Isometric “old school” RPG’s, such as Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale, are fast becoming things of the past, although there are still a few outstanding games in recent years that have brought new life to the genre, such as Paradox’s Pillars of Eternity.
One of the most beloved Isometric RPG’s of the olden days was Torment: Planescape, originally released in 1999 and still beloved by many an old gamer (such as myself) to this day.
Thus it was with great joy in my heart that I entered the world of Torment: Tides of Numenera, a crowd-funded spiritual successor to the original Torment game, developed by inXile Entertainment and published by Techland.
As a regular player of the table top Dungeons and Dragons games, a lot of the mechanics and designs were almost instantly familiar to me, although fellow journalist Samantha Hawes, who had not really touched the genre before, found it to be quite an information overload at first.
There is no tutorial as such, so they only way to learn is by doing really, and the game wastes no time in throwing you into the action, with the character creation part of the game serving as the only brief tutorial you get.
When I say that the mechanics were familiar, it is also mostly because they are mechanics taken directly from D&D and other such table top games that we all know and love. Combat, for example, still has an initiative order, which dictates who goes first in battle and how the combat proceeds. There are also skills and feats one can learn when levelling up, such as slight of hand, the ability to use heavy armour and all sorts of other tasty treats that are again reminiscent of popular tabletop systems.
Where a person would usually have to make roll-checks for things like persuasion, slight of hand and intimidation, in Torment, Tides of Numenera each character has a certain amount of points he can spend on Might, Speed or Intelligence per day, and spending these points (which are only recovered after a long rest) can help you overcome these challenges.
Since this is mostly a story driven game I shan’t spoil anything for those that may want to play the game, but as with most Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, the way you go about things and the construction of your party is of key importance.
Almost immediately after creating your character you come up to your first major decision, which ultimately splits up your party somewhat and leads you down different paths within the opening minutes.
This realisation soon makes you take to situations very carefully, because how you interact with your party, the world, people and situations all has a major effect on the outcome of your story, your party and even your life within the game.
This incredibly subtle balance of the various “tides” is something you always have to keep in check, and is best accomplished if you actually decide beforehand what kind of character you want to be, and how you are going to play that character during the course of the game.
This may seem like a silly idea to regular D&D players, but I feel an important one to point out with Torment: Tides of Numenera, as roleplaying your character can really help with immersion and decision making when it comes around.
It can also help when just adventuring through the world in general because, besides the main story line, all the side quests and other things you can experience in the world is completely up to you, which makes the world feel extremely alive.
If you decide not to talk to anyone in a town, then you probably won’t get any side quests or the like. But talk to some random townsfolk, find out more about the city and its people, and suddenly you are rolling in all sorts of quests given to you by various people, all because you decided to start a conversation.
This sort of in-depth layering of the world is incredible to see, and shows just how much love and time was put in to craft the world of Torment: Tides of Numenera, because at the end of the day, what you put into the game is ultimately what you will get out of it.
The graphics, thankfully, have been updated from the 1990’s look, and provide a beautiful top-down experience of the world, which is covered in all sorts of mystical and magical things to touch, explore and experience.
There are some definitely caveats before purchasing this game, as it is definitely not for everyone. First and foremost is the fact that you have to enjoy reading, as there is only a smattering of voice acting throughout the game, so the majority of interactions and decisions are done by you reading and then deciding on what course of action to take.
This is reminiscent of the old-school RPG’s, but for those that don’t enjoy reading, this may soon become very tiresome for you, so there is that to think about.
It is also an extremely long game, boasting over 70 hours worth of content (I actually suspect even more than that if you’re a “completionist” like myself), so if you were looking for a quick RPG fix, this is definitely not it.
However, if you want to immerse yourself in a living, breathing world that has been crafted with love and care, and where the decisions you make impact your game and experience then yes, Torment: Tides of Numenera is definitely for you.
This is more than just a homage to an old game – this is a game that stands on its own as a beautifully crafted isometric RPG, and instantly one of my hot contenders for game of the year in 2017.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is now available on PC, Xbox One and PS4.
Stay tuned to Telkom Gaming for more content and insight into exactly how the decisions you make impact the world later this week!