Review: Torment: Tides of Numenera (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC, Mac, Linux

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Torment: Tides of Numenera
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (14.40 GB)
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Techland
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Original MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
This game isn’t here to compete for your affection for The Witcher 3. It doesn’t want to replace your Final Fantasy. Quite honesty, it’s not even aiming for your Dragon Age, for which it shares a similar gene pool. Instead it is here for those who love that absolute classic PC-style RPG system made glorious by games like Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2.

It is extremely narrated, and no, not by a voice actor. This game is narrated by the voice in your head. There is a lot of story to be told and it’s done so with on-screen text – a lot of it. While some may shy away from this, it harkens back to a time when your RPGs read like books, and your books complimented the worlds of the RPGs.

One thing that immediately stood out about is its unique fantasy world. Gone are the dragons and elves traditionally, but not exclusively, associated with CRPGs (Computer Role-Playing Games). It takes place on Earth one billion years in the future. Civilization has risen and fallen multiple times and the term “Numenera” refers to the technology adopted from the past.

One aspect of this ancient technology allowed people to cheat death. In fact, your character is basically a god, referred to as the Last Castoff, in that you are the embodiment of one such individual that was able to preserve his life by transferring his consciousness to a new body whenever the reaper reared its ugly head. This actually includes dying within the game, within reason anyway.

Death is not the end and if you choose to accept your death instead of, say, reloading a previous save, you will find yourself in this strange interpretation of your mind. Here you can make discoveries that help with progress and even reveal more about your character.

… a lot of combat can be avoided …
Morality is also handled uniquely here in what is referred to as Tides. Every decision you make is rewarded with points towards a certain Tide. There are no right or wrong choices here, only decisions that shape who you will become. A lot of these Tides are determined by dialogue choices and actions you take with your character.

Combat is referred to as a Crisis, but a Crisis isn’t always about simply defeating an enemy. In fact, a lot of combat can be avoided. The first battle I attempted ended in absolute failure, so I tried a different approach when I returned to life and found that alternatives seemed to favor my survival rate.

When you do engage in battle, it’s handled in a turn-based manner, much like previous CRPGs. However, in skirmishes you are able to use “effort” to assist in landing successful damage on enemies. By spending points on effort from a limited pool, your range attack might hit for more damage or keep from completely missing.

Effort isn’t only limited to combat, it’s also applicable when attempting to sway someone to open a door or move the hell out of your way. It was a confusing system initially, but I eventually figured out how to manage my effort resource and use it only when completely necessary.

… some fantastic dialogue that distinguishes each character from the other …
All of these elements combine for a deep role-playing experience, but one that is geared towards a certain crowd. When I say that the game requires a lot of reading, I’m not exaggerating. Some dialogue is spoken but most is not. Seriously, unless you grew up with this style of gameplay, you might not be prepared for the amount of reading required.

Fortunately, there is an option for various text sizes, because reading paragraphs with tiny text would start to hurt after a while. With that warning in place, this one reads better than a lot of games and has some fantastic dialogue that distinguishes each character from the other.

What I found a bit difficult to manage, despite my experience with CRPGs, was the menu system. It’s not that it isn’t organized, but there’s an unmistakable lag when trying to switch between panels, and at times my button presses wouldn’t register so I didn’t know if I was experiencing that lag or if a button press didn’t take effect. This isn’t a game-breaking affair but with so much information to sift through, it’s an annoyance to try and maneuver through these panels while the system is fighting you.

I’m also not quite sure if the map system offers a guide as to where your next quest is located. If there is, it was never explained to me, so I often found myself wandering around looking for the next person to talk to. This might have been by design in order to eliminate the hand-holding guides that newer games have adopted.

… quite a lot of frame skipping and general glitching …
I wanted to move further into the game in order to complete this review and I wasted a lot of time just looking for the next place to go on a quest. Eventually, simply learning the environment helped me understand where I had to go, which again, might have been by design.

Visuals:
This game is a looker, but from the standpoint that it’s a top-down role-playing game with static environments. You can’t rotate the camera, although you can zoom in. This makes for some gorgeous locales, but it also means that you can’t lean in closer or even change the angle of your perspective.

Furthermore, on the PlayStation 4 at least, there was quite a lot of frame skipping and general glitching when I was walking through the maps. I’m not sure if it was simply the size of the backgrounds, which are high-res images and not polygonal, or something else under the hood. Regardless it was pretty distracting.

The interface is attractive and compliments the style and aesthetic of the rest of the game, particularly the lower-third HUD. Character models also look great, at least from this high up in the air. Truthfully the entire world shares a common look that gives it an identity of its own which is a huge plus when you factor in that for the last couple of decades borrowed environments and similar graphics have been shared across the fantasy genre. Earth is its own place here, with a distinct look and feel.

… some dynamic-as-hell characters and a very unique take on the morality system …
Audio:
While a lot of reading is involved, the game does have some dialogue, and for the most part it’s read well. Musically, the game also delivers, though perhaps not quite as epically as some of the compositions Inon Zur put together for the Baldur’s series.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

Conclusion:
I seem to keep running into games that are great, but said greatness depends solely on the individual who is playing them and what their preferences are. Torment: Tides of Numenera may not impress someone groomed on Skyrim or The Witcher.

It’s a slow-paced role-playing game that requires forethought and quite some time to allow for the world building to establish itself. Those who take the plunge will discover a rich world with some dynamic-as-hell characters and a very unique take on the morality system. Hell, even its take on death is pretty special.

Despite my appreciation for its accomplishments, I cannot say that it’s a perfect endeavor. Despite its classic take on graphics, the game suffers from frame drops and just overall glitching. The lag makes getting through the menus something that I eventually wanted to avoid. Who knows, this might be patched in the future, but I have to write based on my current experience.

Regardless, with the exception of Divinity, there are literally no games of this type on PlayStation 4. Torment fills this void with a huge adventure, one that can be played multiple times with attention to various ways of tackling issues. It’s a tough sell, what with some huge titles releasing during the same timeline, but it might actually be an easy choice for those who know exactly what kind of game this is, and love it for that.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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