While everyone seems to be buzzing about Zelda and Andromeda and Horizons in the larger gaming world, I’ve been rejoicing the the spiritual successor to Planescape Torment is finally here. Torment: Tides of Numenera (I can never spell that last word correctly) launched on Tuesday and was an instant buy for me. It’s gotten really good reviews so far, although I’m trying not to read too many so as not to be spoiled.
I was hoping to be a lot further into the game by now, but it’s been a zany, busy sort of week, and early bedtimes, illness, and even a freak thunderstorm have conspired against it. So I’ve only gotten through the first two major areas, although that slow pace is partially due to my compulsive need to examine everything, talk to everyone, and make sure I’m picking up every available quest.
So far? It’s good. The graphics aren’t really the best — kind of a mixed bag — but they’re serviceable considering that the real strength with the game is its characterization, story, and writing. The setting so far isn’t quite as captivating as Planescape, but I’m warming up to this vision of a weird earth a billion years in the future. It’s strange but not so alien as to be incomprehensible. I love weird fantasy and speculative scifi, so this is right up my alley.
Torment makes it very clear from the get-go that it is a roleplaying game through-and-through, and even when I fail at tasks or make “bad” decisions, interesting things still happen. I’m simply picking what is interesting to me and feeling out the world without being concerned over pursuing, say, light side points. There’s a “tides” mechanic that hasn’t been explained yet, but I don’t really care since it’s not going to affect how I pick.
Two things that have bubbled up as great elements of the game. The first is that the RPG mechanics are clean and easy to understand. I really love how you have these three pools of points (intellect, speed, and might) that can be used to up your odds of success in encounters. Sometimes I’m not that concerned about winning, so I don’t spend any points, while other times I’ll invest two or three points to ensure a 100% success. Inventory is easy to manage and gear is clear about how it can be used. All of that is very appreciated.
The other thing is that as I’m taking the time to talk and talk and talk to all of these characters, it’s like a book is slowly unfolding in front of me. There are a lot of odd concepts and ideas at play here that need to be gradually understood, and some of them are downright fascinating. I found myself very captivated by the “Levies” — unquestioning guards that are formed by taking a year of someone’s life away to make a “person” that will only live for that year before falling apart. There was a hint of personality and memory in one of them that made me think that there’s more to these people than just a clever idea.
I’m in no rush to plow through the game and can see playing Torment in small chunks here and there. It’s far less combat intensive than most modern RPGs, and in fact I’m going to try to take the Planescape route by avoiding combat at all costs. Already my character is highly perceptive and an accomplished liar when it suits her purpose. It’s kind of like an adventure game with RPG elements than an RPG with lots of fighting. And I have no idea where it’s going or what tropes lay in wait. Right up my alley.