Video Game / Torment: Tides of Numenera

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"What does one life matter?"

Torment: Tides of Numenera is a Spiritual Successor to Planescape: Torment developed by inXile Entertainment. It is one of the many games-crowd funded via Kickstarter, released after a lengthy development on February 28, 2017. Unlike its predecessor, which used the Multiverse setting of Planescape, Tides of Numenera takes place in the futuristic Science Fantasy universe of Numenera, itself originally a Kickstarter project developed by Planescape supplement writer Monte Cook. At the time, it was the most funded game on Kickstarter with over $4.1 million raised, for a grand total of around $4.5 million, counting donations from other sources.

The game puts you in the shoes of the Last Castoff, the final link in a chain of lives abandoned by a being called the Changing God. The God was once a man who discovered a way to cheat death for centuries by transferring his consciousness into a succession of bodies, only to seemingly disappear after leaving yours. Now, as you are hunted by the Sorrownote , enemy of the Changing God, for reasons you can't even remember, you must find the Changing God again and with him the key to uncovering your past.

Not to be confused with Obsidian Entertainment's own Planescape: Torment spiritual successor, Pillars of Eternity, which was also crowdfunded and innovated the gaming engine which inXile licensed.

The game provides examples of:

  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: 7 available companions, but only 3 can join the Last Cast-off at a time.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Rhin's ability to speak to gods is treated as an obvious childish delusion by absolutely everyone, even though this is a setting completely full of strange inexplicable things and even though their powers are demonstrably real.
  • Arc Words: The story of the game revolves around the question, "What does one life matter?" It is up to the player to decide what the answer might be — if there is one at all.
  • Affably Evil: The Sorrow, surprisingly. When the Last Castoff finally talks to it at the end of the game, it patiently answers all of his/her questions in a reasonable manner, and explains how the Castoffs bring nothing but pain to the world through their abuse of the Tides, whether they want to or not, and that they must be eradicated to make things right again. It calmly lists the Castoff's options, and personally makes their wish reality. All this after the Sorrow has been firmly established as an unstoppable force that can't be reasoned with. Of course, this might be the first time in millions of years of existence that anything can end the Sorrow; the PC. So it might be Affable out of desperation.
  • After the End: The game takes place on Earth after the rise and fall of eight "great civilizations", in the historical era known as the Ninth World. The setting is filled to the brink with mysterious artifacts and ruins from most of human history, and knowledge of the past is all but forgotten.
    • Despite being called the "Ninth World", it's heavily implied, and outright stated by at least one NPC, that there's been many more than just eight civilizations before this current one, and that there's honestly no good reason for this to be called the Ninth World except that's just the name that stuck.
  • Amazon Brigade: By the end of the first act, a female Castoff can travel with Callistege, Rhin and Matkina.
  • Already Undone for You: Lampshaded in a conversation with Quijano del Toboso if you have him help you fight the Endless Gate cult. He appears just before the final encounter of that mission (which he couldn't possibly have reached without clearing a path for you); if you ask him how he got in, he says he slaughtered his way through the cultists. One of your dialog options points out that the cultists you fought on your way in were, inexplicably, very much alive.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: While in the Bloom, you can help a slave - Coty - find a job. If you have him get hired by the Bloom cultists, their leader has this to say about his performance.
    The Observant Speck: The whispers like him. A faint aroma of murder, suffused with a decade's worth of shame and a dash of innocence. They find him a pleasant melange, a perfume too precious to devour. (Her mischievous smile returns) He's also good with the laundry.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Nychthemeron during daytime. So much so that you can only speak to it during nighttime. It'll try to rip your head off during the day if you bother it.
  • Bald Women: The female Last Castoff is bald in the concept art, partially shaven in the game. She's hardly alone.
  • Best Served Cold: Dracogen - the first person you meet in the Bloom - will sometimes take this route on those that wronged him, as exemplified by what his "favor" from Tybir is - "I want you to recall the many ways you could have saved [Auvigne]. To think of how he might have died. To reflect on the depths of his devotion to you... and shallowness of yours to him."
  • Big Bad Ensemble: While the Sorrow serves as the most direct threat to the Last Castoff, the Changing God and the First Castoff prove to be equal if not greater threats to the world as a whole.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: Sn'erf is an alien studying these. He goes on to describe several cases to you. That includes human reproduction, although he strongly suspects the people who described that were trolling him - which, judging from his description, was most certainly the case. His own race reproduces by detaching their limbs - and even heads - and growing them into complete beings. He, himself, is an exile from his planet after stumbling across a machine that replaced his limbs - a great disgrace among his people, which he couldn't prove was accidental.
