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Torment: Tides of Numenera Game preview

Game preview 04 November 2015, 15:03

author: Maiman

Torment: Tides of Numenera – the alpha version reveals a hardcore RPG with great potential

Tides of Numenera, the spiritual successor to the iconic Planescape, shows great promise. We can’t wait to share our first impressions from an early version of the game containing the basic gameplay elements.

This article was written prior to the game's release.

This text was based on the PS4 version.

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Torment: Tides of Numenera in a nutshell:
  • A classic, content-rich cRPG played from an isometric view;
  • Numerous dialogues and choices influencing the course of the game;
  • Turn-based combat system;
  • Fixes to the game based on players' suggestions.

Although it takes quite an effort to refresh a classic, studio inXile Entertainment might prove successful in this task. And it's not just about the technical matters. Above all, it’s about the skillful resurrection of a brand well-respected by RPG vets and unknown to the new generation of gamers, which at one point won the hearts of fans of the genre. After spending several hours with the early alpha of the new Torment I can say with satisfaction that the team led by Brian Fargo knows what they're doing, and Tides of Numenera is likely to turn out an excellent, concise production, as well as another (following Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2 or Shadowrun: Hong Kong) testimony to the effectiveness of Kickstarter-based cooperation between players and creators.

The fall

The tested version has been divided into three segments that demonstrate the various aspects of the game. First, we become familiar with the way the story is presented and its interface; during the free fall of our protagonist through a vast chasm we receive literary descriptions of the thoughts that swarm though his head, and emotions that he experiences while getting closer to the ground. A narrator also appears, reading these descriptions; his voice will accompany some of the sequences in the final version of the game. What's more, all of the main characters can speak, though we shouldn’t expect full voice acting, as it would be too costly. Such a move leads to a situation where audible dialogues are accompanied by silent descriptions that appear only in a text box. This field also includes – as in the case of Planescape or any other classic RPG – the options enabling us to choose an action or the words of our hero. However, this standard approach doesn't try too hard to be old-school – above all, it stems from the very nature of the game. In Tides of Numenera every choice is summed up by a description of its effect; it also opens new paths for future developments. The authors – constantly referring to the new Torment as an "RPG renaissance" – intend to make every effort to seamlessly intertwine the narrative with the plot, creating a cohesive, mature and absorbing story. In order to do this, they put emphasis mostly on the vastness of the story – not only in terms of its content, but also the consequences that even seemingly insignificant choices entail.

The beginning of the adventure is accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of strangeness. - 2015-11-04
The beginning of the adventure is accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of strangeness.

Planescape: Torment is one of the highest rated role-playing games of all time. The production has gained incredible popularity thanks to the well-developed story full of memorable characters and elaborate dialogues as well as the unique creation of the world. It was based on the Planescape universe, a part of the tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons. In the case of its successor, due to the lack of rights to the Planescape brand, the story is set in the world created by Monte Cook – Numenera. Changing the setting doesn't mean a change of concept, as Tides of Numenera seeks to repeat the success of its predecessor, dressing the old, proven solutions in slightly revamped robes.

After the fall comes a time for initial exploration. Although we don't remember who – or where – we are, the unidentified voices whispering about suggest suspension in a kind of metaphysical limbo. Not much can be done except from springing into action. By using one of the three attributes, the so-called Stat Pools that include Might, Speed, and Intellect, we gain access to a part of our memories. The game interface is very intuitive and allows us to understand instantly what will the interactive sequences be based on – the aforementioned attributes allow for the execution of individual actions. Depending on the level of a given skill, an action can succeed or not, in the latter case only somewhat improving the general statistics of the hero. Still, the introductory sequence is quite poor – since it’s intended to show the overall atmosphere, the moments in which the nameless hero (also known as the Last Castoff) rediscovers the various corners of his memory serve as means of highlighting the mystical aspect of the adventure.

Extensive descriptions fill the gameplay at every turn. - 2015-11-04
Extensive descriptions fill the gameplay at every turn.

The appropriate interpretation of individual memories is provided by a wide range of options that allow – in addition to helping gain a better understanding of the content of flashbacks – to take action that influences the course of a given situation. This system emphasizes the "literary" character of the production that the developers praise (or – depending on your perspective – torment us with) in all promotional materials. The beginning symbolically announces the direction in which the production will follow – we should prepare for walls of text, heavy atmosphere, the importance of the choices made and, above all, a story shrouded in mystery, set in a mystifying and fascinating world.

The Awakening

The second sequence is a direct consequence of the fall – the hero wakes up in a small chamber, where he finds his two companions and a sarcophagus broken by his body. Initially, the image brings to mind the first few minutes of the old Torment – the game also prompts us immediately to take a look around and talk to our comrades. Exploration and interaction are in fact the essence of Tides of Numenera, seamlessly weaving the elements of mechanics into the story. Although the two locations presented in this segment (outside the chamber we can also visit the fantastical "vestibule" surrounding it) fail to impress with their size, their design promises a treat for the fans of immersion into a game’s atmosphere by getting to know the place where the story is set. We can take a closer look at almost every decorative detail in the world – and almost each of them enables interaction. "Useless" elements of the landscape have been accompanied by short descriptions that expand a little bit the knowledge about the environment surrounding the hero.

We wake up by a broken sarcophagus with two companions at our side. Must have been one hell of a night. - 2015-11-04
We wake up by a broken sarcophagus with two companions at our side. Must have been one hell of a night.

Interactive objects or phenomena act exactly like NPCs – nothing stops us from initiating a conversation with them, hear what they have to say, or force a response to our action. For this purpose, we can use the three aforementioned kinds of skills, selecting an appropriate degree of a given skill (depending on how much we want to increase the probability of success of the action taken) and checking whether this leads to a desired effect. Most of the actions are usually commented upon by one of our companions, in one fell swoop revealing their character, expanding the story-related aspect of the assignment and suggesting alternative approaches.

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