DEVELOPER: Techland Publishing
REVIEW PLATFORM: Windows (Steam)
OTHER PLATFORMS: Xbox One, PS4, OSX, Linus
In the back recesses of my mind, among memories of ex-girlfriends and tasks I had to do at jobs I no longer work for, I have great memories of playing Planescape: Torment. Back in those days, Wizards Of The Coast could do no wrong (aside from making older MTG cards useless) and people were kind of stoked to see the company put their name on an RPG. The game was great, even if your tower ran like a slug. It received a lot of acclaim over the years of being one of the best PC games of all time, but the one thing it never got that it should have had was a sequel. Wizards owned the rights and had no interest over in creating one, but years later inXile Entertainment gained the rights and decided to move forward with a spiritual successor in Torment: Tides of Numenera.
The game takes place in the future of Numenera (because the original story wrapped up quite nicely), with you in the role of the Last Castoff who has a history, not of your own design. You're basically on a path of self-discovery as you venture through a universe filled with the remains of fallen worlds except for The Ninth World. The people currently living here are caught between knowing nothing of the worlds that came before them and little of the one they live in now. It is up to you to make your way through this plane of existence, either alone or by recruiting help (which we highly suggest).
The first thing you'll notice about Torment's gameplay is that there is no "easy-bake" guide to help you. You'll have to read the text at the bottom to follow the story and learn what to do as you play. I'm not gonna lie, there's a massive amount of text to get through—you're essentially playing a character in a novel with a lot of exposition. The story is awesome, but it's a lot to take in at first. You essentially have to accept the fact that you will learn nothing about the game without paying attention. There's also a great deal described to you that you'll never see, leaving it up to your imagination to fill in the blanks.
Your powers as a player include being able to switch bodies as an immortal. When you take over a body, that person's life is gone and you take over, but it reappears once you leave it and go to another body. You'll pick up tech to survive and knowledge to progress, but nothing is handed to you all at once, you have to learn your way around. You can recruit people to help you as you go, but their loyalty all depends on you. In a throwback to titles like Baldur's Gate, if you do something a party member disagrees with (say, align yourself with a faction or decide to take a path with more hazards), there's a chance that character may leave your party. That can be a sticky situation, especially if they later work with an enemy or attack you on the spot.
There's a great deal of unpredictability in Torment. You can die in any dozen different ways without even having a hand in the reasoning. But dying isn't necessarily the end, as your character will eventually recover and come back to life, but the events around you continue to move on without you. There's also no rule book of how to behave. If you wish to be a saint, it's your choice! If you wish to be a total dick, that's your choice as well. The choices you make through character interaction and pure actions in the game determine how people react to you and how your crew will behave. You can elevate yourself like a folk hero bringing great good to the lands made out of meat or pure technology, or you can be a scavenger with a chaotic nature who doesn't really care for most people.
There's a lot to talk about this game that we can't get into without writing our own novel about the intricacies of leveling up, the turn-based combat, the tidal system, the balancing of choices when you're in a conversation, the story itself which could take a day to explain without spoiling you. The fact that no two stories play out the same way, and you can actually approach this universe however you wish. All the way down to choosing what your character looks like. If I had to take everything about this game, wrap it in a box and put a bow on it for others to understand, I would call it the futuristic D&D game we've been wishing would come for years. It's the gaming equivalent of a choose-your-own-adventure novel series, but you don't get to hold the page down and come back when you make a poor choice, you see the consequences and follow it to the end.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is by far the best RPG of 2017 so far. Hands down one of the best I've had the privilege of playing in the last few years. There's very little I have to complain about this game, and what little there is can easily be overlooked. It's not going to be everyone's RPG, just being blunt, I know for a fact there are some who will pass one it because they have to read a lot. Those people are missing out because the story is worth it and the game itself is a great spiritual successor to the original. Playing this on PC was a great reminder to me of the way '90s RPG titles used to be done, and it has enough new elements that will draw in modern gamers, so there's great appeal across the board. I need to find time in my life to dedicate a solid week to this and see where it takes me—this is an enthralling story that I need to see the ending of.