    • You can later enlist his aid to help a machine intelligence have children of its own.
  • Body Surf: The Changing God obtained pseudo-immortality by constantly moving his consciousness into new bodies as necessary over many aeons.
  • Call a Human a "Meatbag": You meet a drone that calls you "Fleshwalker". It's visibly disgusted at you.
  • Came from the Sky: The player. The Last Castoff enters the game by waking to life and consciousness... in complete freefall, hurtling towards the Earth. You have just enough time before impact to remember being attacked and falling out of something in orbit, and to realize that wasn't you in that memory. Appears to be standard procedure for the Changing God.
  • Central Theme: "What does one life matter?" Word of God states that the secondary themes are "abandonment" and "mystery". This also plays a major role in the final decision.
  • Clarke's Third Law: All the "magical relics" — the eponymous numenera — in the Numenera setting are simply advanced technology from previous long-dead civilizations. People are generally aware of this, but the numenera are so advanced that religious significance is attached to them regardless.
  • Character Customization: The game offers ways to customize the Last Castoff and a choice of gender. That you cannot customize the Last Castoff's appearance beyond gender is actually a plot point, as the game intentionally thrusts you into a situation where you have to wear someone else's face and past while trying to work out what you are and how you want to be remembered.
  • Cult: The game features three cults that act as special factions which will attempt to use the player character as a pawn, and cast them aside when finished. They are:
    • The Children of the Endless Gate: Death worshipers, some call them. They think of themselves as spirits trapped in flesh, and the horror of their cage pushes them to atrocity. They call themselves liberators and agents of freedom, and they leave no evidence of their passing but a tracery in blood.
    • The Order of Flagellants and Austerities: Once a hermetic and monkish offshoot of the Order of Truth, the so-called Scourges became a mendicant order and set out into the world with the appointment of a new leader a century ago. They are a missionary sect, devoted to cleansing the world of its many sins, among which are a reliance on the numenera and pollution of the flesh with extravagances and constructs. They feed on the rage of their kin, borrowing strength of will and thew, and run berserk if they are not stopped, laying bare the bones of those who oppose them.
    • The Dendra O'hur: A cannibal cult, they believe that the strength and knowledge of those they devour will pass on to them. Worshipping their Great Queen Sar'Lavun, the Lady of Maggots, they roam the land in search of new prey, cloaked in rags and tatters and leaving only gnawed bones in their wake.
  • Dead All Along: An entire philosophical debate near the very end of the game hinges on the possibility that a character may have been this, for a given value of dead. You witness a memory that reveals that the Changing God's consciousness wasn't actually able to escape when you fell from the sky and crashed into the dome. The Spectre that claims to be him is actually just an Artificial Intelligence based on a backup copy of his memories. The result is an argument on whether or not direct continuity of consciousness is necessary for one being to be considered a continuation of another, identical one. The Last Castoff can cow the Spectre into getting out of the way by arguing they're distinct entities and the Changing God truly is dead, but the Sorrow suggests it's not entirely clear cut, and the Last Castoff can even agree that they just said what they said as a convenient lie to get the Spectre out of the way.
  • Dialogue Tree: Being a roleplaying game, and a successor to Planescape: Torment, multiple choice dialogue options are used to interact with other characters in the game.
  • Evil Luddite: The Order of Flagellants and Austerities, who believe that use of Numenera is a sin.
  • Exact Words: One of the stories the Clerk can tell you is about a prize being offered to one who can complete a marvelous painting, the prize being a life extending numenera. No one dared, but then some guy simply splashed a bucket of paint on the incomplete parts. The painting was technically complete, but ruined. The ruler who offered the prize returned the favor, and the guy had his life extended... to be spent in torture chambers.
  • Expy: Despite not being an Obsidian game, as the spiritual successor to Planescape Torment and a roundup of many of the same people who worked on that game, the game runs on this, with many of the earmarks of Black Isle and Obsidian's games — including a noticeable tendency to riff on ideas which have appeared in their previous games.
    • The Changing God and the Last Castoff are both Expies of different aspects of the Nameless One, not the least of which being their healing factor, the long history of misery left in their wake, and devotion to journaling. In particular, the Changing God's indifference to the suffering or deaths he causes, his brilliant intellect, his easy superficial charm, and his absolute indifference to anyone outside his personal goals — all these things make him an Expy of the Nameless One's long-dead Practical Incarnation, while the the Last Castoff is likewise the player avatar left to piece together the fragments left in his wake.
