Gaming

Numerous quests in Tides Of Numenera

Like Planescape Torment, Tides Of Numenera is rather more dialogue-driven than it is combat-oriented.
Like Planescape Torment, Tides Of Numenera is rather more dialogue-driven than it is combat-oriented.PHOTO: INXILE ENTERTAINMENT

Torment is a vision of a world built upon layers of ruined ancient civilisations

Back in 1999, I played a role-playing game called Planescape Torment, set in the famous Dungeons And Dragons universe.

In that game, you play as the immortal Nameless One who has lived so many lives that you have forgotten all about them and even your own name. You journey with a constant companion - a floating, talking skull - and other characters to revive the memories of your previous lives and find out why you cannot die.

The unique personality of the Nameless One and the game's emphasis on dialogue over combat made this one of my favourite and most memorable role-playing games. Unfortunately, despite the critical acclaim, the game did not sell well and a sequel failed to appear. Until now.

Torment: Tides Of Numenera (TON) is the spiritual successor to Planescape Torment. After a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign (I was one of the backers) in March 2013, and having raised more than US$4 million (S$5.6 million) but missed its initial 2015 release date, it is finally here.

TON is based on the role-playing board game Numenera. It is a vision of a world built upon layers of ruined ancient civilisations. This accumulated detritus of aeons has long fallen into decay and holds an assortment of ancient powers.

You play as "The Last Castoff" of The Changing God, a man who cheated death by using the ancient powers to live for centuries in a succession of new bodies.

  • 8/10

    RATING

    PRICE: $59.90 (PC, version tested), $79.90 (PS4), $79.90 (Xbox One)

    GENRE: Role-playing

You are one of the bodies being discarded after use.

While Numenera does not have the rich heritage of Planescape, the tone of its story is uncannily similar. But the character of The Last Castoff is much more conventional and lack the charm of the Nameless One.

You play the game in a third-person isometric view that allows you to marvel at the beautifully crafted game universe.

Audio effects are marvellous, while voice acting is natural.

Like Planescape Torment, TON is more dialogue-driven than combat-oriented. As long as it is a named character, you will be able to have a lengthy conversation with him or her. And often, you get quests as a result. It also gives you a better understanding of the game's lore. But, thankfully, only major characters are voiced. If not, this game can go on forever.

There is no single way to play this game, given that there are numerous major and side quests. You will be facing moral issues and making difficult decisions, amid huge amounts of dialogue.

You can opt to talk your way out of dicey situations or battle it out. When you need to battle, it is old-school turn-based combat. Thus, you have time to strategise and make full use of each of your companion's abilities.

This is also where the most irritating part of the game comes in. All the characters have certain amounts of Might, Speed and Intellect points. You need to make use of these points to perform actions such as fight or persuade.

Even in conversations, for instance, you have to use Intellect points to persuade someone.

Thankfully, if your companion has high Intellect points, you can use his or her points for the persuade action.

You recover all these points by finding an inn to get some sleep and restore your energy. Or you have to buy potions to do so. Pack more of these potions, as you will be caught in situations where you are low on these points but need them to get out of a tight spot.

It seems excessive that you while gain experience to increase these stats, you constantly have to top up these points to use them.

An excellent role-playing game in its own right, TON unfortunately does not quite live up to the stellar standard of the original.

Maybe more than a decade of reviewing games has made me jaded, unlike the younger and more naive me who played Planescape Torment. But ,with the emotional baggage, I found myself constantly comparing TON to Planescape Torment. And TON just does not have the charisma and intrigue of Planescape. Or maybe I was just missing that floating, talking skull.

•Verdict: Torment: Tides Of Numenera is an excellent role-playing game with deep layers of dialogue and lore that make you want to continue playing to find out the truth. But the truth is I think I still prefer Planescape Torment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'Numerous quests in Tides Of Numenera'. Print Edition | Subscribe