Torment: Tides of Numenera Brings Story and Detail Back to RPGs

Torment: Tides of Numenera Brings Story and Detail Back to RPGs

When it comes to an engaging role-playing experience, the phrase “god is in the details” so often applies. At its best, rich world building with careful attention to the most minute element combines with player agency to create the experience of a living world. Unfortunately, RPGs often fall short of this. However, we now have a new hopeful in Torment: Tides of Numenera, the thematic successor to Planescape: Torment, one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved role-playing games of all time. Torment: Tides of Numenera is a single-player, isometric, narrative-driven role-playing game set in Monte Cook’s Numenera tabletop game universe. The game is presently in early access on PC, with a recent confirmation of a console release, and we had an opportunity to sit down with the game during Gamescom.

Genre: CRPG
Developed by: inXile Entertainment
Published by: inXile Entertainment
Release date: Early 2017
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Torment: Tides of Numenera Features

  • A Deep, Thematically Satisfying Story. The philosophical underpinnings of Torment drive the game, both mechanically and narratively. Your words, choices, and actions are your primary weapons.
  • A World Unlike Any Other. Journey across the Ninth World, a fantastic, original setting, with awe-inspiring visuals, offbeat and unpredictable items to use in and out of battle, and stunning feats of magic, powered by technology used in the award-winning Pillars of Eternity by Obsidian Entertainment.
  • A Rich, Personal Narrative. Thoughtful and character-driven, the story is epic in feel but deeply personal in substance, with nontraditional characters and companions whose motivations and desires shape their actions throughout the game.
  • Reactivity, Replayability, and the Tides. Your choices matter, and morality in the Ninth World is not a simple matter of “right” and “wrong”. You will decide the fates of those around you, and characters will react to your decisions and reputation.
  • A New Take on Combat. With the Crisis system, combat is more than just bashing your enemies. Plan your way through hand-crafted set-pieces which combine battles with environmental puzzles, social interaction, stealth, and more.

Torment: Tides of Numenera Gameplay

Numenera is set on Earth approximately one billion years in the future. At that time there have been eight previous worlds, each world stretched across vast millennia of time. Each played host to a race whose civilizations rose to supremacy but eventually died or scattered, disappeared or transcended. During the time each world flourished, those that ruled it spoke to the stars, reengineered their physical bodies, and mastered form and essence, all in their own unique ways. Each left behind remnants. The people of the new world—the Ninth World—sometimes call these remnants magic, but most call them Numenera. As the main player you are a new mind born into the body of one known as the Changing God, an effectively immortal being. Your quest is to escape an ancient creature known as the Sorrow and answer the question of the mystery of your life.

New players don’t need to have all the background information of this awe-inspiring world to enjoy Torment: Tides of Numenera, as the game’s intricate writing and stories do a marvelous job to immerse you into it. There are many familiar elements in this game: memory lost, immortality, philosophical discussions and journey into one’s own mind, as well as grey moral choices and multiple ways to finish a mission. In your play-through you will have a ton of dialogue and questions to ask and every choice matters. All of these qualities make Torment familiar to the players of its predecessor and the Baldur’s Gate series. After long years of waiting, lovers of classic RPGs deserve to be rewarded. Howerver, Torment is not just a simple repeat what was done before, and the game has enough difference to make it stand out on its own.

The Legacy System features prominently, and is a game mechanic that ties the lore of the world to the gameplay. The choices you make will define you over time and will have an impact on the world around you. For example, weapons may have attributes that benefit someone with a certain legacy. NPCs will react to you based on the legacy you’ve created and how it gels with their own. Wisdom, greed, compassion, all of these choices contribute to your in-game legacy. Further expanding the story are robust dialogue and companion elements, which let you dig deep into other characters and their motivations.

Torment: Tides of Numenera uses a traditional turn-based combat system in an isometric perspective. However that does not mean combat in Torment is not fun; based on varieties of your character build there can be many strategies to win a battle in this game. Instead of fast reflexes, this game want you to think and plan in order to win. Combat occurs during a moment called the game calls a Crises, which is something like an encounter. However, a Crises can feature more than just combat, and will integrate narrative elements as well as not always end in death as a failure condition. The crafted encounters aim to emulate the tabletop experience and they provide relief from formulaic gameplay we’ve seen from the genre. Developer inXile has been adamant to reinforce the lack of mindless trash mobs, giving these encounters thoughtful attention.

Players can craft their experience by choosing from 1 of 3 classes, and a unique descriptor. The Glaive, Jack, and Nano classes cover the fighter to wizard archetype and in between. Abilities and Skills round out the characters and work hand in hand with equipment that is more than generic fantasy trinkets. You will encounter items like a living armor that sinks into your skin, or a scepter that conjures a wave of ceramic statues. The attention to detail present in the world and story is just as present in the items you will find and use, making everything you pick up an interesting object to examine.

Death is also handled in a very unique fashion. When you die your consciousness travels to a labyrinth of the mind which is manifested as a dreamlike maze. Players have the option to reload or find an easy exit from the maze, but the true value lies in exploring the myriad nooks and crannies of your mind. You can encounter reflections of companions and learn truths about them and yourself. You can also face figments of yourself, unlocking opportunities for more quests and puzzles. New items and abilities can be found, improving your power when in your body, and exploring can uncover access to hidden areas and information in the real world. It’s a mystical and occult setting, and is a perfect fit to the game’s overarching themes.

Overall, the direction of Torment: Tides of Numenera is refreshing, thick with nuance and shows great potential. It’s attention to detail in every element of the game and fearless adherence to the traditional RPG makes it a game that can engross both RPG fans of yore and anyone who loves a story-rich experience. Check back with us soon for a Gamescom interview with developer inXile!


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Editor at Fextralife. I look for the substantial in gaming and I try to connect video games to the emotions and stories they elicit. I love all things culture and history and have an odd fondness for the planet Jupiter. I think my dogs are pretty awesome too.

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3 comments on “Torment: Tides of Numenera Brings Story and Detail Back to RPGs”

  1. Avatar Lich180 says:

    I’m glad to see inXile going all out on their RPGs. I think they are one of the few developers nowadays that don’t shy away from a true role playing game, with consequences and reactions to almost everything.

  2. Avatar Emergence says:

    This game is awesome. Its design is so meticulous and it makes such good use of the setting. Stuff like this are the kinds of games we were talking about missing in the Are RPG’s Dead? thread.

  3. Jbumi says:

    What a great preview – I’m so hyped for this game!! If it ends up being half as good as their ambition, it’ll be one of the best games ever! Will the console release coincide with PC?