    • The Ghostly Woman is one for Deionarra, both being the source of much of their respective games' exposition, right down to the Ghostly Woman being someone's daughter who tragically died young — in this case, the Changing God's daughter, with seeking a cure for the disease that killed her being the impetus behind his original quest for immortality. And like Deionarra, Miika is also a pivotal figure in the game's Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
    • The Sorrow and its fragments are similar both to the shadows which the Nameless One's many deaths left across the planes, as well as the Sith assassins who hunted the Jedi nearly to extinction in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. The Sorrow's appearance as an extremely tall, robed figure also recalls Sigil's Lady of Pain from their predecessor's source material — with jagged tentacles rather than blades, dark fire rather than a shadow that rends people to pieces, an implacable demeanor, and an inscrutable purpose. The background is similar to the Catalyst from Mass Effect.
    • The Dendra O'hur, the Children of the Endless Gate, and the Memorialists, for various aspects of the Collectors and Dustmen, respectively. Each is obsessed with death, one way or another: the Dendra O'hur collect the bodies of the dead in Sagus, and speak with the dead (by eating them and absorbing their memories); the Children believe their bodies and the physical world are one of pain, and seek a release from it (murdering people and seeking to unleashing Eldritch Abominations to remake the world as their ultimate purpose); and the Memorialists live among the vast ruins of the Necropolis and believe that this life is a false one, but that a better existence awaits them beyond death. The Dendra O'hur, as scholars and information brokers of a sort, are also expies of Planescape's Lothar, the Master of Bones, who collected the skulls of the dead in order to mine their secrets and sell them, albeit at a steep price.
    • The Fifth Gate is a dead ringer for Planescape: Torment's Smoldering Corpse Bar, with its factory-like interior, unusual clientèle (including war veterans and Exposition Dump NPCs), and another cameo by the enigmatic vowel O.
    • The Bloom is a very dark Expy for the Hive as a whole, the Trash Warrens and Buried Village in particular, with the murden standing in for the cranium rats as psychic scavengers, and the body of the Bloom for the mazes you find there. As a gang leader who sends you into the catacombs before she'll part with certain information, the Memovira closely resembles Pharod. Like Pharod, as the First, she's more familiar with Castoffs, Matkina in particular, than she first lets on; like Ravel with her 'avatars' outside the Black-Brambled Maze she's hiding behind a false face; and like Trias, she's a liar and betrayer responsible for a death and war on a massive scale.
    • While the Nameless One's entire body was tattooed with notes, reminders, strange symbols, and magical runes, the Castoff only has one tattoo of note — but it's the same one as all the other Castoffs, a pentagon marked on their skull and a psychic imprint by which the Changing God entered and leaves their bodies, in a sense learning new skills and abilities through their tattoos. Meanwhile, Aligern's animate tattoos serve as a reminder of his tragic past and are somewhat closer to the Nameless One's tattoos in terms of their significance as they are in actual fact Aligern's long-lost family, his wife, daughter, and the rest of his village, transformed into living ink by the numenera. They can slither right off his skin and attack his enemies, in a way that closely resembles Planescape's Tattoo of Bloodletting.
    • The Bronze Sphere and Black Frame return here, though their importance isn't the same as in the previous game.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Sort of. While slugthrowers can be found and used, they're numenera in of themselves, or cobbled together from numenera fit to lob small bullets at high velocities. It's explicitly mentioned the Ninth World's humans do not have the technological capabilities to build even primitive firearms from scratch.
  • Feel No Pain: The Last Castoff can transmit their suffering to others nearby. Alternatively, they can take on the burden of their pain.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The three base character classes are Glaives, Nanos and Jacks. Glaives are warriors, Nanos are techno-sorcerers and Jacks are jack-of-all-trades generalists.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Anyone killed by the Sorrow is permanently dead. This extends to any fight where it appears, and will cause you to permanently lose party members if you let it get an attack off on them.
  • Genius Loci: The Bloom, an enormous carnivorous organism with an entire city inside it, apparently has some sort of rudimentary sentience.
  • Hero of Another Story: The game is absolutely full of them, but to name a few:
    • An adventuring party in the Fifth Eye are Fire-Forged Friends and join you in a battle against an entity called The Adversary.
