Should You Play Torment: Tides Of Numenera’s Beta?

Turns out you can’t play Torment: Tides of Numenera [official site] with your eyes closed. So much for my big plan to try and avoid spoilers. It’s simultaneously one of the RPGs I’ve been looking forward to the most, and the one I’ve deliberately learned the least about. Planescape Torment fans should need no explanation as to why, but though I apparently have no self-control, it at least puts me in position to tell you whether the current beta is worth your time now or whether you should wait.

Let’s get hands on with the only game this year allowed to use any variant of a ‘mysterious amnesiac’ story without being pelted with rocks and rotten fruit.

It doesn’t take long to realise two things – first, that this is the perfect setting for a Planescape style game. The basic gimmick of Numenera is an SF world of fallen civilisations piled atop one another, leaving behind remnants that walk the line between magic and technology in a very different, but thematically similar way to how Sigil, the city at the heart of Planescape: Torment, connected the multiverse and allowed for anything to be around any corner. A big difference though is that while at least the bits of Sigil we visited in Torment are a festering hive of rot and decay, Numenera is a bright and imaginative place, full of light and colour and crystal and towering bridges atop endless cities. It’s a far more welcoming place, a far prettier place, with its modern take on Infinity Engine style adventure unsurprisingly able to convey so much more graphical fidelity than Planescape’s grimy, zoomed-in maps. The people also seem to have remembered to get dressed in the morning, unlike Sigil’s stripperwear fashionistas, even if many do seem to have shown up in superhero costumes for some reason.

The second thing is that when inXile calls this a beta, they definitely mean beta. This slice of the game is buggy as heck, suffering from dialogue tree glitches where you know of characters before meeting them and similar scripting errors, and with its first real combat sequence – using the Crisis system, of which more later in this article – so broken that I’ve still not managed to play it properly. Luckily, one of the many things Numenera borrows from Torment is a desire for options and love of non-violent solutions to problems, making it possible to entirely skip the hugely scripted, complex encounter just by bluffing your way past. Hurrah for bluffing! Or maybe not!

Easily my favourite thing about Numenera is its sense of personality – something I personally found very lacking in its closest Kickstarter competitor, Pillars of Eternity. The stories just in the opening areas are great. A man being executed by nightmares made manifest as strangling snakes. A builder robot that longs to procreate, even at the expense of its own life. Perhaps my favourite character so far, an upgrade seller incapable of lying, cheerfully discussing the agonising, unbearable pain of his merchandise – merch like ‘The Encroaching Darkness’. Ahem. I quote: “I’m not quite sure what it does. It’s a living creature, you see, that crawls around your body while you sleep. Eventually they take root in your nervous system and, er, do something. Could be good, could be bad, could be both. It certainly won’t be boring! 480 shins.”

I’ll just pick one of the stories to highlight though, which isn’t part of the main plot. The city you’re in has an unusual way of making policemen – levies. Think golems created from a vat of constantly recycled gunk. And yes, ‘gunk’ is a technical term here, with even the person responsible for the process freely admitting to having no idea how to make more of it. That’s a recurring theme for Numenera, where having a device definitely doesn’t imply mastery of it, or the existence of tools to repair, replicate or even necessarily use an artifact for its originally intended function.

Like most quests, the story kicks off while just chatting to someone and unlocking a bit of lore about the world. In this case, it’s a former thug turned baker. Like everyone else, to become a citizen he gave a year of his life to create one of the levies. Soon after though, he starts seeing it following him and suspects that it’s trying to kill him for some reason. The actual reason turns out to be much creepier. The year he donated, which saw him reform and put his criminal past behind him is one where he would have committed a crime that led to a devastating fire and the loss of many lives. Now the levy is saddled with the guilt and horror of that alternate future, and it’s up to you to persuade his creator to give him a different year, free of second-hand trauma.

That’s a hell of an introductory quest, showing off not just weird and wonderful science fiction concepts, but a human warmth that actually makes them matter. This is a world I can’t wait to explore properly. The writing is excellent, the characters well drafted, the different factions beguiling. I love that it’s a place where you can just walk through a door and find yourself surrounded by a cult of maggot worshipping librarians who see their job as preserving information for their hideous god. And that they have a sense of humour about it. I love that. I love not knowing what to expect, and already this feels like a world built to serve that up far better than your average RPG setting.

If I have one big criticism, and I do, it’s that the opening half hour or so before being cut loose in this exciting new world is a truly wretched affair. The whole point of doing an amnesiac hero, why it’s such an overused trope, is that it allows the player to learn the ropes along with the character and for the bits and pieces to be slowly drip-fed. Torment for instance didn’t offer class choices up front. You began as a Fighter. When you were ready to pick a career, characters were there to explain it. Simple. Easy. You started knowing nothing. You ended up a power to be reckoned with, but with that hard-won knowledge and understanding ultimately proving your greatest weapon.

