplay might even be described as similar to reading a book.
The game will give you no cause to drop your jaw in awe of the visuals, the lighting effects are impressive but the depictions of the characters and some of the environments can sometimes fail to impress. However there is some intriguing and complex enemy design The environments and animations add to the atmosphere, to the effect that when you first enter a creature you may find yourself comparing the animation and style that of something familiar and Lovecraftian. Where the game succeeds graphically is the unique nature and feel of each location that you travel to. To sum up, visually, Tides of Numenera is an acquired taste.
I really enjoyed the aural mastery present in the soundtrack, there's nice layering in the choice of natural grounded woodwind instruments. It would have been nice to have more music in game and more variation, this game is surprisingly empty when it comes to the soundtrack. The sound effects are again lacking, when in combat, the effects sound exactly the same regardless of the weapon you use of if you are supposed to be attacking at a faster speed than you were at the beginning of the game. The voicework is also lacklustre with varied quality and at times you will wonder if these had been recorded using a mobile phone.
I can honestly say that while I would never play through the 35 hour long campaign again, for those who wish to, the amount of genuine options in dialogue which change the course of the game's narrative may bring you back. There are differing endings for your character based on your moral choices (affecting your tides) but the lack of charisma and narrative congruence means that I wouldn't be tempted to return to it again.
What Could be Better
I would have preferred more cut scenes explaining some of the story in attractive cinematic quality, more attention to visuals and the audio. The story being told wholly through the use of text can become a struggle and it's a game you need to continually concentrate on, rather than relax and let the narrative flow through gameplay
It's an ambitious title, which doesn't quite live up to the promise of it's predecessor, this was a title I was intrigued by, but quickly found it to be repetitive and although at times, the narrative can be quite compelling, I found it can become complicated and that was very off-putting.
"An Intriguing title which is text heavy and graphically unimpressive"