Torment: Tides of Numenera Previews

A number of journalists have recently played a Demo version of Torment: Tides of Numenera that allowed them to explore The Bloom, an expansive area somewhere in the middle of the game not included in the current Early Access build. A slew of previews followed. Naturally, a vertical slice is not necessarily representative of the final product, but the general impressions so far seem to be highly positive.


“We've seen a lot of people who have said, ‘This is exactly what I was looking for. This feels just like Planescape: Torment’” says Colin McComb, creative lead on Torment: Tides of Numenera. Let’s not dance around the topic, then: it does feel like Planescape: Torment.

Except, that’s a knotty statement. What did that famously revered RPG actually feel like in the first place? One of its most commonly cited qualities is that it feels so different. In contrast to its contemporaries past and present. You’re not on a quest to save the world in Planescape: Torment. Nor do you visit any cosy taverns in woodland villages, slay any dragons, or romance your Elfin companions. The one bar in the game is called The Smouldering Corpse, and it’s more than just a foreboding name for its own sake. It felt strange and singular when Black Isle released it in 1999, and that hadn’t changed when I went back to replay it in 2014, just before the isometric RPG renaissance we’re enjoying just now.

So yes, Torment: Tides of Numenera feels just like its precursor: completely different.


I went to London last week to play the finished game but on PlayStation 4 rather than PC. I wanted to see how the simultaneously released console versions (PS4 and Xbox One) held up. They weren't always part of the plan you see; they're a happy consequence of Techland signing as publisher last summer.

The good news is, the PS4 version works perfectly well, a bespoke radial menu mapping controls comfortably to the controller. It can feel odd directly controlling characters in what is a click-to-move game on PC though, especially when you snag on bits of environment or struggle to interact with things because you're standing in the wrong place. Pathfinding would normally sort that out for you.

Torment isn't quite as responsive on console as on PC, either. Areas load slower and menus are more sluggish to navigate. Minor niggles, albeit ones that could mount over the course of a long game. But otherwise there's no missing content and it's nice to see Torment: Tides of Numenera offered on console.


What can’t really be conveyed either through these gameplay videos, or really through any words of my own, is just how well-written Tides of Numenara is. Dialogue is interspersed with sumptuous descriptive passages that make playing almost feel like reading a good book. It’s not a typical choice, but it worked out really well in the demo I played, because it brought the fantastical setting and its inhabitants to life in a way that goes beyond visuals. The Bloom is an endlessly strange place, it being an extra-dimensional biological entity that spans the gap between different points in time and space. Though Torment is graphically competent, the unique horrors and cosmic oddity of the place would be lost without these extra bits of observational writing. Besides, all the best DMs write good fluff text; this is just the equivalent.

All told, The Bloom is just one corner of a much larger, equally weird world of the distant future, where countless human and alien civilizations have risen and fallen, each atop the ruins of the last. It congeals into an oddly alluring sort of techno-fantasy where just about anything seems possible or permissible. There's of course no way to know if all of that possibility will be diligently mined, but my two hours with Torment: Tides of Numenara certainly has me hopeful thus far.


Outside of a few specific instances, The Last Castoff cannot actually be killed. Rather than saving non-stop and reloading whenever you make a mistake, InXile wants players to accept when things go bad and watch the fallout from those decisions play out.

“We think of failure as a choice,” Ziets says. “One thing we committed to was paying off on as many player choices as we could, even ones that seemed pretty obscure.”

In the end, Ziets, Fargo and the whole crew at InXile seem to have a primary goal of creating something extremely unique in the RPG space. Torment is of course heavily inspired by the cult classic 1999 RPG Planescape: Torment, but in my time with it so far, it clearly has a feeling all its own. And it’s a feeling I desperately want to experience more of.

For Fargo’s part, he is extremely confident that InXile can deliver on that in the final product.

“This is not like any other game you’ve probably ever played before,” he says. “If you really spend the time, I think it will be like when you get to the end of Return of the King, and you turn the last page, and you go, ‘That was f**king great. I wish I could erase my mind and read it again.’ That’s what I want to happen here.”


Although I didn’t get the chance to play as much of Torment as I would have liked to, I can already tell that this game is probably as close to ‘perfect’ for its fans as humanly possible. How could it not be? With inXile pushing the game through Kickstarter and Early Access, fans have had a lot of input which has shaped their investment into a title that’s sure to bring them hours of enjoyment. As someone that hasn’t played Planescape, I’m looking forward to playing Torment when it releases. Slipping into a completely different world that is as deep as inXile are promising feels a bit intimidating but at the same time, I’m really interested to see how this strange story unfolds.

Most Anticipated Feature: Getting the chance to play the game from the beginning, rather than starting 60% of the way through. The story is so intricate that I felt a bit lost starting without a lot of background information or a tutorial for the turn-based combat.

Bit Gamer:

It's not played a finished version of the game, so the best you can do is look at the thematic and narrative threads holding the game together, and these seem to be present and correct. Mechanically I had some trouble working things out, with the myriad of options and pages of level-up screens being quite intimidating to drop into mid-way through the game. Those worrying that this game appearing on consoles might dilute the complexity should dismiss those worries, because it still felt plenty complex to me, with a variety of in and out of combat skills coming to the fore.

The biggest draw for me at this point, though, is the bleak world the game presents. It'll look like the same fantasy world you've explored several times before, but it's actually set in the distant future, with technology looking nearly indistinguishable from magic. This mix of so many elements makes a world that's immediately compelling, and the developers will be hoping that the narrative they've weaved keeps people involved. After all, if they're hoping to capture a lot of the audience that have been enjoying Planescape: Torment for over 15 years, they're going to need to build a world that people want to exist in and layer the interesting mechanics over the top.

The jury is still out on the mechanics, and we'll have to wait until the finished game arrives to get a strong sense of how that'll all fit together, but for now, Torment: Tides of Numenera is the most involving CRPG world I've ever had the luck to explore for myself, and that's something that's worth being excited about.


An example, trying to avoid as many spoilers as possible: At one point while exploring the Bloom, you’ll come across a group of religious protesters who demand that [A Thing] happens, and soon, or else violence may result. If you resolve the quest right away, great, you’re done. But if you put it off for a few days, Ziets tells me you might return to find the protesters have indeed taken matters into their own hands, with much more disastrous results.

It’s an interesting idea, though like all time-based missions in games I expect it’ll also be divisive. Players really seem to love the idea of dropping quests into a big ol’ bucket, returning to them at their leisure. I expect a few complaints.

Three hours with a game is a long time—even side-stepping story spoilers as inXile requested, there’s still seemingly infinite amounts of stuff I could cover. The bottom line though is that from what I’ve played, Tides of Numenera is what I’d want from a Planescape successor in 2017. It’s more approachable, more “modern,” but keeps the trademark weirdness that defined its predecessor.