Numenera instead front-loads an absolute ton of gibbery-guff before you even get started, including a lengthy and jarring Choose Your Own Adventure section in which you replay a (then at least) irrelevant seeming lost memory, and go through a confusing character creation system that starts well by having you choose memories that fit how you want to play, but then instantly outstays its welcome. Before even knowing who you are, you’re running around a futuristic lab fighting monsters while also trying to attune with magical creatures to… something… that sounds important?

Look, maybe it makes complete sense if you know the Numenera world and system in advance, but I really hated the whole sequence and how much it expected me to decide up front – or at least, how much it felt like I was having to decide up front. If you’re going to do the amnesiac thing, do the amnesiac thing rather than this worst-of-both-worlds approach that obfuscates instead of introduces, and has you making important decisions under totally unnecessary pressure. It’s not exciting, it’s not welcoming, and, worst of all, it’s not even interesting, with the opening combat sequence taken up mostly with dashing between terminals for interminable infodumps that promptly kick the turn-based mechanics right in the proverbial knackers. There’s a time to seriously contemplate your personal philosophy and who you want to be. It’s not when facing the prospect of having your soul ripped apart by sinister shadow monsters.

It certainly feels like a cheat to have a magic ghost explain the basics of the world in your character creation dream, if you’re then going to wake up a clueless newbie, with the worst part about the whole thing being that the world is, as said, heavily populated with helpful people who know just by looking at you what you are, and who are generally willing to take a couple of minutes to help explain things.

The mechanics it sets up are at least interesting. Like Torment, Numenera leans further towards adventure than RPG in many ways. There’s no character customisation beyond gender, combat seems pretty rare so far (focusing on the heavily scripted Crisis system rather than random skirmishes), and most encounters are handled through dialogue and skill-checks. The twist is that each character has three skill pools, Might, Speed and Intellect. Instead of just rolling on a stat, as in the D&D model, you spend points from these pools to make challenges easier – to intimidate, to repair an item, to recall someone or something from the past, or whatever else awaits.

So far I’ve not really felt any need to save them in the regular RPG side of the game, but they become more important during the Crisis encounters where you might be able to affect the gameworld by, say, hacking a computer, or talking an enemy down when it becomes obvious that they’re losing the battle and might want to surrender. InXile released a great video showing how the first encounter can play out – I won’t spoil it here, but you can watch a few variants over on YouTube. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

It’s a really clever system. My only concern is that inXile is only talking in terms of there being a ‘dozen (or so)’ of these handcrafted encounters, intended to go from simple fights to time-pressure situations like a prison escape, with a promise of easier fights if you choose to pick them and the NPCs are up for it. You can’t just attack anyone you want though, and pretty much nobody I encountered seemed to have a hostile bone in their bodies. Even a group of lightning-spurting rock monsters down in the underground that I’d been charged with removing were oddly happy to just go “Oh, okay, we leave.” Hell, even the thugs standing around the dodgy bits of town were more into politely objecting to having their conversations disturbed than being sweaty XP sacks.

More than most Kickstarters though, Numenera is going for something very specific – its name, Torment, not just a statement of intent but one hell of a challenge. So far the actual word, ‘Torment’, doesn’t seem desperately fitting for this game, its main character The Last Castoff coming across as less tortured by a mysterious past as just mildly curious, and certainly lucking into a nicer place to slowly piece it together. In focus and in vibe though, it feels on the right track – not just straight rehashing Planescape Torment (though there’s already a couple of ‘Adahn’ gags), but trying to provide that fresh experience in a whole new world of surprise and intrigue.

Should you pick up a copy now though? I’d say the best answer is whether or not you already know the Numenera universe and so will be visiting a known quantity, in which case your feedback could be invaluable. There’s only a small part of the game on offer anyway. If you’re coming to it fresh, as most people did to Planescape back in the day, I’d hold fire until its finished. Games only get one chance to make a first impression, and Torment: Tides of Numenera feels like a game that warrants a bit of patience.

Time alone will tell whether or not it boasts the philosophical edge or deep characterisation that helped Planescape cut deep and sink in its talons, but this opening section at least promises an adventure full of personality and fun ideas. That’s what I wanted to see from the beta, and as long as inXile is serious about taking feedback on board for its bugs and distinctly wobblier bits, I’m pretty confident the final product won’t disappoint. Might even sell more than five copies this time too.

Torment: Tides of Numenera hits Steam Early Access on the 26th. The full game is due later this year.

91 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    Loving the use of color in every shot I’ve seen.

  2. Schledorn says:

    I would love to play the beta, but I can’t. It was included in the $75 level but not the $95 level, which is level I backed. I sent a tweet to Fargo but he never responded.

