Torment: Tides of Numenera Hands-On Preview
Torment: Tides of Numenera is centred a single question: 'What does one life matter?' and it's something that sat with me throughout my time with the game. The press demo is set a short distance into the game with your character — the last castoff — arriving through a portal into a living city called the Bloom. The Bloom is a living, predatory creature that's oozing its way through the world, eating everything in sight. While you're deep in the city, you'll see that the Bloom is capricious, eating random passers by with its tendrils, or blocking off a route with a giant fleshy maw.
What does it mean to be the last castoff? The castoffs are consciousnesses born into the discarded body of an aeons-old deity known as the Changing God. Castoffs are harder to kill, and your role as the last of these means the character is as naive about the world as you are, and you quickly find that life here is cheap — opening an early door requires you to goad a depressed military officer into killing himself at the hands of the Bloom, and refusing to complete one particular quest results in him effortlessly killing you in front of your party.
This darkness is everywhere in Torment. People are suffering in the Bloom, and you inflict plenty of suffering from your passing too, travelling through the world as an influential tourist, changing people's lives massively with your passing. It all feeds back into that initial question: 'what does one life matter?' What I've seen so far thematically has been promising.
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.