Torment: Tides of Numenera – Review

Numenera is so deep and heavy that it’s liable to change the landscape of console RPGs forever.

While Playstation 4 has seen the likes of Wasteland 2 and Divinity: Original Sin which are both text-rich and expansive, Torment requires another level of attention and patience with its rich palette of features, detailed descriptions, and challenging setting.

It’s a truly hardcore experience which dunks you in at the deep-end of the genre.

Based on a tabletop RPG in the Planescape universe, players travel to Earth one billion years in the future, now inhabited by mutants and synthetics, in addition to humanity and various pockets of wildlife.

In this future, a man – known as the Changing God – has found a way to transmit his essence to a body of his own design. Sounds like a pretty sweet gig if you ask me. Except that not everything is as it seems because each time he jumps, a new stream of consciousness is created in the old body. By doing this, he also wakes up some oversized, ancient abomination known as The Sorrow who wants to consume him and all his offspring.

Oh, and by doing this, he also wakes up some oversized, ancient abomination known as The Sorrow who wants to consume him and all his offspring.

Good job, pal!

Players assume the role of the Changing God’s final cast-off, who falls from the skies and is immediately hunted down by the creature. How you respond is entirely up to you.

You’ll pick up tons of side quests, learn more about the world around you, the origins of your birth through talking to companions and attempting unlikely tasks. Some quests even have a timer on them, and you can even avoid combat altogether by hiding from your enemies!

A lot of Torment is also spent trying to figure out the meanings behind the five tides, which is a much more advanced form of the Paragon/Renegade system. Essentially, each tide – identified by colour – is a specific emotional response to each decision you make in the game. Whether you lie about your identity or forcefully barge your way through a confrontation, the game is ripe for replayability with the various different options.

That is one of the game’s huge selling points. Because the lore is so flexible and rich that playing things through twice won’t feel like a chore nor repetitive, especially with the companions you can bring along and the situations you find yourself in.

Companions remember what you say, characters are affected by your choices, and the story structures to suit both. For better or worse. Surprisingly, you can even miss out on companions depending on how you play the game, showing that you can actually miss out on sizeable chunks of the content during any one playthrough.

You can also adapt yourself in various different ways using the numenera – an ancient technology – that lets you tweak your body and affect the landscape. You build up your fettles, offense and defense through cyphers and ability tiers, as well as swapping out armour and weapons which have various stat effects.

The interesting thing with the cyphers is that they are drained after one use and carrying too many at one time can actually negatively impact your abilities and even kill you, making sure it’s important they’re constantly monitored.

Torment is a gift which keeps on giving. It’s so well written that your decisions never really define your alignment. You won’t necessarily feel like a good person traipsing the wasteland, moving from place to place. Likewise, you may not necessarily feel like you’re part of a big bad’s origin story.

Torment simply offers up a really strong cast of characters that are varied and have intriguing backstories and abilities.

That said, it’s not all perfect. There are extensive loading screens which tend to go on longer than you’d like, and the game really does require your undivided attention so can be quite all-consuming and intense at times. I also found the frame rate gets ultra choppy and really slows down to a noticeably sluggish pace in busy, people-filled areas. Not ideal.

But if Zelda isn’t your RPG cup of tea, then Torment offers an old-school PC vibe that has yet to be truly seen or bettered on any home console. Even Divinity and Wasteland 2 feel a bit watered down in comparison, but that is both Torment’s biggest asset and greatest flaw.

It won’t hold your hand and it certainly won’t always make you feel comfortable. But if you’re ok with that then inXile may have just crafted the perfect world for you.

+ Extremely well written with deep lore
+ Detailed, intricate mechanics
+ So much replayability
+ The most hardcore PC RPG experience yet on console

– Choppy when screen is full of characters
– Extensive loading screens
– Not for beginners

Torment: Tides of Numenera

7.5 out of 10

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