Torment: Tides of Numenara is a brand-new release in the CRPG genre that’s been around for decades at this point. Games such as Fallout 1 and 2 or Planescape: Torment were some of the earliest and modern revivals like Pillars of Eternity and Shadowrun Returns have seen a recent resurgence. Torment: Tides of Numenara fits into this genre perfectly and feels almost like a game out of its own time.

Multidimensional Time Travelling Storytelling

The backdrop of Torment is the world of Numenara, a fantasy campaign game in the same vein as Dungeons and Dragons. You’re on Earth, but approximately a billion years in the future during an age known as ‘The Ninth World’. In that time, eight civilizations have come and gone and you’re uncovering artifacts (known as numenara) left over from those earlier times. Magic manifests in many ways, usually as an expression of an extremely advanced technology. Additionally, there are the Tides as well, made up of ethereal concepts of justice, passion, charity, etc…and each Tide represents an aspect of the collective psyche of the civilization.

Your character is known as ‘The Last Castoff’, a vessel for an entity called The Changing God. Over an unknown amount of years, The Changing God would build himself a new body that would hold his consciousness as he learned about the mysteries of the universe. At some point, he would shed that body and move into another. The discarded body would then wake up as an independent person known as a Castoff. You eventually discover that there are thousands of Castoffs and you are one in a long history of conflict and struggle between the Castoffs and their creator. Your character awakens in midair, plummeting towards the planet until you crash and are found by Aligern, a tattooed no-nonsense priest and Callistege, a woman who exists in parallel dimensions and lives out her lives in each dimension simultaneously.

The central conflict is from a creature called ‘The Sorrow’ which has one singular goal: Destroy The Changing God for cheating death and abusing the Tides, as well as the Castoffs since they are remnants of what The Changing God has done. This is the world you’re (literally) hurled into. I could go on for probably a thousand words on just the story, but I want to highlight how deep and intricate this universe really is. The story backdrop of Torment is stunning and it clearly shows its roots as a fleshed-out tabletop RPG setting.

I haven’t been able to finish The Last Castoff’s story for reasons that will soon be apparent, but I’m enthralled by the visuals and depth of the world of Numenara. The biggest downside here is that you are thrown right into the deep end and asked to swim immediately. I’m maybe ten hours in and there are still questions about how the world works and keeping various characters or storylines straight can be difficult. There are other planes of existence, various realities, and time travel all to follow along with in addition to the rest of the world’s vocabulary. I don’t believe you need an extensive history with the world of Numenara to appreciate Torment, but consider this your warning that it doesn’t spoon-feed you the plot. If you’re willing to keep up with the game, it will reward you with an interesting and unique universe.

Torment: The Visual Novel

Okay, enough about the lore. This is a game after all and we should talk about what you actually do in Torment. The game itself is a 2D isometric game, a staple of CRPG games. The controls are extremely simple and consist only of clicking and moving around the environment to interact with the world. A separate window handles dialogue, giving you the conversation and multiple options to ask questions or change the outcome of your quests. There are usually one or two choices that will end the conversation with new information, but more often than not these dialog choices flesh out character backstories and world-building. I’ve spent so much of my time digging through all the different options and storylines. I don’t feel as if I’m straying from the main quest, but this has consumed so much of my time with Torment. It really shows how much they put the story first in all aspects.

Torment is a RPG and with that comes a whole host of stats and menus to dig into and customize The Last Castoff your way. Your primary stats come from Strength, Speed and Intellect and each stat has a pool you can draw from. Some conversation choices and combat actions allow you to spend resources from one of these three pools to boost your chance of success. On top of those stats, you have unique abilities that will provide passive bonuses or unlock combat skills. These will deplete as you use them and can only be restored by resting or using items. In addition to your stats, the Tides represent your reputation, as each action usually belongs to one of the five Tides present in the world. Your reputation isn’t so much ‘good’ or ‘evil’ as it is attuned to the various Tides.

Party Down

You can recruit companions to join The Last Castoff and build out your party. Aligern and Callistege are your first two and very soon, you’ll choose one you’d like to work with. Soon after that, you’ll find the others in the game’s first zone, Sagus Cliffs. My personal favorite is Erritus, a man glowing gold and always acting like a hero wherever he can in an exaggerated way. If you give The Last Castoff the Scan Thoughts ability (which you absolutely should take), Erritus has a much more interesting reason for acting the way he does and it makes him really stand out. Each character has their own inventory and equipment to manage their stats, in addition to the pools mentioned before.

Finally, there’s combat which is maybe my least favorite aspect of the game. When you enter an area with a fight, the game initiates a ‘Crisis’ and becomes turn based. All characters in the area are assigned a position in the combat track based on their speed and the scenario plays out. You can attack the enemy directly, use the environment to your advantage and even talk to other characters during the crisis. Positioning your party and ensuring their safety is critical to success and keeping everyone alive. I say combat is my least favorite part of the game for two main reasons. One, I typically play a game like this as much of a pacifist as the game will allow me to. I’ll avoid combat and try to reason my way out of the conflict. During the initial character creation, those were the traits I gravitated towards and as a result, I’ve had maybe three combat encounters outside of the tutorial and I could escape each one without a lot of fighting. The second reason is more technical in nature. Each fight has felt extremely one-sided so far, with my party usually outnumbered by more powerful enemies. At first it seemed more story-related but it’s happened enough to make combat feel like a chore and has further reinforced my pacifist playthrough.

When I say that Torment’s genre has been around for decades, Torment certainly looks like it was made maybe 20 years ago. The background artwork for the game is gorgeous, but the character models look rough. I would always want to zoom in on the characters before realizing how ugly they looked up close. It’s a shame because looking at some other modern RPGs such as Shadowrun Returns shows characters that are more visually appealing. It’s a small nitpick, since 95% of this game is the sweeping environment artwork and dialogue boxes, but it still stood out to me. The sound design is excellent and unique, giving Torment its own unique flavor. My only gripe is a style choice, since I think Erritus’s golden glow is giving my playthrough a constant low hum at all times. Otherwise, Torment holds up technically speaking even if it isn’t the most demanding game.

Last Castoff Thoughts

Torment is a hard game to judge. I didn’t play CRPGs when I was younger and as I’ve gone back to play them today, they are very hit or miss. I backed Torment on Kickstarter four years ago, and looking back I still don’t know why. I had no nostalgia for its spiritual predecessor Planescape: Torment nor had I played other modern updates to the genre. I approached this game as mostly an outsider and I ultimately loved what I’ve played. This type of game isn’t for everyone but if you approach it as if you’re reading a science-fantasy novel or experiencing a tabletop RPG campaign, you’ll go into it with the right expectations. Torment: Tides of Numenara is a slow build, full of rich history and clever world crafting that will make you want to explore every nook and cranny of The Ninth World.

Torment: Tides of Numenara Review
Tuned With The Tides
  • Rich story development
  • Artwork
  • Branching dialog choices
The Sorrow
  • Information overload
  • Rough character models
8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author

Andy L
Review/Editorial Writer

Ever since he received a Sega Genesis for Christmas at age 6, Andy has been hooked on video games. Pokemon and Metal Gear Solid are his all-time favorite games, but he's found an appreciation for quirky, unique indie titles as well. He's also into board games because one gaming hobby just wasn't enough.