The RPS Advent Calendar, Dec 3rd


The hunt for the games of the year continues. Whole new worlds wait behind the third door…

It’s Torment: Tides of Numenera!

Matt: It’s possible that one of my most memorable gaming moments was a product of chance more than design, but Tides of Numenera is smart enough that I can justify believing that isn’t the case.

I was in my first dozen hours of the game, and my party contained the maximum of four characters. One of those was a little girl who I’d found huddled in a ruined house, trying to sequester herself away from a bunch of thugs. I saved Rhin and took her in, despite her being a liability in every confrontation I got into. At one point I decided enough was enough, that she’d be safer if I sent her away – but her reaction when I told her it was time for her to leave made me reconsider.

A few hours after that, I got the chance to recruit a deadly assassin into my group. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, so I gritted my teeth and told the girl she had to go. Rhin ran off, crying – directly down a passageway marked by hundreds of handprints. When I examined them, I learnt that they were the last marks of hundreds of souls who’d come to that spot to end their lives. I followed the tunnel to its end, where I was horrified to see it open up into a sheer drop from a cliff face.

I went straight back to the ruins where I’d originally found her, and was relieved to find her back amongst the rubble. It was near the start of the year when I played Tides of Numenera, but I vividly remember the ninth world as a setting, where millions of years of history and technology from ancient societies create space for anything imaginable to happen. I remember the game’s philosophical exploration of concepts from justice and the self through to the metaphysical. I remember the decisions I was forced to make, which sometimes made me question my assumptions about right and wrong.

But most of all, I remember that moment with Rhin.

Head back to the calendar to open the door to another of 2017’s best games.


  1. Chillicothe says:

    Rhin is a huge high point for this title, yes.

    • Metalfish says:

      A second to that. She was the only character I gave the slightest damn about. All the more impressive given she was mostly a burden.

      I recall being both relieved and disappointed that I could tell both of the bickering “choose between us” companions who greeted me at the start to do one (the disappointment came in the shape of “where my morte/dakkon/literally anyone as interesting as planescape?”).

      In hindsight, I suspect they probably were amongst the better developed characters and I probably missed out.

      • Don Reba says:

        She does become the most powerful character in the party later in the game, though, making up for being a burden early on.

        • Fomorian1988 says:

          And even before, she’s a very useful character, what with her stealth bonus giving her the ability to hunker down, and then run up to a different party member that needs health potions or similar.

  2. Hyena Grin says:

    Ugh. I’m gonna have to play this one, aren’t I. =(

    I mean it was always on the list, but given I still have to finish Pillars and I haven’t even started Tyrant yet, I figured I’d just grab this, y’know… eventually

    • Unclepauly says:

      That sad face means you don’t have to. Hab a nice day!

  3. Carra says:

    I kickstarted this game… but I haven’t played it yet as I’m still busy with Divinity 2.

    I hope to play Torment and Tyranny next year. It’s a good time to be an RPG fan.

  4. Don Reba says:

    I still have to finish it. I got to the endgame sequence and realized I have long stopped caring about the “main objective” and resented being forced into the funnel.

  5. napoleonic says:

    If I didn’t enjoy Pillars of Eternity, I shouldn’t buy this, right?

    • Don Reba says:

      I’d say it’s not an indicator one way or another. They are not at all similar.

    • Fomorian1988 says:

      They’re both very different, so it could still go either way for you.

    • E_FD says:

      Pillars of Eternity didn’t hold my interest, but Numenera kept me hooked beginning to end.

      Which, come to think of it, is exactly the same relationship I had with Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment back in the day.

    • Someoldguy says:

      PoE is way more combat centric than TToN. Both have a lot of writing in them, but I would argue that TToN has more story that you actually want to read. It’s not perfect and the setting isn’t entirely to my taste, but I would recommend the game.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Not at all similar but chances are you won’t like it. This is to Planescape Torment what PoE is to the Baldur’s Gates.
      Spiritual successor, less content, less original, gameplay mechanics which had to be other than D&D, screams kickstarted everywhere.

  6. Laurentius says:

    Yeah, I liked this game a lot. I never played orginal Torment so no comparison there. It’s a crafty game if you like that sort of think and I do. It’s a bit short on location, a bit disappointing tbh, thsi world begs for more wierd places to visit. I liked writing and quests. Combat is a bit of the hit and miss but it is not a conerstone of experience. /SPOILER I really liked Rhin returned to back me up as grown woman, it was really cool moment. All her skills and descriptions were modified accordingly

    So yeah, definietly on my list of 2017 games.

    • Fomorian1988 says:

      I loved this moment, too. I’ve come to like the poor kiddo, so this was a big pile of glee for me.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      That was a cool idea from a storytelling perspective but wasn’t it like 15 minutes before the end of the game?
      I actually want to play her like the dozens of hours I had to endure Jaheira.
      Waste of good gaming.

