Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
After over a decade, the spiritual successor to Planescape Torment took itself to Kickstarter and destroyed its original asking amount in almost no time. Paying tribute to both its predecessor and to the fans of it, Torment: Tides of Numenera is the perfect follow-up the cult classic RPG.
Starting off perfectly with a face planted nose dive from the atmosphere, The Last Castoff has an existential conversation with the fragments of their mind. What are they? Who are they? The what is easy. The Last Castoff is the latest being to be thrown to the wind as the one known as the Changing God discarded that body as they were done with it. The who? That’s entirely up to you.
Like Planescape Torment before it, Torment: Tides of Numenera is all about how “you” want to go about the journey. The world itself knows your face. Some people will hate you, others will love you while the rest simply won’t care about you. How you go about it and who you go about it with are all decisions that are entirely in your hands. Solo or with company to talk to, this journey through an incredible realm can be as pleasant or as rough and intimidating as you make it with how you decide to approach each situation that you find yourself in.
No two people will have the same adventures as they take on the role of The Last Castoff. At least not right away unless they catalogue their choices of course and the other follows suit. After the aforementioned face planting, you find yourself as either a Male or Female inside your own mind seeing reflections of yourself and remembering memories that are not quite yours. These start to set up the interesting journey that is about to take place but it isn’t until you decide for yourself if you will be what amounts to a Warrior, a Rogue, or a Wizard. These are rough categories but capture the basic essence of the Glaive / Jack / Nano which are the “classes” that the Last Castoff can become.
What makes the experience unique is that just because you chose a path in which to level your character, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go about doing something completely outside of those parameters. Torment is not restrictive. You want to be a glaive and end up with a silver tongue to get out of everything without having to lift a finger? Go for it. You want to be a Glaive that solves everything with the tip of a weapon? That’s ok too. The level of freedom in which you can experience makes the original path you choose nothing more than a basic template. Sure some paths will make getting other abilities harder but if that’s what you want? Then go for it.
Following the path of the Nano I was able to go through Numenera as I wanted. I talked my way through EVERYTHING. Why? Because I could as much as because the amount of dialog that I got to read was incredible. Choosing an ability to hear surface thoughts increased what could be said from the Last Castoff’s point of view making conversations that much more enjoyable and intriguing which brings me to the next point. Just because you’ve said something once or inspected something once, doesn’t mean that your second or third time will be the same making for some rather interesting situations.
With all the situations that you can find yourself in as the Last Castoff are amazing. Looking at something you’ll get a description. Looking at it again could lead to an even further inspection. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. You’ll never actually know until you do it and even at that, you would have to be persistent enough to even try those multiple times. Sometimes you’ll need to have talked to someone else in order to see something more because you’ll know what you’re looking for. The amount of detail that was put it was stunning at times making me realize just how much I’ve missed its predecessor.
While exploring the world there are four real ways of going about it. The first is simply to walk around and literally poke at everything you come across. Inspect rubble, examine an artifact, talk to people or simply look at how things move before making a further decision. From this initial starting point three other major factors can come into play. Might, Speed and Intellect can then be used to further your agenda from lifting rubble, running up a cliff face, taking an item from a fast moving mechanism or sweet talking someone into doing something for less or just doing it in the first place.
Each one of these actions take “Effort” which come from using points in the stat pool that a specific character has. This system was brilliant as instead of simply having arbitrary numbers, your specific stat point is your pool. Have a score of ten or fifteen Intellect? Then you’ve got that many points to play with which blends into the rest of the RPG mechanics. Starting off with a smaller amount of points, these can be increased either by leveling up your characters or by exploring the world and receiving rewards. In either case these give more points in order to spend as Effort however things are never quite just that easy.
On top of having points for Effort, characters can also increase their available points and obtain what are known as Edges. Gaining extra Effort denotes how many Effort points can be used for the specific stat challenge that you’ve selected. The more points that you put in then the obvious more points that you can use in order to try to get your way. Because running out of points is easy as these are both used for exploration and combat and only come back when you rest, Edges can also be gained which automatically give the character a free Effort point in what they are trying to do.
Automatically being given a point makes both tasks and combat easier. Need to convince someone but you’re out of Intellect points? Having a few Edge points in your Intellect will make your base percentage that much higher as well as let’s you try. There’s a balance to strike between gaining more Effort and Edges. If you have enough Edge points for example, you’ve basically covered the stat input on your own leaving the character unable to use that particular pool of points because it’s already fully loaded. Honestly this is a good thing because it means that you both don’t need to worry about it and it means that they are already going to perform to the best of their abilities.
There’s a catch to this system that manages to both balance everything out and make you have to go out of your way to complete a ton of quests in order to level up. Starting off this didn’t seem to be such a big deal but it won’t take long for you to realize that you’re going to need a lot of experience in order to keep raising these two features as they can only be raised through leveling up “once per tier”.
Setting a limit on these felt a bit restrictive but it makes sense as without it, you personally would be suffering later on with the rest of the skills, abilities, and pools to draw from. Characters when leveling up simply can choose from one of the following options:
But each one of these can only be chosen once per “tier”.
Once they’ve all be chosen then your character goes up a tier and they all re-become accessible as well as a few bonuses for having reached that point. Torment allows you to play as you see fit as long as you play within these limits. Once a few levels have passed and the systems become familiar then it’s smooth enough sailing as you can plan out your leveling up. In my first ten hours? Most of that was all role playing experience with maybe three or four battles to show for it. Five if you count the tutorial. Two of those three were quite unintentional and there really was no talking my way out of it. “Can’t leave any witnesses” would be their famous last words.
Combat is a blend of old school Dungeons and Dragons meets the systems of Tides of Numenera. Once per turn a character can both move and act. Movement allows for the character to move within their allowed radius or use movement skills while acting allows for hitting your enemies or using combat or healing abilities. Initiative to decide turn order is calculated at the beginning of battle and from there the rest of the experience is smooth. Some enemies can seem fairly overpowered but that can either be because you messed with the wrong people or you simply weren’t equipped for the situation. Regardless, there are always your Effort points and your Edges that come into play.
Effort Points and Edges work the same in combat as they do in exploration. If you want to increase your chance to hit an enemy you can add addional Might or Speed points in order to do so. Some characters with their Effort Points and their Edges will simply be monsters on the field of battle while others you’ll almost need to deplete their Stat pools to hit something. Finding a good balance with your party setup will be important because every now and then, you will need to unleash hell on an enemy. It doesn’t happen often if you decide to Silver Tongue it, but it will, and because of that? You should be prepared!
I have to praise the developers on more than just the experience that they’ve created. I also have to praise them on how they designed the systems that allow the player to explore this realm of vast possibilities. Playing with a Keyboard and a Mouse in front of a computer screen is just as pleasant as playing with a controller in front of a big screen. Everything feels natural and smooth with one as it does with the other. Furthermore, options have been made for the size of the text from smaller options to even larger ones allowing for the player themselves to select what they deem is appropriate instead of an arbitrary tiny font that needs a telescope to read.