    • The duo in Circus Minor who have an Eldritch Abomination trapped in a cage on display will recount their lengthy adventures together if you ask them. It turns out that they intend to eventually leave the city, return home, and use the technology they're showing off to trap a god.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: The Sorrow is invincible and can kill anyone in one hit. Whenever a crisis involves the Sorrow, your only real option is to find a way to escape.
  • Identity Amnesia: Your character doesn't have any memories of their life before the Changing God left.
    • Unlike most examples of the trope, though, this is mainly because your character, quite literally, did not have a life before the Changing God's departure — the Last Castoff is born the moment the Changing God departs his body. The Last Castoff is not recalling their own life, but fragments of the Changing God's life. Complicated further by The Reveal that The Changing God was not able to escape your body before The Sorrow burned out his memories. It's possible that you actually are the amnesiac Changing God.
    • Both Erritis and Rhin are missing significant chunks of their memories when you first encounter them, although they at least had memories to lose.
  • Isometric Projection: The game is rendered partially in 3D against a hand-painted background, and uses the birdseye view of old 2D games trying to imitate 3D environments.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: The Last Castoff enters a representation of their own mind called the Castoff's Labyrinth when they die.
  • Karma Meter: Rather than a typical binary good/evil meter, the game uses a "Tides" system. A Tide represents your character's path in life, with all its motivations, desires and actions, and waxing (or waning) into a Tide will affect the gameplay and story. There are five Tides in all, and none of them are in strict opposition with another. They are as follows:
    • The Gold Tide represents charity, compassion, empathy, sacrifice, and other socially-oriented traits.
    • The Indigo Tide encompasses justice, equity, compromise, the greater good, and other communally-oriented traits.
    • The Silver Tide involves admiration, power, fame, and other ambition-related traits.
    • The Red Tide includes passion, emotion, action, pathos, zeal, and other emotional traits.
    • The Blue Tide maps to reason, insight, wisdom, and other intellectual traits.
  • Late Character Syndrome: Averted, as all six potential companions appear in the first quarter of the game.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The Ruins of Ossiphagan.
  • Licensed Game: Uses the setting of Planescape designer Monte Cook's Kickstarter-funded tabletop game, Numenera. (The two settings do not share any internal continuity.)
  • Loving a Shadow: In Sagus Cliffs, you meet a man named Omahdon who's pursuing Perseia, claiming that her madness causes her to not recognize him. The truth is that he came upon her in a tomb and fell in love with her beauty, using a device he held to resurrect her so she could love him back.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The Endless War pretty much runs on this trope.
    Thalana: But it's not personal. It's not someone who wants your destruction in particular. You're just... inconvenient to them. Your death is another number, a way to measure their success. It's... hell. A business-like hell. And you did it. Castoffs. You could stop if you wanted. But you don't. Or maybe you don't care. I mean, when you've made statistics of your enemies, faceless foes whose existence you can erase without a qualm... you're not just hurting them. You're hurting yourself, the way you see the world. Soon everything is conflict and pain. All that matters is your success. And you've killed yourself, and you don't even know it. (She wipes a tear away) It ruins everything - everyone it touches.
  • Meaningful Name: The Sorrow is awakened from the suffering The Changing God has caused.
  • Mental Time Travel: The merecasters allow you to go back in time by possessing the bodies of people in the past, ala Quantum Leap.
  • Mind Hive: The Bloom's consciousness is tens of millions of smaller minds.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Apparently, while the Changing God wore your body, it was known as Adahn.
    • You can pull a bronze sphere from within yourself in the Changing God's sanctuary. Unlike that one, it's immediately useful.
    • You can meet the letter O in a bar. Again.
    • There is a woman who has three orbs orbiting her head. Each orb contains a rodent. Their names are Bei, Bu and Bao.
  • Player Party: There are a total of six companions who can join the Last Castoff on their travels.
  • Ret Gone:
    • Two minor characters running a shop in the Bloom are revealed to be the same person, the elder having been sent through an adventure that had him ending up traveling back in time. Upon learning this, The Last Castoff has an option to murder the younger version, causing the elder — and the entire shop itself — to disappear with the narration stating that you do not even remember why you murdered the young man. In a case of Developers' Foresight, one sidequest that can end with a slave being made a second apprentice of the elder shopkeeper can go from "Completed" to "In Progress" due to his new job being erased from history.
    • In the Necropolis the Last Castoff can use Inifere's Merecaster to convince him to face The Sorrow in the past instead of retreating into the Endless Gate. This ends up retroactively killing him and undoing most of the harm his cult did, leaving everyone in the Necropolis with the distinct impression that something terrible happened but they're not entirely sure what.