  7. caff says:

    I was turned off this sadly by the incredible amounts of dialogue. And most of it utterly confusing. I can see that being a real draw for a lot of people though, so I’m not going to say it’s a bad game, just one I couldn’t get into.

  8. Vasily R says:

    I still need to play this…

  9. Edski says:

    It’s even worse than the original. No mean feat.

  10. E_FD says:

    Got this in a sale a couple months ago, beat it in a few weeks. Lots to digest, some good, some bad. There are elements of the game that I think are genuinely stronger than Planescape: Torment, albeit more in the gameplay/design than the writing itself, but on the whole I’d consider it inferior to its inspiration. It’s hard to say exactly what went wrong, save that most of the major characters aren’t nearly as memorable. Ironically, I’d put that down less to the writing itself than to the overall aesthetics/presentation; for an 18 year old game that wasn’t exactly cutting edge when it came out, Planescape still managed to infuse so much more personality and atmosphere into its character sprites, bolstered by the individual themes and high-profile voice actors. Looking back, Ravel and the Transcendant One both basically only have one scene apiece in the game, and come out as unique, memorable characters. Their rough equivalents in Numenera, the Changing God and the First Castoff, feel like underdeveloped nonentities.

    Still, Numenera’s not really any more flawed than a great deal of games (and rushed, unsatisfying endings have been a hallmark of RPGs pretty much forever, particularly idiosyncratic, ambitious ones), but its flaws are frustrating precisely because this feels like a game that NEEDS to be spectacular rather than simply good. It was always going to be a commercial failure, it was always going to turn off the vast majority of potential players who’d run from the giant loads of text. That comes with the territory of building from PS:T’s foundation. Planescape emerged beyond that by being haunting and unforgettable. Numenera never quite achieves that, it’s simply an extremely well-written game, but that’s probably enough to consign it to obscurity within a few years, which is a tremendous shame.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Better gameplay? The fighting being bad in PS:T became a trope. It works and it’s worse than BG 2 for pathfinding and lack of NPC/class diversity. But it did the job of simulating D&D fighting (in real-time) decently.
      Maybe the fact people played the game 10+ years after release added to the cliché.

      • E_FD says:

        “Gameplay” means a lot more than just combat mechanics. I liked having a varied skill system used for dialogue/exploration checks instead of solely relying on stats, and I liked the way the crises weren’t purely combat scenes and frequently had options for dialogue/environmental interactions (in particular, I thought the heist sidequest in the Bloom was one of the highlights of T:ToN, a really clever use of turn-based mechanics in a way I haven’t seen before).

        And I really liked that combat is ALWAYS optional in T:ToN if you play your cards right. It’s one area where the game genuinely outshined its predecessor IMO: one of the big perks of PS:T that often gets cited is how few fights you have to go through to beat the game, but it’s clearly something players noticed after the fact that wasn’t altogether a core goal of the design; yes, you can talk down the final boss, but PS:T’s still filled with slogs through maps of trash mobs where the only concession to a pacifist playstyle is that technically you can run past them. T:ToN actually feels designed with combat-free playthroughs in mind, and I consider that a huge plus.

  11. Meat Circus says:

    It’s not so much a game, as a dispenser of infinite lore, whether you ask for it or not.

    Seriously nobody in this game ever stops dumping their life history and every single thought they have on you the moment they meet you.

    I found it very tiring.

    • GeoX says:

      “Tiring” is one word. The prospect of playing it sort of starts to feel exhausting after a while. I also feel like it’s a textbook case of Trying Too Hard. I know that’s kind of vague, but I feel like they were just so, SO set on impressing you with how crazy all this stuff was that it became a bit overbearing. I mean, it has its moments, but overall…mmm. And I’ll say another thing: given how concerned they WERE with being as out-there as possible, it’s baffling that all the player characters are so utterly bland and unmemorable. I can’t remember any of their names off the top of my head. That’s not a problem I have with Planescape.

    • Don Reba says:

      I read all the descriptions, talked to all people, and played through all merecasters, some several times. I guess I’m closer to the target audience.

  12. nattydee says:

    It’s a bit of a wash to compare this to PS:T – as with any spiritual sequel to an old, beloved title. Having played both (though PS:T just a few years ago), I enjoyed them, albeit in different ways. TToN features several thing PS:T did not, namely a combat system that isn’t a joke and modern, decadent environments and textures. But while TToN’s writing is indeed a bit weaker than PS:T’s in my opinion, in particular in the arc of the protagonist (your character) and some general plotting weirdness (there’s a whole Act worth of content on the cutting room floor, I’m sure) it’s a *very worthwhile game*. Meaning I greatly enjoyed my 50-odd hours of slowly reading and appreciating each character description, dialogue choice and quest, and have absolutely no regrets about kickstarting the game.

    I am a bit confused about the generally poor reviews this got (on sites that do aggregation/record actual scores for these sorts of things). It’s pretty much exactly what it says on the tin?

  13. Lars Westergren says:

    I’m finally playing through it, and I’m loving it!

  14. Sin Vega says:

    Do dooo, do doo do.