Good, but unable to match its predecessor.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 24, 2019
I loved the first Planescape: Torment. It was one of those games that you could play over and over again and still discover something. The blend of unorthodox characters, strange environments and a focus on dialogue and thought really made it stand out in the genre.
Torment: Tides of Numenera definitely tries to follow in its predecessors footsteps, and all of the thematic weirdness of the Numenera setting lends itself well to the "Torment" brand. Being set a billion years into the future with all the overlapping human and alien sciences, colossal flesh cities and interdimensional vaults might as well be the same as the different philosophical planes of the multiverse in the first game, where literally anything could happen and you would believe it fit naturally into the universe.
Now I have played the Numenera tabletop RPG, and the ruleset of the game does not match it perfectly, but it does a pretty good job of translating the resource pool management and effort mechanics into a video game. However the "Cypher" mechanic often runs counter to the common video game mentality of "I might need it later". You can only carry so many special items and are forced to either use them -sometimes wastefully- or leave them behind. Combat does seem like an inevitability in many cases though, where the first game allowed you to cleverly talk your way around several big encounters, this one would often impose a conflict even if your character isn't built for it. This all has the effect of making combat seem quite hard when you're trying to manage resources, even when it didn't necessarily have to be that way.
My issue with the story of Tides of Numenera was that it did not quite feel that it had the same weight as its namesake...
Planescape Torment was about an amnesiac immortal who had to face the sins of his previous lives, and it was up to you, the player, to determine how he dealt with that and what he became. Such as facing evidence of your past life being a murderer, or a liar, having to face the ghost of your ex lover, finding artefacts and clues left behind from your former self and uncovering the mystery of who the "Nameless One" used to be. (KEEP THE GOLDEN ORB!!) It carried a sincere tone of guilt all the way through from beginning to end and made the ultimate villain of the game extremely personal.
By contrast, Tides of Numenera is still about the sins of an immortal entity "The Changing God" and his previous incarnations the "Castoffs". But their actions are kept very separate from those of the player character, no-one is chasing you for interest on unpaid loans in past lives, and no-one holds grudges against you for sins your predecessors have committed. Since the previous incarnations aren't "You" there is no burden of guilt for what they have done. Some are villains, some are saints, but there is less of an emotional connection to any of them and it feels like there is no motivation to try and learn more about them in multiple playthroughs as once they are dealt with, that you might as well count them as forgettable allies or enemies like any other NPC. A far stretch from your "Practical", "Good" and "Paranoid" incarnations from Planescape who you have to deal with all of the time.
I also get the sense that the game was intended to be played in one particular way to get the fullest experience. Nano (ie: Spellcaster) characters can gain the ability to read minds early on, which really gives an essential insight into the motivations of some of the NPCs that you meet and opens up special options when NPCs find out that you've read their minds. While the game can be clearly played without this, it simply feels disabling to attempt the game any other way and robbing yourself of the experience of playing without it.
Additionally, of the three Focuses that you can choose at the beginning of the game your options are Stealth, Defense, or Charisma. With a game so focused on dialogue, it clearly feels that choosing the charisma option was intended to be the correct option. This is more shameful given that in the tabletop RPG the "Focus" aspect of your character was what made it so interesting: whether you were a cyborg, or a werewolf, or someone who channeled lightning, or were possessed by ghosts... reducing your choices to "Stealth" "Defense" or "Charisma" feels like you're missing out on one of the biggest elements of Numenera.
The first Planescape Torment certainly felt like it had a particular way that it needed to be played, but it also had the benefit of allowing you to change your class at virtually any time after certain conditions were met, often coming with huge revelations to the story, so you never felt locked in to a gameplay style you didn't appreciate and you actually felt rewarded for trying different paths and uncovering new options.
I never once felt that I had chosen the "wrong" option in Tides of Numenera, or felt that I missed anything, so I never wondered how I could do something differently. Ultimately I feel less enthusiastic about restarting and trying again.
I'm not saying this game is bad by any stretch, Tides of Numenera is definitely worth a look to anyone who enjoys the old school isometric RPGs and/or a story with lots of dialogue. It definitely has the "Torment" brand soaked in every line of its code and you will enjoy your time playing it, but when it's done and over with, it won't linger with you the same way that Planescape: Torment did.
One person found this helpful