    Thankfully they’re nice enough to let me play the beta if I pay another $20.

    • Matt_W says:

      You should be able to move your pledge amount around however you want using their bespoke pledge manager.

      • Schledorn says:

        But that means I will lose the physical goods. Still, it’s my fault for assuming the beta came at this level like it did with Wasteland 2. I’m just confused why they won’t open the beta up to us physical backers though. What do they have to lose?

        • Fry says:

          Hey, I paid $85 a just realized that doesn’t get me a physical copy. Can I have that for free, please?

          Come on, man.

          • Schledorn says:

            It’s true. Getting the digital copy that comes with my pledge early is the same as getting physical goods that I didn’t pay for.

          • malkav11 says:

            Well…yeah. It kind of is. Alpha and beta access were tier rewards. Physical goods cost more to produce and ship than digital goods, so the physical tiers cost more than the equivalent digital tiers. In this particular case, looks like the $95 physical tier was the reward equivalent of the $50 digital tier. They had charts (and images, too) showing what you got with what tier and everything. And no, getting alpha or beta access is not “getting your digital copy early”.

            Now, I don’t necessarily agree with the strategy of charging for alpha/beta access, at least over and above the purchase price of the game. But it’s how the Kickstarter was structured, and hey, they’re offering you a way to get it separately if you really want to bad enough. I wouldn’t (but then, I’m at the $125 digital tier, so I didn’t have to), but your money is your concern.

          • dungeoncrawl says:

            My thought exactly….decisions are hard and stuff. Why can’t I have it for free…I mean…I paid some money. I spent $110 and specifically chose all the things I got, $20 of which was access to the Beta. I’d be ticked if they just handed that out to people now.

    • sear says:

      The KS reward tiers were setup such that physical/digital came with different reward combinations. Beta access wasn’t included at one specific level, but that’s why we allow for add-ons, or for people to change their pledge choices later on. Get in touch with us at support@inxile.net if you had any questions!

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      If it makes you feel better, I was so overwhelmed by Kickstarters when the Torment: ToN one launched that I didn’t get around to looking at it till the $95 tier was sold out. So I paid $110 for the exact same reward package you’re getting (and which, once it arrived, quite possibly be my last physical PC game purchase).

      • Unclepauly says:

        I’ll bite. Any specific reasoning for this being the last physical purchase?

  3. Premium User Badge

    Andy_Panthro says:

    Best to wait until the proper release, I think. I still need to seriously work through my backlog, so I’m a long way away from playing this one.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      What I’m thinking too. Of all the types of games to play in a beta, a story-heavy RPG like this seems the worst.

      The first time you encounter it’s stories and encounters, do you really want that to be whilst playing a half-broken mess? Just for the sake of playing it a bit sooner?

      • Archonsod says:

        If it lives up to the original Torment it won’t matter. It wasn’t a linear story, nor did it rely on the exposition dumps so beloved of most modern RPGs. The first run through of Torment was nowhere near as interesting as the second and third, because you usually had to pull the narrative in completely different directions to get the full story. Ravel for example will answer your questions about her, yourself or what’s going on; but only one question. You need to replay that encounter through three times if you want all three answered.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Tired old argument is tired and old and misses the point of why you should want to play a beta at all. The point of participating in a beta is always the same, you want to help develop the game. A story driven game this may be, it still has a ton of game mechanics in it that can go wrong. Experiencing the bugs is precisely why you should want to play the beta. You seem to have confused a beta with a way to gain early access to a finished product.

        • dungeoncrawl says:

          Nailed it. I played the Wasteland 2 beta and gave tons of feedback, some of which was interface design (e.g. more appropriate pictures for Attribute icons…which they used!!!) It was very fulfilling….like I was on the team. It wasn’t just about telling them about typos or game breaking bugs (although for some that has it’s own appeal).

          • MisterFurious says:

            Except you didn’t get paid for your work like the team did. I assume you even paid for the privilege of doing a tester’s job which is actually worse than slave labor.

          • dungeoncrawl says:

            I don’t think you understand the term “slave labor” either. Nobody forced me to do anything against my will. I paid THEM to do it because a) it was entertaining b) it was fun c) I got to access the game early d) I saw value in it e) I’m a huge inXile fan. If the criteria above worked for me and I CHOSE to give them the money to do it…that’s the free market at work. As is you NOT seeing the value in it and NOT giving them your money. But you can’t complain that they didn’t give you access when others see enough to pay for it. Perhaps you DO see some value in getting that early access…after all…you wouldn’t be complaining if you didn’t feel like you missed out on something.

        • vahnn says:

          This. A million times, this.

