Torment: Tides of Numenera Review

Torment: Tides of Numenera caused a pretty big ruckus in 2013 when it became the biggest game Kickstarter ever and received full funding in just the first 6 hours. It’s the spiritual successor the 1999 game Planescape: Torment. The game is written by Monte Cook, best known for work he’s done for D&D.

It’s also a game I keep seeing come up time and time again. I love RPG’s so makes sense to jump and see what all the ruckus is about.

Stats and Interactions

Every character has 3 main stats. Might, speed, and intelligence. Most interactions in the game, whether it’s dialog or combat revolve around these 3 stats. Every time you do an interaction you must spend stat points in order to complete an action. Every character also has a certain amount of effort they can apply to a certain stat. The higher your effort the more stat points you can put toward an interaction. You can also some times use your companions stat points instead for the interaction.

So for example, if you are trying to pass a persuasion check you would need to put intelligence stat points toward the interaction. Every stat point you put toward the interaction raises the chance of success up to 100%. If you do not have enough stat points left or not enough effort to use enough stat points to get 100%, you will be presented with a percentage chance of success.

When you use your stat points they are gone. You can refill your stat points by using various items, or they refill in full when you rest.

It’s a simple system that anyone can grasp.

Combat

This game has a very strong focus on character and choices, and not so much on combat. There is no difficulty setting. I would guess because most if not all combat is avoidable.

Combat is a mostly standard affair. Every character has a certain amount of initiative and it determines attack order. Every character can use an action, like weapon attack, as well as move to consume their turn. Once everyone has gone it seems the loop restarts.

Any time you make an attack with a weapon or skill you will use your stat points in order to determine success just like most situations outside of combat. Early in the game, it is very easy to run out of stats and be left not being able to hit things well. So you must always be cautious of how many stat points you have.

Negative or positive statuses are called fettles. You will notice them because the character will have an up green arrow for positive fettles, and a downward red arrow for negative ones.

All characters have ciphers. These are special slots where you can equip special items that have strong effects. For example big damage. Once you use a cipher it is gone. You should generally hold on to them for special combat situations where they would do the most good.

A Game of Choice

If this game has anything going for it, it’s that it’s all about choices. From the very get go the game is causing you to make choices, and some will kill you. I died within the first few minutes. It was a good chuckle as I reloaded, but such moments happen with surprising frequency. The game pushes you towards a class right away based on your early choices. You are free to change it as you see fit though.

Many interactions cause changes to your alignment, called Tides. There are a number of Tides all represented by a color, and each standing for some kind of concept. For example, the gold Tide means you are doing something good and charitable. Your primary Tide determines certain things throughout the game. How much is hard to say but you will from time to time see a dialog mention the response is due to your primary tide.

Becoming too good or bad can have consequences. For example, your companions might leave you if you go too much one way or the other. Your companions will also challenge you in to talking them out of leaving.

I did lose a character and what felt like an inopportune time. It wasn’t the end of the world but there is not always another character just around for you to pick up and let join your group. You might not even need any companions to finish the game though. In many interactions, you can use your companions stat points in place of your own. So to me, it makes sense to try to keep as many around as you can.

There are special story trees that appear at certain points of the game. It’s like a choose your own adventure book with still images. I would guess these exist to simply cut down on production time and costs. Personally, I think they missed out on using the game engine to tell these engagements. I feel like these are the weakest part of the game, they just feel out of place.

Graphics

It runs on the Unity game engine. Graphically the game looks quite good. The interface is adjustable and looks great on a high DPI display. Unlike Tyranny, they got it right.

Locations have good amounts of details. It’s has a very stylistic type of look that is quite cohesive and fun. The artworks is amazing.

The character models are however not that detailed. They look good enough, but vs the rest of the world, they can feel a bit lacking.

The only real sour point graphically is the game does not seem to work correctly with Gsync. For some reason, dialogs will stop accepting input at random, and thus you are not able to move forward. Turning off Gsync solved the problem. The developer has been made aware of this issue. I’ve found other posts from people having the same issue. According to the developer, they can’t replicate it, which I find hard to believe.

Gameplay

The game world is not really that large, but it is very intricate in some places.

There are some wonderfully interesting characters in the game. You can get a little swept up in the little things. For example, there is a creepy group of characters that eat dead people. You may be presented with the chance of having these characters eat part of you, and yes I did. It’s these little things that make the game really pop.

Around every corner, there are a lot of these funny little things which keep the game interesting. There are numerous instances where you can eat, or drink weird things. You’ll always ask yourself if it’s worth the risk. There are plenty of bizarre characters as well.

One of the odder things is you can kill yourself, or nearly kill yourself in some instances. This allows you to access your mind, which is basically another dimension with a few of its own quests and characters.

Your actual companions come with a bit of range. Some are heroic good, some seem bad, and one is a blob. There is a decent amount of banter, and you can talk to your companions and get their thoughts about the current situation. Each one has their own interesting sort of back story that really brings them to life.

The quests are a mix of rather standard RPG fare like fetching an item. But there are a few really interesting quests. One that pops into mind is there is a robot that wants to have robot babies and how you help him get his “children”. These kinds of things just add an extra little special flavor to the game.

Conclusion

The game is good looking and is very approachable for most players. It’s an interesting, and different RPG on a lot of levels. Really unlike a lot of RPG’s out there. It has a lot of fun little details, which to me is the biggest highlight.

Despite all this, I’m left feeling a little empty. The locations are rather small and it would seem that there was possibly more intended for the game in terms of content. It feels like there are a few loose ends at the end of it all. I really didn’t feel like I cared all that much what happened to my character and was more interested in what would happen to my companions. I’m also slightly annoyed at how often I would randomly die.

The story was average, and the characters are good. I guess what I’m trying to say is the game feels a bit disjointed. It wasn’t bad but wasn’t that great either. It feels sort of forgettable. However, at 22 hours, and for how approachable it is, I could see some people really liking it. So I think you should give it a shot.

The pen name of the illustrious editor of this fine site. Randomly generated for a D&D game called Baldurs Gate. A chaotic good, male, dwarf, dual class fighter/thief.
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