When I think of the word ‘tide,’ I imagine oceans, and to some degree that’s relevant with InXile Entertainment’s new game, Torment: Tides of Numenera. Reason being, as someone who has little to no experience playing isometric RPGs, much less ones based on tabletop success, Torment awashed me in a tide of content and options. It’s both thrilling and nigh overwhelming at the same time, but I found myself captivated from the very start, with my character, known only as The Last Castoff, was falling into a dark abyss. As your character falls, text-based descriptions of the events unfold before in extremely well-written prose. You are faced with choices, and the lasting consequences thereof, right from the start. It took me over an hour just to get through this initial character creation prologue if you want to call it that. The writing was excellent, the choices were all compelling, and depth and breadth of this RPG experience had me adjusting from settling into my chair to the edge multiple times.
This is a scenario that would play out repeatedly in my time with Torment: ToN and is still that way as I continue to play through it. I can tell I am near the end of my first playthrough, and having read about the game online the consensus is that it’s about a twenty hour experience. That is short compared to some other games in the same genre, but, it’s impossible to experience everything in one playthrough, there are so many choices and consequences to make as you play, and therefore at just twenty hours, it’s actually kind of reasonable to think you could replay it again (unlike 40-100 hour endeavors). Over that span, there’s a lot of quality content here; some optional, some not of course, but the quality stays consistently high for the most part, although in the latter portions of the game the shine wears off a bit and the experience gets a little bit more tepid, almost like it’s running out of steam, but it’s not like the experience just gets terrible, it just doesn’t have that same ‘punch’ as it did earlier. It’s still quite good though.
You might expect a learning curve too, or at least there will be for the genre-uninitiated like myself. Controls are responsive and game mechanics largely make sense when they’re first introduced, but when I mentioned being nearly overwhelmed earlier with the game’s choices and depth, that was no joke. The amount of character classes and types and stats felt kind of grind-y and a barrier to my investment into the game. I was worried I would make the wrong decisions and get deep into the game only to get stuck and frustrated. Fortunately, that has not been the case. Typically I’ll favor mage like characters, which is what I did here, but with stats also favoring a convincing tongue, you can often talk your way around bad situations. Even when you find yourself in crisis, or Crisis rather as they’re called in-game, you can find alternate ways out of battle. I much preferred this route as turn-based RPG combat is still something I typically loathe, in no small part because I don’t put forth the patience and effort to strategize. So having that option to find an alternate path out of the Crisis was welcomed, and, at least in my experience, the Crisis moments are not all that common anyway. Beware of The Sorrow, though; this vicious, relentless, tendril-swinging monstrosity (sounds like I’m describing Venom, ha) exists solely to hunt you and the other Castoffs down and kill them. As a Castoff — a spawn of an entity known as the Changing God — your place in the Ninth World is undesirable to The Sorrow and a violation of the balance. You’ll spend a great deal of time figuring out who you are, how you got here, and many other soul-searching and developing questions, while fending off the assaults of The Sorrow.
Ultimately, Torment: ToN offers a very compelling balance between deep gameplay, accessibility, and character-driven story. While it may seem overwhelming at first to those unfamiliar with the genre, it nurtures a sense of exploration and quest. Failure in your quests is often just as interesting as success, and that the entire adventure is closer to twenty hours than forty makes it more reasonable that you’ll finish and replay it again.