    • Fry says:

      I’m mostly skimming over the writing and just looking at presentation and mechanical issues. But, yeah, I wouldn’t recommend anyone touch the beta unless they REALLY want to give pre-release feedback to the devs.

  4. Dodj33 says:

    I’m pretty sure it sold at least 399,995 more than that- which isn’t too bad. I remember that garish orange box very well had it for 10 years

    • Infinitron says:

      Yep. Planescape: Torment was more of a commercial failure in the Tomb Raider 2013 sense (“sold lots, but not as much as those other games we wanted it to”).

      • Dodj33 says:

        Good thing Numenera isn’t a timed Xbox One Exclusive to try and solve that ‘problem’

        • Unsheep says:

          I think ‘expectations’ at Enix had more to do with that.
          According to a PC Gamer article (link to pcgamer.com), Enix expected Tomb Raider to sell 5-6 million units within the first month. This is rather unrealistic considering it was a timed release and that the franchise is not as popular as say GTA, Saint’s Row or even Assassin’s Creed.

          Whether something is a flop or not depends on what you are comparing it against. According to the same article Tomb Raider sold 3.4 million units in the first month of release, in April 2015 it had sold 8.5 million units. Selling 8.5 million units in only 2 years is actually very good for an action-adventure game.

          The other problem with Tomb Raider was that they underpriced it; while other triple-a games sold for $60, Tomb Raider was sold at $50, a $10 difference. There was no good reason to sell it at $50.

          They sold 3.4 million units in the first month of release, which means the $10 difference amounted to a loss of $34 million, completely unnecessary.

          I do agree that a timed release has the potential to discourage the sale of the game on other platforms, however this only seems true in some cases.

          • guygodbois00 says:

            Love the capitalism full-on approach. They could have sold it per 1000$ so they actually lost 3230 MegaBucks. Or pick a number, any number…

  5. MadMinstrel says:

    A beta is ‘all functionality implemented, bugfixing’. What they’re offering here is clearly a not a beta since it lacks a little bit of functionality called the rest of the damn game. It is also not an alpha version (‘functionality partially implemented’) since they clearly mostly implemented it already and just removed it from this version. No, this here is a demo. If they were offering a real beta, I’d have backed them at a higher tier. As it is, I’m not falling for their lies ever again.

    • Infinitron says:

      Because being triggered by the dictionary definition of words is obviously the best reason not to play a demo of a heavily story-driven RPG.

      • MadMinstrel says:

        Why, of course not. It’s a great reason not to pay for it though. In times past demos used to be free.

        • Infinitron says:

          *shrug* If that’s the way you want to look at it. Used to be. PC games also “used to be” sold in boxes. Most people are okay with Kickstarter beta-demos.

        • Premium User Badge

          Arnvidr says:

          Buying this demo eventually gets you the full game for free though.

        • dungeoncrawl says:

          Its free market capitalism at work….you charge for the beta because people will pay it. If people didn’t pay it, they wouldn’t charge. That’s the way it should be. They ‘could’ think up a new word to use other then Beta (maybe early release play) but that would confuse a lot of people. Some games I pay for the beta…some I don’t. But I don’t complain about because…that’s how capitalism is supposed to work.

    • Merus says:

      You’ve got an awful lot of confidence that your definition of ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’ are what everyone else uses. (‘Beta’ means anything from ‘second round of testing’ to ‘buggy and broken but we’re pretty sure we don’t need to make any major revisions’ to ‘release preview’ depending on the needs of the project.)

      • MadMinstrel says:

        As long as you’re not selling that beta, you can define it however you want. However, when you are selling it, long before it’s completed, then, unless you’ve chosen to define it for your customers (which inXile has not), the only reasonable thing for them to expect at the time of sale is the traditional definition.

        • JamesTheNumberless says:

          There simply isn’t a standard for “betaness” that any standards enforcing body exists to hold them to, so this argument is only ever going to be so much hot air. They’re selling something, they’re pretty clear about what it is they’re selling and what it isn’t, calling it a “beta” seems to be meeting a lot of people’s expectations for something of that name, and people are agreeing with them by paying what they’re asking for it. I don’t see any problems.

          • MadMinstrel says:

            The problem is that it’s clear only now, and not during the kickstarter. The fact that some people now accept what they’ve been given is meaningless – it’s not reasonable to expect them to know they’ve been defrauded because most people are not developers and so familiar with the software development cycle.

          • dungeoncrawl says:

            While they’re looking up the definition of Alpha and Beta, they should up free market economy.

