Tides of Numenera............
A land in ruin, technological detritus strewn about, medieval law. Chris Thursten leaves the office to play the successor to Planescape: Torment.
A land in ruin, technological detritus strewn all around, medieval rule of law. Chris Thursten leaves the office to play the spiritual successor to Planescape Torment.
Torment:TidesofNumenera promises to be the successor to the genre-setting Planescape: Torment. It’s a free-roaming, dialogueheavy isometric RPG that places thought resolutely before action. There is combat, but the entire campaign can be played without acting violently.
The Planescape setting is gone, swapped for the Ninth World – the farfuture background to Monte Cook’s Numenera pen and paper roleplaying game. This is Earth one billion years in the future, the accreted technological detritus of innumerable vanished civilisations underpinning a medieval society. There’s magic, but it’s really science – and the science is strange, spanning time travel, the transference of consciousness, parallel universes, and nanomachinery.
You are the Last Castoff, an immortal creation of The Changing God, a futuristic sorcerer who transfers his consciousness into new bodies to unnaturally prolong his life. Castoffs like you are being hunted by a mysterious killer called the Sorrow, and finding a way to escape this seemingly inevitable fate motivates your first steps into the Ninth World. Your choices really do matter, too: an early roleplaying decision that we expected to result in a ‘game over’ screen meaningfully changed the way the adventure began. If you pick a trait like mind reading, you can trust that this will be incorporated thoughtfully throughout the campaign.
The pace does struggle a little during its initial hours. Numenera has the unenviable task of introducing the Ninth World alongside its own complex interpretation of it, and this means a lot of picking through unfamiliar terminology for a new player. But by the time the plot really kicks into gear, you’ll have all the knowledge you need.
This isn’t your RPG if you want to spend a lot of time thinking about item stats and party strategy. A relatively simple skill system dictates how you use might, speed and intellect points to achieve your character’s goals – from climbing a wall to convincing someone to see things your way.
What’s impressive about this system is the way it is adapted to suit different circumstances. Succeeding at a task works the same way whether you’re having a conversation in the open world, working through a Mere – a fragment of a memory that takes the form of an illustrated choose-your-own adventure – or fighting. During dangerous encounters, the game becomes turn-based and combatspecific abilities can be used, but your regular skillset is still there, and if you want to solve a fight by talking or hiding or rewiring an ancient device then you have that option.
While the writing is consistently evocative, the art direction is mixed. There are moments when it really comes together, but a few areas feel like they could have done with a second pass. Companions sometimes move erratically and get stuck on scenery, too, although this never really hinders your progress – it just looks strange. Animations can also be stiff.
Torment is a strange beast – a game for readers, and an adventure for people who don’t necessarily want to fight— but it’s great to have it back.