Review: Torment: Tides of Numenera
Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Mac
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Release Date: Out now
TL;DR: A fun and engaging RPG set in a world full of mysteries.
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Torment: Tides of Numenera feels like it’s been taken straight from the early 2000s. It deals with heavy descriptive text and gives the player the freedom of how to progress with philosophical conversations. This latest game from inXile doesn’t go heavy on graphic fidelity or groundbreaking new systems to the genre; instead, it focuses on its open-ended story and its cast of macabre characters, making this a hugely dense isometric RPG.
You play as a character known only as the Last Castoff. You are a body discarded by the Changing God, who uses hosts as a means of achieving immortality. There are other Castoffs in the world, and it constantly reminds you that each new Castoff is an improvement over the last. As such playing as the final Castoff you are powerful beyond measure. This also proves to be one of Tides of Numenera’s greatest strengths; encouraging the player to use the Last Castoff’s power as they see fit.
At it’s core, you’ll find all the mechanics you’d expect to find in any similar RPG; after undergoing a short character creation, you come across companion characters with their own stories, goals, and abilities. You’ll manage inventories, solve quests, engage in combat encounters, and the like. In this way, there is not one overarching mechanic that separates Tides of Numenera from its contemporaries. Instead, there are small ways that at first don’t seem like much, but are utilised in weird ways, which after coming away from the game, made me realise that this was one of my favourite aspects.
Skill points and the corresponding checks are a big part of Tides of Numenera. Regardless of which way you decide to mould the Last Castoff, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up pulling from the three skill pools – Might, Skill, or Willpower. With enough Might, you can smash through doors or use it to intimidate an imposing enemy. With Willpower, you can tap into latent memories to overcome the challenges with a bit more finesse.
If you do end up in a Crisis (the combat encounters of the game), fighting isn’t always the only option available to you. In fact, you can play through the whole game without ever needing to slice your way through enemies to make progress. A Crisis is more of a turn-based puzzle rather than outright fist fight. If you pay close attention to your environment, there’s a good chance that an alternate solution to the situation is hiding nearby. Even battles against the game’s ethereal Big Bad, a tendrilled creature called The Sorrow who hunts down the Changing God and his Castoffs with relentless fury, had multiple paths to completing the encounter. For those who really use brain power, Tides of Numenera excels at rewarding players rather than just using pure brawn.
The smart thinking within the combat is a unique design choice, though I can’t recommend Tides of Numenera to anyone looking for satisfying combat, I can praise it for its world building and layers of narrative twists and turns. The locations that the Last Castoff and companions travel to are also works of art that each house a story of their own. Ranging from hidden sanctuaries filled with stunning architecture to a fleshy underworld that shifts, groans and devours anyone who take it for granted.
There’s notable care put into each and every location doted around the Ninth World; every area the Last Castoff enters has its own character and is brimming with lore, if you take the time to look for it. inXile has done a stellar job bringing the tabletop setting to life through a dizzying amount of in-game writing. Rarely have I ever had to pay attention to everything in a game; less often has I wanted to, but the constant drip-feed of strong writing and memorable encounters made me want to make sure I never missed a word. The plot does always keep you intrigued as to what is coming, with the Changing God and answers ahead of you, and always following behind is the Sorrow a sort of psychic octopus who relentlessly pursues the Changing God and his castoffs, like some horrific policeman.
Tides of Numanera’s story explores the meaning of the power and how that has an effect on the nature of ones existence. Every action and conversation has consequence, which is presented by the ever-shifting Tides. Ostensibly the manifestation of natural forces, each of the five Tides reacts to your decisions, affecting both the world and those who you encounter. How you as the player react to everything will decide how the narrative plays out for the Last Castoff, and the overarching story, adding a huge sense of weight to every decision made. The game never judges your actions; instead, you make a choice and the Tides shift. The world goes on, but you have to live with the ramifications of each action.
The various intricacies of Torment: Tides of Numanera come together into one solid package. Though it isn’t perfect, there is no doubt that this is an RPG that will appeal to a specific type of person. The world that has been built is best appreciated at a slower pace outside of the main objective, where it builds itself with the dozens of side quests and diversions. Every nook and cranny hold a secret, be it an item or a bit of lore to give the player some insight into the world surrounding the Last Castoff. For role-players keen on experiencing a game of consequences and twisted fantasy, it’s well worth the adventure.
- A huge immersive world sprawling with secrets
- The world building and design is beautiful down to every detail
- Masterful writing for an all round enjoyable experience
- The amount of writing could be off putting for more casual players
- Camera work is sometimes sluggish breaking the immersion
- Menus are a little overwhelming giving almost to many options
The game is rated 16+ in the UK and “M,” for Mature in the US. Strong language and adult themes are present throughout the game.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game provided by Techland Publishing for the purpose of this review.