        • rabbit says:

          agreed. i don’t personally have anything invested in this particular one either way but if yr charging not-insubstantial amounts of money for beta access, i think it’s a bit rich to release a demo & call it a beta. a beta – generally – is a feature-complete release of a title, with only bug-testing still on the to-do list.
          i know that some people use their own definitions about what is or what isn’t an alpha or beta or whatever … but the generally accepted definition of a beta amongst devs is feature-complete but potentially/probably buggy. deliberately cutting content from a release prior to, uh … release … that’s not a beta. that’s a demo. charging money for it seems real icky to me.

          all that being said – i don’t know what the T&Cs were at point of sale. if this was all made clear, i still think it’s a little obtuse / misleading, but at least it wasn’t just a lie. but if they advertised it as a beta & didn’t make it clear that ‘beta’ in this case meant ‘not beta’ .. well, i think that’s pretty weak.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Feature complete, or functionally complete isn’t the same thing as having all of its content. Do you think Wikipedia is still in alpha because it doesn’t yet contain all the knowledge in the universe?

      • MadMinstrel says:

        You are confusing the game engine with the game. While the engine may well be functionally complete in this version, a game’s primary function is to allow itself to be won, or at least concluded.

        • JamesTheNumberless says:

          No, I think you’re misidentifying gameplay systems as engine features. The game is built on a third party engine, and issues with things like the dialogue or combat systems are issues with gameplay systems and the beta is meant to test these gameplay systems.

          If one conversation tree is broken because of missing or corrupt content, but the conversation system itself works, then this is a problem with content and not with the game. However, you can’t tell as a player whether the problem is in the system or the content, so the beta serves to iron out these problems.

          Sure, if there was more content in the beta, it’d be more likely to expose flaws in the systems but testing the content itself isn’t the primary point of the beta. You’ll simply never be able to test it all enough in its final form before release. Content will be being iterated, moved around, cut, and tweaked right up until the final whistle blows on the gold master. Even the beta is going to have a lot added to it before the end.

          • MadMinstrel says:

            It was you who decided to mentally separate the content from the rest of the software. Engines like the Infinity Engine which powered Baldur’s Gate and other games traditionally encompass gameplay systems such as dialog tree functionality and active pause, so for lack of a better name, I called it collectively the engine. Since you now decided to separate the software three ways, let me reiterate: The engine and the gameplay systems may well be complete, but the game is not.

            I’m sure you can find ways to further separate the game into bits and pieces (i.e. is that Intelligence check in the dialog tree part of the engine, the gameplay systems, the content, or maybe something else?), but it doesn’t matter. A game forms an atomic whole with the singular function of delivering entertainment through challenging the player, but ultimately allowing him/her to win. That primary function has been purposely removed from this version, therefore this is not a beta.

    • Asurmen says:

      Since when does beta mean access to the entire game for testing?

      • MadMinstrel says:

        Since before the internet.

        • Emeraude says:

          Even conceding you’re right about it not being a beta (and I think you are)…

          It’s not a demo. It’s clearly a still-in development phase whose aim happens to be the gathering of data to mend and iterate the product toward its release version.

          What should they call it? Would Early-Access be good enough for you?

          • MadMinstrel says:

            Well, not sure it’s an actual ‘vertical slice’, (I haven’t played it,) but that term would probably fit the bill.

    • PegasusOrgans says:

      @madMinstrel Their lies?
      LOL Yeah, go bnack to buying from Big Publishers who
      don’t lie, ever. As for “lying”, from when are demos
      released earlier than the official game release?
      If it has happened, it’s been rare. Besides, the game
      isn’t actually working properly, like demos do. A demo
      works fully, usually with minimal to no bugs and is
      called a demo. Oh, and they usually choose a specific
      area(s) to show off, not just start like the game proper.

      No, this is an early build of the game. As for the BS
      terminology, there have been too many versions of
      each term for there to be a clear definitive template.
      Best to just call them early pre-release versions, but
      ppl love to obsess (read: criticize) everything so it
      provides them with, yet another, way to do so.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Oh, this guy.

      He’s been banging this same sad drum for a while. Pay no attention.

  6. brucethemoose says:

    “. My only concern is that inXile is only talking in terms of there being a ‘dozen (or so)’ of these handcrafted encounters”

    “Hell, even the thugs standing around the dodgy bits of town were more into politely objecting to having their conversations disturbed than being sweaty XP sacks. ”

    That sounds kind of nice, actually. I’m coming off a recent Bioware/Bethesda binge, and playing games where nearly everything you run into suicidally throws themselves at you gets old.

    It also makes combat more meaningful. Instead of losing to mook number 786 because your fingers cramped, each situation could feel dangerous and impact… And you don’t have to experience that western RPG denial of slaughtering hundreds of people and walking around like everything’s normal.

    • bill says:

      It would be nice to play and RPG without having to (heroically!) kill a few thousand people on the way to wherever you’re going.

      I think by the time I gave up on Baldur’s Gate I had already killed 2000 kobolds. Poor gits.

