The weird and beautiful world of Torment: Tides of Numenera
Folks I confess writing this column has been problematic. A year long relationship went away with a Willie Nelson song and lots of whiskey. But as I floated along Whiskey River I grabbed a life-raft and between bouts of self-loathing and blue poetry I found solace by embracing nostalgia with a new game from developer InXile.
InXile has produced throwback RPGs with current-gen updates, games like Wasteland 2, Pillars of Eternity, and Divinity: Original Sin have been lovingly received with open arms by the gaming community. Truth be told these games are incredibly fun and addicting, added is a bit of nostalgia for the days of cranking up the 386 with VGA monitor that easily makes a person lose grip on time and space for hours.
Many RPG gamers my age and older will remember the fun and frustration of long scripted games that required an active mind and an over-active imagination. Current generation RPGs of all kinds came from the text driven adventures of PC games during the 80s and 90s.
In Torment: Tides of Numenera you play a recent “castoff” or ,specifically, an abandoned flesh-shell amnesiac of an immortal being known as The Changing God. An entity that sheds hosts every decade or so in order to beat the reaper and endure throughout the ages. A castoff is one of these hosts discarded by the chameleon god.
Taking place on Earth a billion years in the future amidst the amalgamated ruins of eight fallen civilizations, you start as a complete blank slate with no memories and no personality. Choices will shape and mold the long adventure before you and immediately you are thrown into character defining choices that establish class and combat style. It’s a creative way to pick the usual class of warrior, rogue, or mage by giving them different names of Glaive, Jack, or Nano respectively.
Starting this game off is a bit disorienting, there are text hints to help guide you on the basic game mechanics such as combat and skill progression, but if you haven’t yet played slow-paced, isometric RPGs, then it may take you a while to get your mind right. Tides of Numenera is meant to induce feelings of confusion, wonder and a sense of the weird through its creative writing of dialogues, descriptive narratives, and thought bubbles.
There isn’t much spoken dialogue among the NPCs and main characters allow the player to read and lend his or her own voice to the story. Some may find this tedious especially if they have been saturated with more straight forward action oriented games.
But Tides takes a big step backward in the right direction focusing on context critical narratives that will pose many head scratching choices that have real and lasting impacts on the gameplay and plotline. It’s a complex, fun and intriguing enough to keep you glued to the mouse and monitor for long chunks of time.
What I like the most is the art-style.
Tides of Numenera gives you a rich and colorful mashup of steampunk, cyberpunk, and fantasy all fitting into this ridiculously insane fever dream of fandom. It’s like Dr. Who, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne had an amazingly gorgeous brain baby. Tides of Numenera will grab ahold and drag you into its world and even work its way into your thoughts the more you play and read into the subtle complexities of the entire universe within the game.
When I was a young and impressionable gamer I built up my vocabulary and improved my reading literacy with games like Torment, Fallout and Balder’s Gate. It was reading the fantastic questlines, dialogues and stories that put me on the path to become a writer at a very young age.
For what Tides lacks in graphics or next gen fluff it more than makes up for it with some of the best creative storytelling I’ve ever experienced in a game for a long while. The concept of using death as a way to solve quests or even explore deeper into the story really gives the concept a unique feel along with the setting and story.
Give Tides a shot to step away from the usual fare or taste some sweet nostalgia for a change. Or if you are facing existence forever alone, an interactive story full of intrigue, mystery and weird characters would be just what the doctor ordered to get you through and let you appreciate the creative side of life and of gaming.
Brandon Watson has been on the gaming scene since first dropping coins in an arcade cabinet many moons ago. When not vaporizing zombies or leading space marines as a mousepad Mattis, he is making gourmet pancakes and promoting local artists.