    • You can even do this to yourself, as a very late-game Merecaster experience gives you the opportunity to let the Sorrow destroy your body before the events of the game begin, thus undoing everything that you did in the game.
  • The Reveal: The ghostly woman you can help in Sagus Cliffs? In the final act, she's revealed to be the daughter of the Changing God himself - and is, in fact, the driving reason for his research into immortality, in an effort to save her life.
  • Schmuck Bait: There's a person inside the Bloom who has a sealed vessel containing part of the Iron Wind. A member of your party can accidentally break it, mutating your entire party, and resulting in a Non Standard Game Over.
    • The game is literally full of these, anything from giving The Changing God control of your body, giving you a non-standard game over to drinking what is obviously acid from a puddle of acid.
  • Science Fantasy: Takes place in the deep future of Earth, relatively recently after the recreation of formerly extinct humanity. Humans live in small quasi-medieval states.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Some enemies can do this and leave the area when the battle turn badly for them.
  • Sequel Hook: Of the spinoff variety, as the epilogue mentions that Adult!Rhin is "a story for another time".
  • Shout-Out: Quijano del Toboso is a very obvious Expy of Don Quixote
    • Early in the game you can recruit a gang of psychic war veterans.
    • One of those veterans is named Leto, wears what is implied to be a stillsuit, and has the power of seeing possible realities and pasts; a clear reference to Dune.
    • The effect when you teleport into Miel Avest (where you're temporarily elongated) is the same one used in the ending of Planescape:Torment when the Nameless One is sent to the Blood War.
  • Some Call Me "Tim": Sn'erf. His real name is very long and largely unpronounceable (or beyond human hearing range). He prefers the name humans gave him. His true one is way too common.
  • Spiritual Successor: Though the two games share no continuity, Tides of Numenera builds upon the themes and ideas presented in Planescape: Torment.
    • Minor character O reappears, as does the Running Gag of Adahn.
  • Three-Stat System: The game, like the tabletop system it's based on, has Might, Speed, and Intellect as core stats.
  • Turn-Based Combat: Tides of Numenera uses a turn-based approach to combat, unlike its spiritual predecessor, which used Real Time with Pause. The combat system is not strictly about fighting; rather, combat is part of an overarching system called "Crises", which encompasses any dramatic, time-sensitive event. When a Crisis occurs, gameplay switches to turn-based mode and context-sensitive actions similar to attacks become available. Such an action might be a regular attack, an attempt to hack a security system, tinkering with something in the environment, or an attempt to reason with someone.
  • Unconventional Alignment: There are five "tides" that the character's actions and words can take them toward, as described under Karma Meter.
  • Underwater City: The Oasis of Mra Jolios is a giant dome of water in the middle of a desert.
  • Videogame Cruelty Punishment: Downplayed, but trying to behave in an evil manner will cause your companions to call you out on it and the game then prompts you to make your decision again.
  • Violation of Common Sense: A few cases:
    • Taking Rhin, a child with no combat ablities and no magic beyond being quite stealthy, along on an adventure through the worst insanity the Ninth World has to offer. Oh, sure, it makes sense to keep her around in Sagus Cliffs, but when you're literally dragging her To Hell and Back, your companion's incredulous comments make sense. But keeping her in the party is the only way to eventually get her back home, solve all her problems, and help her become awe-inspiring.
    • Dying is the quickest way to get into the Labyrinth, which can lead to the player committing suicide in all sort of creative and sometimes entertaining ways.
    • It's only possible to talk to the Nychthemeron at night. How do you reach it at night, you ask? By sleeping in the inn or the camp that allows you sleep all you want for free? Of course not! You can only access the city at night by intentionally breaking the time-manipulating clock in the center of town, which warps the fabric of time itself to allow you to reach the difficult-to-access state of "nighttime".
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Sorrow sees the torment caused by the Changing God and wishes to hunt him for a long-awaited judgement, but it's also eradicating his Castoffs, who are more victims than enemies.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: Right before it breaks apart and you fall down from low orbit.
  • You're Not My Father: At the end of the game, Miika The Changing God's daughter confronts the being who claims to be her father the Specter... and doesn't recognize him at all. This is because he's just an Artificial Intelligence based on a backup copy of The Changing God's memories. You can point out to the Specter that he can't possibly be the real Changing God since even Miika doesn't recognize him.

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