      • brucethemoose says:

        Especially if you’re trying to be the good guy. Noble heroes do not singlehandedly slaughter thousands of people, one-by-one!

        I do love how KOTOR II repeatedly calls you out on it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      I’m pretty interested by a strong ability to weasel out of combat. I’m starting to think that the reasons I bounced off such games as Wasteland 2, D:OS and Baldur’s Gate despite generally liking the idea is that I unsuspectingly actually hated the combat.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      I am not entirely sure what to think of that. Does that mean that there will be only a dozen (or so) situations in the entire game that are tense and involve conflict in some way?

  7. bill says:

    If I have one big criticism, and I do, it’s that the opening half hour or so before being cut loose in this exciting new world is a truly wretched affair.

    So, just like Planescape Torment then?

    I don’t know the details, but I’m a bit worried about a system that means you have to spend points to do things… because I usually just hoard all the points because I don’t know if I will need them later… and then finish the game with loads of unused points and realise I missed out on half the fun.

    • tomimt says:

      You don’t really hoard the points, as you only have limited number of them. You can get a couple of more if you level up, but only if you use your leveling on that.

      As the game gives you experience from doing tasks and quests you pretty much NEED to use the points. Otherwise you won’t be leveing up.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Nah, it’s quite different really, you spend a while actually going through an elaborate introduction to what, for want of a better term, I’m going to call the “alignment system”. By comparison, although the opening area in PS:T was fairly linear and self-contained, Planescape just threw you into the game and let you get on with it. Of course you get a get a nice friendly ghost guy who helps you understand it all. It remains to be seen whether he is as trustworthy as a floating skull.

    • Emeraude says:

      So, just like Planescape Torment then?

      You think so? I love the beginning of Torment.

      • ffordesoon says:

        The beginning of Torment is wonderful, but it has a metagaming problem that’s really difficult to solve: RPG tutorial areas have a bad habit of being blocked off after you leave them for the first time, so it’s easy to feel pressured to explore every nook and cranny of the Mortuary before you leave. It’s a glorious piece of design, don’t get me wrong, but you’re meant to come back to it many times over the course of the game, rather than devouring scads of beautifully written walls of text all at once. Doing so is neat, but it also kills the pacing, so that when you finally step out into Sigil and realize that holy shit that place is minuscule compared to this place, it can feel daunting rather than exciting. And because your starting goal is so open-ended, the prospect of finding Pharod might seem a bit more needle-and-haystack than it actually is.

        Now, if you already know how to roleplay without metagaming, and you react the way you would react in that situation (read: getting out of the Mortuary ASAP), the pacing works. But, you know, the problem with creating a videogame that upends genre cliches is figuring out how to get your audience to keep playing without straight-up spoiling the game for them.

  8. WJonathan says:

    Tulk?!?

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      I too wondered what the hell tulk is. Wiktionary didn’t help me much, link to en.wiktionary.org. It said:
      “Noun
      tulk (plural tulk(k)es)
      a man, soldier”

      Her body’s smashed to a man/soldier?

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        I know because Frith forbid that any oomny wordsmith would want to frumble up their own taffing cant. Especially in a spiritual sequel to Planescape smegging Torment.

  9. Emeraude says:

    I really have high hopes for his one. If inExile can clean up its act and live up to the potential hinted at in Wasteland 2 – and the talent gathered behind this project – this is going to be very good indeed.

    That being said, LALALALALA… I don’t want to know anything. Good luck to those who will fray the path for us released version players. If there even is such a thing nowadays.

  10. yuri999 says:

    I didn’t know they were going for a 1:1 copy of the Numenera system with the 3 stats thing – Might, Speed and Intellect. As a player who is used to managing 5-6 stats, it seems pretty weird.

    • Zanchito says:

      To be honest, most RPGs offer 6-10 different stats, but for any single given character, there are only 2-3 relevant ones, they are just cutting che chaff. I wish RPGs would stop giving this false sense of variety.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Yep, this is true. You only really need 3 core stats, other things can always be represented as specific skills, knowledge, or talents acquired in other ways, or by equipment. Having fewer core stats gives you more freedom to develop a character in more subtle ways.

        • Zanchito says:

          I was thinking in the line of (using D&D): STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, CHA. You have 6 stats, but for any given character, in a computer game you mostly need only 2-3:
          Warrior: STR max, (DEX, CON) if you feel creative
          Thief: DEX max, (CON, STR) if you feel creative
          Wizard: INT max, (CON) if you feel creative

          In the end, you only use 2-3 stats per character, no matter how many there are in the ruleset, the rest are strictly worse options. I liked how they tried to offer a bit more variety in builds in Pillars of Eternity, even with less attributes. The important thing is how many different viable builds there are, not how many numbers you can choose.

