I talked my way out of conflicts inside a cthulhu monster.
I’ve always respected old school CRPGs. Sadly, CRPGs like Baldur’s Gate, Fallout and Icewind Dale came out at a time way before I could fully appreciate them. Spiritual successors such as Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity show that there is still a market for games like this. For the most part I have enjoyed these tribute to a classic era, but not enough to say I have fallen in love with this type of experience. I got to play Torment: Tides of Numenera at a preview event nearly two weeks ago, and I came in completely blind. Surprisingly, I have not heard of this game till I was asked to go to this event, so I came in with neutral expectations. After two hours of play, I left the event with a sense of wonder and curiosity I have not felt since playing Pillars of Eternity and Fallout 2. Tides of Numenera, from what I’ve played, looks to be one of the best RPG experiences of 2017. That says a lot considering I’ve only heard about it this month. What it has going for it, and what it does, is not only a respectful nod to the games that have inspired it, but a title that has learned and adapted to modern gaming conventions as well.
I played the Xbox One version of the game, which to my surprise worked really well. The controls felt natural and intuitive. While the pad doesn’t quite have the finesse or precision of using a mouse and keyboard, there was little to no struggle with the controls during my playthrough. I really do believe that being turn based and having a slower pace helped any interface issues in the transition between mouse and keyboard to controller. Overall, Tides of Numeria was solid on a technical level. I encountered very few bugs or hiccups in my playthrough. Everything felt pretty polished. There were little moments of jank when trying to talk to an NPC and my character model tried to get close, but for some reason couldn’t quite close the distance enough to activate the dialogue window. Other than that, I had no technical issues – good job!
To those unfamiliar with classic style CRPGs: they typically take place in an isometric perspective where you control multiple characters. While that is the general description, they are probably more better known for heavy roleplaying elements, rich (almost intimidating) lore, expressive side characters and exploration. CRPGs are usually heavy on plot and are slow burners, encouraging you to put countless hours into them. I do like these titles for not shying away from lore and for being unforgiving in difficulty. That being said, Tides of Numenera has many of these elements, and does them all very well. What sets it apart from its ilk however, is the heavy focus on non-combat encounters, a truly original and unique setting, and the overall slickness in its execution.
The real meat of the game is the lore and story, and damn is it extensive and heavy. I started my demo in what seemed to be the middle of the game’s main story. Now this preview will be spoiler free, but just know that where I played most of my demo was a super grotesque environment. All of my playthrough was spent in The Bloom: a grotesque settlement built within the bowels of a Cthulhu-esque creature. This environment exemplifies how over-the-top and different the lore and setting of the game’s universe really is. It’s a type of setting that is rooted in fantasy, but has many elements of sci-fi, steampunk and the occasional tentacular lashing of Lovecraftian horror. It’s very refreshing considering how iterative this genre is becoming with its setting.
Dialogue is very important as well. Actually, most of my playthrough was reading the intense flavour text of my companions and NPCs. There is a ludicrous amount of text dialogue, and thankfully most of it is really good and well voice acted. Just from two hours of playing, I had a good idea of the personality of each of my party members. I also got a sense of the people inhabiting the world – and man do a lot of people want to pick a fight with you. As confrontational as everyone is, you can easily get out of situations by talking it out and passing dialogue checks. In fact, I didn’t fight in my playthrough because I persuaded NPCs to leave or solved the confrontation non-violently. So dialogue is more than just for exposition. Chatting serves as an important mechanical tool and a legitimate way to solve conflicts in the game.
Visually the game is super cool. There are many influences I found in the story, allusing to many genres, and that absolutely bleeds into the visuals. It is a menagerie of cool fantasy elements, sci-fi techno nonsense and straight up body horror. These eclectic aesthetics make for an awesome mix. The choice of different visual influences keeps the game from being generic in any of those different style choices. There is something mystifying and charming about exploring the innards of a weird Cthulhu-esque monster, only to discover that there’s what looks like a spaceship in the middle the map. It certainly helps the game separate itself from the boilerplate swords-n-sorcery fantasy RPGs that have inspired games of this type for the past three decades or so.
All in all, I had an incredible experience with Tides of Numenera, and I totally feel that it has a bright future. I played an RPG where I got into no fights, read a bunch of dialogue, and explored a meaty monster prison and enjoyed every moment of it. The combination of mixed influences, a robust speech system, and dense interesting lore made this a CRPG that definitely stands out from the pack. I cannot wait to play more of this awesome world… and maybe even get into an actual fight.
Torment: Tides Of Numenera is slated for a February 28 release for PS4, Xbox One and Windows PCs.