What have you been doing this last week? That’s very interesting… but let’s talk about me. You see, this week I was lucky enough to be invited down to the swanky west-end in London Town to meet the lead developer and the writer of a new RPG – before spending a couple of hours playing this huge game.
Torment: Tides of Numenera developed by inXile Entertainment, is the spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed 1999 game Planescape: Torment. The world takes place in Numenera, which is a tabletop fantasy campaign setting created by Monte Cook. You play the role of the Last Castoff, who is a consciousness born into a body of an eons old entity called the Changing God. You are fleeing an ancient creature of immeasurable power, “The Sorrow”, who hunts the Castoffs of the changing god through time and space. All clear? Good good!
The game promises to give us a deep emphasis on storytelling, through complex character interaction, dialogue tree choices and a very personal narrative unique to each player. The developer told me that in other games you normally die and the game resets to where you left off, before leaving you to replay that section. In Torment: Tides of Numenera, death is part of the process and embedded into the story, being commented on by other NPCs as part of your overall narrative journey. The other elements of the RPG promise deep characterization and even deeper customization. With the devs behind the recently released Wasteland 2, this gives an indication on the style of game and how seriously they treat a RPG.
So I was lead into a darkened room with some of the beautiful art work from the game laid out on the walls, before being put in front of a huge monitor and left to my own devices. They placed me in around the middle of the campaign, in a section where you find yourself exploring a whole area situated in the middle of huge alien insides, where settlements worked and societies have been founded. I can’t talk about the actual quests, but the RPG mechanics works in the normal way, whereby you follow main quests and pick up little side quests along the way. It plays a lot like the old school RPGs you’ll know and love – the likes of Diablo and the original Fallout series with its 2.5D perspective environments. At this point in the game I had a party of three running with my main character, all of different classes and different skills. One of them was very funny, like a character from Futurama, with great quips and comments on the situation. What I did mainly for the two hours is explore, interact with NPCs and read the reams of story displayed in objects and from character conversations.
Storytelling is most definitely one of the main focuses of this Torment title, and the narratives, dialogue and lore is immense. The writing is very dense while beautiful, and you can see the man-hours spent into creating this amazing world oozing from within. The problem with playing a game like this in just two hours, being thrown in halfway through a campaign, is you really need to be able to understand it from the beginning to get a true understanding of the story. The good thing is that it has intrigued me enough to be involved in this world from the start and gave me a hunger to unlock its secrets when the game gets released fully. The menus let you examine quests, skills, characters and special abilities – they may look overwhelming to begin with, but for those who love D&D and old school RPGs, it’s an Aladdin’s cave of goodies.
I only experienced two combat encounters while on my travels in this world, which shows you how involved I got in the actual narrative and conversation trees. These were turn based and again very multifaceted in the level of detail you can work with in planning your attacks and defense. I got lost to start with, as you would probably expect, but the mechanics work well and I am looking forward to mastering the system in the future.
In the looks department the game is old school, but the pre-rendered backdrops are stunning and the artwork is amazing. Some of the detail in the character design can be overlooked at first glance, but after a few hours you notice loads of wonderful touches to the palate. The audio is very rousing and the voice-overs are excellent.
I really enjoyed my taster time with Torment: Tides of Numenera. There aren’t many games like this on Xbox One and it deserves a place amongst the action, sports and guns titles. Whether this might be too much fantasy for some people when the game gets released on February 28th, only time will tell. But for me I’m looking forward to delving into this amazing RPG again and getting back into the intriguing narrative driven world it brings.