Torment: Tides of Numenera – Archived review

The story is set roughly a billion years in future. Humanity has spread out to multiple worlds and dimensions; the world is littered with old technologies and magics. You are the Last Castoff, a body that was left behind when the Changing God abandoned your body to move into another. That’s “Last” in the sense of the most recent; there are many castoffs left behind by the Changing God. You have a sense that there’s something important you must do, but you’re not sure what it is or what the consequences might be.

This RPG uses the same engine as Pillars of Eternity (there’s a whole topic on PoE else-forum); in other words, it’s another modern descendant of Baldur’s Gate. However, this is not just a duplicate of PoE. Here are the differences:


– The quality of the writing. I originally kickstarted this game because I heard that Patrick Rothfuss had contributed to one part of it.

– There’s no “good vs. evil” alignment. Instead there’s a five-fold system of “Tides” (blue, red, gold, silver, indigo) each associated with a general pattern of behavior; e.g., the Gold Tide is associated with doing good for others over their own welfare, which can make you a philanthropist or a crime lord working to help the poor in your community. Your actions determine your dominant tide, which affects how some characters react to you.

– You can get through almost every encounter without fighting. This doesn’t mean you won’t enter turn-based action mode from time to time, but instead of bashing the NPCs you can choose to have members of your party talk to different people at once.

– Stats are handled differently than other games of this type. There are only three: Might, Speed, and Intellect. These stats improve with experience, but in Torment they represent “pools” from which you can spend point on “effort” to increase your chance at success at various tasks. For example, if you have only a 50% chance of smashing a door down, you have the option of spending Might to increase that to 65% or more. The pools refill whenever the character rests.

– The skill advancement system is atypical, involving “Tiers”. Within a given Tier, as you go up in level you only get to improve one of out a set of improvements: stat boosts, new abilities, etc. Once you improve your stats, for example, you have to level up to a brand-new Tier before you can improve your stats again. Of course, you can improve your stats as the last upgrade of a given Tier then improve your stats again as your first update of the next Tier. I found this to be a welcome change from the skill trees that have come to dominate computer RPG gaming.


– The game world is divided into areas, each with its own set of sub-areas. You can travel between the sub-areas freely (subject to the usual mechanics of “find the solution to the gate’s puzzle”). But once you leave an area, you cannot return to it.

This means that if you leave an area with side quests you haven’t completed (you can’t leave an area without completing its main quests), then you can never complete those quests. In particular, if you leave the first area without filling up your party, you can never get new party members again. You get enough warning that it’s not likely you wouldn’t have a full party, but it’s possible.

– There is no simple, direct way to determine how strong you are in a given Tide. For a stat that has such story importance in the game, it’s strange that there isn’t some indicator to suggest which Tide is dominant in you.

– The game feels shorter than Pillars of Eternity. This is good if you felt Pillars dragged on, or bad if you feel that it’s too short for $60. (Of course, the price will go down with time.)

– The load screens between sub-areas are agonizingly long. There are quests that take you back and forth between areas, and I sometimes felt disinclined to complete the quest simply because I’d have to stare at load screens. (I played on a PS4; it may be different on desktop systems.)

Overall: I enjoyed the game. I became attached to some of the characters (especially Rhin, who is the one that Patrick Rothfuss wrote for). I appreciated the choice of whether to engage in combat or try to solve problems via negotiation or persuasion. I found the choice you face at the end to be interesting, and not a typical simplistic “good vs bad” situation.

Thumbs up if you enjoy Pillars of Eternity / Baldurs Gate style of games.

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