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            I actually disagree, I don’t think you need to give people too many different options at the point of creation. I guess what I want from an RPG is a system where my character develops according to the choices they make during the game. Especially if it’s an RPG system that’s new to the player, the very beginning of the game is the absolute worst point at which to let them make decisions that are going to restrict their character’s potential or potentially sabotage them completely. Of course, most CRPGS side-step this by actually making most of the game be about combat. I think they understood this when they made the original PS:T, which is why they subverted the AD&D system by giving the player points to spent to raise their ability scores during the game.

        • aliksy says:

          The World of Darkness stats boil down to “Power, Finesse, Resistance”. There’s a set for Physical, Mental, and Social. It’s a very neat system, I think.

      • MattMk1 says:

        CRPGs certainly tend to do that – but in many pen and paper games, the same is not necessarily true at all.

        And I disagree that the best solution to this “too many stats problem” is to get rid of the stats – instead, games should make a bigger effort to use a wider range of them. Bloodlines, one of the best “true” RPGs ever, is a good example of someone attempting to do that sort of thing the right way. (even if the final system was an ugly mess, from a design standpoint)

        Although at the end, what I really care about is a system that allows me to play a character that is at least somewhat multi-faceted and doesn’t always have to solve problem the same way. This can be accomplished even in a system that has NO stats in the conventional sense, like Deus Ex.

        Bottom line, if there is a “false sense of variety”, IMO what needs to be done is to increase the variety, rather than settle for a “clean and transparent lack of variety.” ;)

  11. Cronstintein says:

    Hmm, this lukewarm preview doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. Especially after Wasteland missed in a few key ways. I think the mechanics look very interesting, I just hope they can pull it off.

    • Fomorian1988 says:

      I’m not sure how you’re reading this preview as lukewarm – Richard clearly liked what he got to play very much. He just didn’t like how the opening was handled and that he worries about how there seem to be only a dozen types of Crisis situations.

      It’s hard to call a preview lukewarm when the author uses words “This is a world I can’t wait to explore properly. The writing is excellent, the characters well drafted, the different factions beguiling.”

      • MattMk1 says:

        I don’t know whether “lukewarm” is the right description, but I also came away from it feeling somewhat… uneasy? alarmed might a little too strong? about the future of this game.

        I’ve said before that the fact they decided to stick relatively close to the system the PnP game uses (which is IMO spectacularly poorly suited to a computer game – involving, as it does, a lot of subjective judgements and the assumption that the players and the DM will cooperate to create narratives on the fly – the kind of thing which is relatively easy for humans (assuming no one decides to be difficult… hah…) and very hard to emulate for computers) was probably a mistake, and I see nothing here to convince me I was wrong.

  12. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Supported this as an old Torment fan, the best I hope for is something new with the charm of the original while it possibly can’t be like playing Planescape for the first time.
    If it turns out like Episode 7 (not an Episode 1) it’s ok in my book.
    I also wouldn’t mind annoying, badly paced or “difficult” sections in the game.
    Games used to have them a lot back then like that clockwork labyrinth in PS:T, cheap one-shot traps, strength-reducing, level-draining enemies in BG.

  13. Unsheep says:

    Nice article, very informative and dear I say inspiring.
    Personally I really look forward towards playing it, this game together with the new Master of Orion and System Shock games are among the top games I want to play in the near future.

    Sadly I think its mainly us old-timers, not all by any means, who will enjoy a game like this, especially if it resembles Planescape Torment to a high degree. This classic style of RPG is not exactly mainstream anymore. I hope at least they do well enough to keep the series going, or do something similar.

  14. Beerey says:

    I rarely comment but I logged in to say that this is a great article, is super informative and that this type of thing is exactly what I come to RPS to read. I know it’s not meant to be a preview necessarily but nonetheless it’s one of the best previews for a game that I’ve read recently.

  15. dungeoncrawl says:

    The reviewer nails the beginning section about character creation. I’m a huge inXile and Torment fan (not Numenera though) and it was so slow, confusing, and boring that it really took getting past it for the game to get interesting. I ‘really’ hope inXile reworks that entire section.

  16. aliksy says:

    After bouncing off Wasteland2 and the new Divine Divinity, I’ve realized I kind of hate games that make you make a lot of permanent character decisions early on. Like, how am I supposed to know if shotguns are actually good? Am I going to be disappointed if I pick lightning magic but there’s only actually 1 good lightning spell? Hopefully this won’t be too much like that.

  17. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    Good article that didn’t give away anything important – thanks for that Richard!

