Publisher: Techland Publishing
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Review platform: Xbox One and Windows 10
Release date: Feb 28, 2017
Torment: Tides of Numenera is a fantastic adventure which tasks you with exploring Earth one billion years in the future. The game revolves around you, The Last Castoff, as you’re hunted by a beast called The Sorrow. The Last Castoff is a vessel used by the Changing God who has discovered the secret to immortality by transferring his consciousness from one body to another. However, every time he leaves a body, a new mind is borne from the remnants. The lore of Torment: Tides of Numenera is quite complex as the story involves multiple layers which you must peel away through its lengthy campaign. It’s up to you to stop The Sorrow and discover the secret behind the Changing God. Altering the natural progression of events and its unfortunate byproducts like death has consequences. That message seems to be at the heart of the game.
Throughout your journey you discover the Ninth World built on the bones of extinct, advanced civilizations and leave your mark on it. Torment: Tides of Numenera features a complex choice-based dialogue system which hasn’t been attempted in a game before. There are so many options that you can say whatever you want. This plays an important role if you wish to avoid conflict. Torment: Tides of Numenera allows you to make thousands of essential decisions, face the consequences, and meet death incarnate.
For those that don’t know, Torment: Tides of Numenera is the thematic successor to one of the greatest role-playing games ever created called Planescape: Torment. According to the developers, Torment: Tides of Numenera also “explores similar deep and personal themes of life, mortality, and sacrifice, challenging players to take intellectual stances and make moral decisions.” The options put games like Fallout 4 to shame. Even companions can leave you if you don’t accept their demands.
Aside from the text-based dialogue choices which play out more like debates, Torment: Tides of Numenera features turn-based combat. The mechanics implemented in this system are standard as you’re either allowed to attack or move when it’s your turn. Using items to recover health is also in there. As mentioned earlier, what’s somewhat aggravating is that the combat scenarios can last thirty minutes because you’re usually swarmed by enemies. Even if you have two other companions, it can take ages for your turn to come up again because you have to wait for seven foes to attack you. Luckily many of these people or constructs are weak but it’s still irksome having to sit there and see these critters scurry around the map. There needs to be an option to fast forward combat.
A lot of these waiting situations can be avoided if you’re properly equipped. Early on in the game you’re sent to clear out a bunker filled with drones called Peerless. The Peerless are weak but there are dozens of them. Instead of attacking them one by one, you can throw a gravity grenade and take out many at a time. However, you have to either find the grenades or purchase them. Players familiar with old-school role-playing games may figure this out but the combat might be a deterrent to newcomers. This hinders the accessibility. However, even death opens up new doors for players so it’s meant to be part of the package.
The game is a top-down isometric experience similar to titles like Diablo III but it has a very old-school feel. While Torment: Tides of Numenera looks gorgeous on Xbox One and Windows 10, the visuals are reminiscent of games like Baldur’s Gate which have a surreal yet realistic aesthetic. It’s hard to describe because the title is definitely unique and looks modern, but manages to capture the flair the gaming industry has lost over the years due to their relentless focus on realism. From the minute you load up Torment: Tides of Numenera, you instantly feel that connection with a bygone era.
The game runs like a dream on Windows 10 but experiences many issues on Xbox One. While the visuals are clear on both platforms, the performance isn’t. The Xbox One version is riddled with numerous problems like freezes and significant frame rate fluctuations. The two most aggravating issues have to be the crashes that occur during tense combat situations and the performance. Sometimes during combat, the controls become unresponsive and the only to way get around that is by restarting the game. Because the freezes occur during combat, you can lose thirty minutes of gameplay. Some of the battles last awhile as there are so many enemies in a given area. Having to repeat the same fight again and again on Xbox One can be quite frustrating.
It’s unclear what frame rate Torment: Tides of Numenera runs at on Xbox One because if you zoom it, it feels like 60 FPS but when you zoom out, it’s either 30 FPS or much lower. Is the frame rate unlocked or is this an example of poor optimization? The game could’ve benefited from more polish on Xbox One because in its current state it’s somewhat unacceptable. While these issues are annoying and don’t impact gameplay all that much, it still makes Torment: Tides of Numenera a jarring experience on console.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is an infinitely complex game which no review can truly capture. The sheer number of side quests, characters, dialogue choices and endings require that the game be played multiple times. Brian Fargo and his team have created an absolutely stunning experience—I just wish it was as technically sound on Xbox One as it is on Windows 10.
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