The original Planescape: Torment was an odd addition to the Baldur’s Gate franchise added in 1999, and yet it was one that picked up a loyal following. Unlike Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment never got a sequel or expansion packs, and though it was fondly remembered, it was most likely destined to never make a return. A Kickstarter campaign for a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment was started in 2013 and reached its goal in less than six hours, as well as setting a record at the time for the highest-funded video game on Kickstarter. Originally due in 2014 the inXile Entertainment developed Torment Tides of Numenera finally reached us in February 2017. With a legacy stretching back just over 17 years Torment Tides of Numenera has a lot of expectations to fill, and while the narrative holds up, the gameplay comes up short.
Like its spiritual successor, Torment Tides of Numenera is a plot-driven game with large amounts of dialogue, narration and choices. Almost all of this is in text form with few audio narrations, so approaching this as you would a novel rather than as a game is recommended. There is combat, but the system is obtuse and not as fleshed out as other games in the same style. I actually found myself trying to actively avoid combat as much as possible because I found the whole process tedious. This is sadly not limited to combat as many of the game mechanics are unnecessarily complicated and poorly explained.
If you can get past the problems with the game mechanics you will find a rich narrative focused on your character, the Last Castoff, and the mystery of your creation. What you learn early on is that there is a god that goes around creating bodies to inhabit for a while, and then once he is done with them a new person is born in his abandoned body. One such person is you, and you will meet many others like you in your adventures. The mysteries around why he is doing this form the backbone of the game, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t fully engaged by them. For all the frustrations in the game’s interfaces (and there are many) the story made me want to push through them to find out what would happen next. Additionally, it did feel like the choices I was making were impactful and did change the way the game played as a result. For a game like this the narrative is king, and Torment truly shines in this area.
Final thoughts on Torment Tides of Numenera:
Torment Tides of Numenera is not going to be for everyone, and it is definitely not the title I would use to introduce players to this style of game. That said, fans of the original Planescape: Torment are going to love this, and people who enjoyed Pillars of Eternity will also find plenty to enjoy. You just have to know what you’re getting into before you start and approach this with the right expectations. For those of you willing to brave the walls of text and irritating game mechanics you will find a satisfying narrative that will keep you busy for at least thirty hours. If you are looking for a more action packed game there are other options you may want to look at first.