    I backed at the beta level but will wait until full release for this. RPGs for me are always best when completely fresh. So much so I squinted past the screenshots so I couldn’t read all the dialogue :)

  18. PegasusOrgans says:

    I played Torment like stink, and adored it whilst everyone seemed to dismiss it as overbearing, wordy nonsense and a “not-a-game”. Thankfully, it finally got the respect it deserves,m at least from some corners so it is from that point-of-view I say to any nay-sayers, YOU ARE THE SAME AS THOSE WHO PUT DOWN THE ORIGINAL! It can’t be a direct sequel, nor should it try to be, it needs to be its own creature. And boy, is it ever! It regrew that sense of wonder and excitement RPGs used to all cause me to feel, just rabid for the next secret or hidden item! The writing is definitely fitting and the number of bizarre artifacts is beyond refreshing!!! And I adore the choose-you-own-adventure elements as well!! Marvelous!!!

    It makes me more than happy that they took the time to make the game in their vision and not cut corners to rush it out for impatient young gamers. Imagine if all our most beloved RPGs got more time? Vampire:Bloodlines? Fallout 2? New Vegas? Arcanum? The Dark Sun games? I could go on, but my point is, a game of this depth is not just a Call of Duty and it shouldn’t be treated as one. The more depth you want, the more time they will need to add, tweak and debug it!!

    I can’t wait for more!!

    • MisterFurious says:

      Time costs money, though. It’s really easy to criticize a game like Bloodlines for coming out too early but the team ran out of money. They had also spent three years on the thing. Activision stepped in and gave them money to finish it but told them to get the game out so they could get a return on their investment. It sucks, but that’s just how it goes. People need to get paid.

  19. PegasusOrgans says:

    Addendum: Personally, I really liked the opening sequence a lot! The part with the tides and strange monsters was quite interesting and kinda nerve wracking (in a good way). I loved the creativity that went into the whole set up with your other self (not a ghost, like stated here) guiding you through your own mind. That’s just epic shat, if you actually spend any time THINKING about it. And, ultimately, that is what Torment is, a thinking person’s game. All the ideas and situations are meant to illicit thought on your part, make you re-evaluate things. Every choice presented during the Tides/Lab sequence MAKE SENSE when in context/a certain frame of mind. There is no right choice, there never has been. We are programmed into believing in the concept because it makes us feel grounded and safe.

    Anyways, being put into the mind/life of a creature whose thinking pattern is alien to your own is, alone, worth the entire opening process. When you add the fantastically fun Choose-Your-Own-Adventure part, it just blew my mind! What RPG gamer hasn’t at least tried one of those books, or the Fighting Fantasy style w RPG elements? Ever since I saw a small element like that in the first Mass Effect (on an optional world, mind you) I’ve wished some dev would try and add something like that!! If the writing wasn’t up to snuff, or the creativity just wasn’t there, I might not feel this way, but the opening sequence worked IMHO, tho I do agree it might be too big an info dump for the average gamer, so they have some work to do in that regard. The tides play an essential role in the game so I hope the creature sequence is kept in, even if the rest is shortened.

  20. MisterFurious says:

    I just don’t understand all of these people paying around a $100 for a game that isn’t even finished yet. What if it sucks? How many of you will admit it? Probably very few, I imagine. You’ll become defensive fanboys that attack anyone that says anything remotely negative about it. Even if the game is great, there’s still absolutely zero reason to buy it before it’s done. It’s not like they’re going to run out of copies. People are really stupid.

    • dungeoncrawl says:

      Not me. If I pay money for something and it sucks, I’m screaming really loudly about it and then not backing them again. What I saw from the WL2 project allowed me to trust inXile to make a good Torment and Bard’s Tale. Fargo has earned my trust and we, as kickstarters, have singlehandedly brought back Infinity Engine style games form inXile and Obsidian that simply would not have existed any other way. WL2 and PoE were NOT in the works before Kickstarter. Those successes led to those companies surviing (watch the Obsidian behind the scenes for PoE vid) and bringing us even more old-school RPGs. If you’re enjoying any of those games, you owe it to the trust (and $100 investments) many of us made in those companies.

  21. BB Shockwave says:

    Now this, this is the kind of game I am looking forward to. :) I can wait for them to iron out the bugs. Just those few quests and discussions you mentioned all sound amazingly complex and fun.

  22. DAOWAce says:

    I regret ever backing this game.

    The original Planescape devs made Pillars of Eternity; which is a true infinity engine game successor.

    Shame about InExile. Maybe the new Bard’s Tale will turn out reasonable.

    • BB Shockwave says:

      Is it really that bad? I mean, from what the description says, it is everything I ever wanted, total freedom in what and how you interact with people, even enemies in battle with you. And the original Torment’s creator is still onboard, no?
      I won’t likely back it, but when it is released I am sure gonna check it out.

  23. Titus Groen says:

    I want to read this article but I’m under a self-imposed media black out. I don’t want anything tinting my first play through aside from these rocking pink nostalgia glasses.