Torment Tides Of Numenera was an impulse buy. The box and blurb promised a deep story and old style RPG trappings. The game itself delivers on all these fronts but like a complex fantasy or sci-fi series, it is not for the faint-hearted.
I’m currently working my through the Malazan 10 book series by Steven Erikson and what drew me to this was it being described as the hardest literary challenge you can set yourself. The first few hours of Torment feel exactly the same. Literally hundreds of themes, constructs and lore are thrown at you with little or no explanation. In fact, it is possible to die from your first conversational choices in the game.
The selling point of Torment is that situations can be talked around instead of resorting to combat. This is clear from the first few interactions when you eventually land on the planet. You play the last castoff, in essence, the last bodily vessel of the antagonist in the game ‘The Changing God’. When the Changing God gets tired of a vessel he casts them off and moves to a new one leaving a strange consciousness and fragments of memories in the empty vessel. You are this empty vessel identifiable only by a tattoo all your kind share.
Needless to say, this is a good starting point for the storyline of the game but rather than let you get straight into the game the story throws another few plot points at you as a way of character creation. When you are falling to earth you are trapped in a palace of your own mind and have to negotiate your way through this. Your questions in this phase form the character creation section of the game making you choose between the normal warrior, wizard or rogue classes not that you’d know it from the decisions you made. I made the kind of choices I usually do expecting to be classed as a rogue yet ended up a Nano, the game’s version of a mage. Nevertheless, you are intrigued enough by this stage to go with the flow and then you have your first encounter with an enemy called the sorrow. It hunts you in your mind from what I can tell so far and will be a constant threat throughout the rest of the game.
Despite the excellent plot and branching storylines, there are a few things people should know before diving in. The game itself is very poor at telling you where you should be going and what is a priority. There is no ability to set a marker to head in the direction of the next quest for example, or at least none I have found so far. Also using you or your companions abilities uses up points in one of the set fields. These points don’t replenish unless you sleep and recharge yet there is nowhere obvious to sleep in the first few hours of the game. This can lead to much confusion and wasted time as you naturally take on many quests at the beginning but waste your points on unimportant ones.
One early quest had me convincing a young boy not to spend money on cosmetic or physical augmentation and instead focus on education. While a worthwhile and enjoyable task on its own merits it doesn’t seem to have got me anything other than some XP. Maybe further down the line, this boy will return but he hasn’t as yet. Another issue is the poor graphics in the game. The world design and character models are nice and unique yet they are from such an isometric zoomed-out viewpoint that it is hard to truly appreciate them. If you use the right stick to zoom in then they become blurry and even ugly.
Even worse than the look is the sound quality. The music is nice and stirring and the relevant shocks sound well yet other than this there are periods of complete silence. Only some of your companions words are voice acted and the rest is via dense pages of text. While some may prefer this it is hard to take everything in when you are reading it against a backdrop of silence. When you are presented with 6 or 7 conversation options at the end you often find yourself asking the question again as you have lost interest and don’t want to pick the wrong option.
There is also the matter of the horrible menus you have to navigate through. You access these by hitting up on the d-pad and not through the start menu or the touchpad on PS4. When you get in there you have a functioning view of your items but no real idea about the skill trees or the aforementioned Tides that your decisions are putting points into. Unless you dig into the lore and pay real attention you could find yourself wandering around the starting area out of points and out of ideas what to do next.
Despite all this, there is a very deep and brilliant storyline to be found in here and the genuine ability to deal with confrontations in any way you see fit. Being the number one funded RPG on Kickstarter at the time and the successor to Planescape the game will attract much attention. You just need to be aware what you are getting yourself into before you begin. It is a deep, old school, isometric RPG that requires time, patience and dedication. If you are in the mood for this then Torment offers something unique on modern consoles.
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Torment: Tides of Numenera (PS4)