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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:

  • Abusive Parents: The Changing God straddles the line between that and Neglectful Precursors. He left behind many wonders and has given life to extraordinary people, and he didn't seem to feel the slightest obligation, responsibility or compassion for any of them.
  • Adaptation Expansion: While the underpinnings of the game are faithful to the tabletop game, Sagus Cliffs, the Changing God, castoffs, the Endless Battle, the Bloom, Ghibra, the Oasis of M'ra Jolios, the Dendra O'hur, the Children of the Endless Gate, the Valley of Dead Heroes, and more were all created for this game, enough to earn the game a tabletop sourcebook unto itself.
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  • Always Chaotic Evil: Most humans view the murdens, crow-like abhuman scavengers, as this. The murdens you meet in-game hardly challenge the stereotype.
  • 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. One character suspects that there might be many more than eight "worlds" preceding the present one.
  • Amazon Brigade: By the end of the first act, a female Castoff can travel with Callistege, Rhin and Matkina.
  • Anti-Villain: It turns out that the Sorrow is a construct of a world destroyed by the Tides, designed to prevent the Tides from being used to destroy more worlds.
  • 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.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Out of seven available companions, with Oom added in the Servant of the Tides update, only three can join the Last Castoff at a time. No explanation is ever given for this.
  • 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 jam-packed with bizarre inexplicable things and even though their own weird powers are demonstrably real.
  • Arc Words:
    • An Armor-Piercing Question, and one to which you'll eventually need to find your own answer.
      "What does one life matter?"
    • The castoffs, Oom, and various others are also compared more than once to "fallen leaves to be crunched underfoot".
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: Relativistic damage ignores the target’s Armor and Resistance stats.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "What does one life matter?" as well as a great many others, often the deadliest weapon in your arsenal.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: While in the Bloom, you can set indentured slave Coty free and help him 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.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: The Council Clerk of Sagus cliffs, a supercilious four-eyed mutant given no other name, is preternaturally gifted in the arts of paperwork and filing. He was chosen and modified by the Changing God to be that way — the Clerk is not a castoff, but the product of the same techniques, it would seem.
    Council Clerk: I am neither a tourist attraction nor a docent. I am the Council Clerk, and unto me falls the responsibility of directing the fate of every official document in Sagus Cliffs. I am the mind that channels the blind, nervous impulses of this city and turns it into muscular action.
  • 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, Peerless, 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. It's actually possible to die at the very beginning of the game if you don't take steps to ensure your fall isn't fatal. The console version of the game even give you a trophy for it!
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Narve the Blessed. He says, "I'm an explorer and a villain. The worst villain you'll ever meet! ... And by that I mean that no matter what I try to pull, it somehow ends up helping."
  • 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.
  • Color-Coded Elements: The various damage types are color-coded for easy visual reference. Physical damage is white, Energy damage is blue, Chemical damage is green, Transdimensional damage is yellow, Mental damage is pink, and Relativistic damage is purple.
  • Cult: The game features a number of cults with unique beliefs. They may act as a source of information, attempt to use the player character as a pawn and cast them aside when finished, or become hostile to the Last Castoff. In loose order of appearance, the most notable are
  • Damage Over Time: Any attack that inflicts Chemical damage will inflict Burn on the target, damaging them for several turns.
  • 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 Specter that claims to be him is actually just an Artificial Intelligence based on a backup copy of his memories, updated just before the Sorrow invaded. 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 Specter 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 Specter 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.
  • Dummied Out:
    • While at one point more were planned, there are only three foci in the finished game: Brandishes A Silver Tongue, Breathes Shadow, and Masters Defense. All three are unlocked and must be chosen at the same time, early in the game. Unlike in Planescape: Torment, the Last Castoff's class (a combination of type and focus) is set and cannot be altered once chosen.
    • The Oasis of M'ra Jolios, which at one point was going to be the game's second major hub, before the Bloom ascended to the role instead. An enormous globe of water in the exact center of the circular desert known as the Lost Sea, the Oasis is the home of the aquatic Ghibra who appear as background characters in Sagus Cliffs. Currently the city only appears during one of the game's meres and briefly as a memory in the Labyrinth, on the Last Castoff's way to confront the Specter for the final time.
    • The Order of Flagellants and Austerities, who were at one point scheduled to appear but go unmentioned in the released game. 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. In the finished game, they seem to have been replaced with the suicidal death cult of the Endless Gate.
  • Dysfunction Junction: From the moment you wake up in the Reef of Fallen Worlds, Callistege and Aligern will be sniping at each other. Justified, in that the burst of Tidal energies released by your rebirth has brought the latent frustrations of their relationship to the surface. Downplayed compared to the original Torment and its Spiritual Successors, however, in that while Aligern and Callistege refuse to be in the party at the same time, and Matkina's Dark and Troubled Past has her keeping everyone at arm's length, most of the other companions are fully capable of getting along with each other, even being quite friendly and sympathetic when it comes to, for example, Rhin, Erritis, Tybir, and Oom. That doesn't mean they don't have their own problems for the Last Castoff to solve, but never gets to Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords levels of having the whole crew hate each other.
  • Evil Luddite: The Dummied Out 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. 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 are prisons and the physical world is one of pain, and seek a release from them both by 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 Eye 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.
    • Sagus Cliffs even sounds like Sigil. Its guards dress in purple instead of red and there's only one man in bladed armor who came to the city as an invader, but there are bite-sized versions of the Foundry and the Mortuary, and even another alien race whose language the Last Castoff can either learn or remember.
    • 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 Endless Battle is basically the Blood War, which, in D&D's Great Wheel cosmology, is a war between the devils of the Nine Hells and the demons of the infinite Abyss, which has spilled across the whole multiverse spreading misery in its wake. The fiendish armies also employ their share of mercenaries.
    • Tybir's effortless charm and slightly callous personality resembles both Morte, the flirtatious floating skull and best friend of the Nameless One, and Gannayev-of-Dreams, plus a few years and minus a few gender restrictions. Like Morte and Gann, he's done questionable things with his persuasive abilities and must face that his actions have affected people other than himself, including those that he loves.
  • 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 are well below the level of technology needed 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. In the game's final build this translates to a pair of rings that share beneficial and detrimental status effects across characters and some party members getting to the point where this applies with or without the rings.
  • 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.
  • Forever War: The Endless Battle, fought between castoffs: those who support the Changing God, and those who despise him. In theory, anyway — in practice, it's a battleground for old grudges between immortals and a breeding ground for new ones, as well as a cottage industry paying an endless tide of mercenaries across the centuries. It's also spread across multiple dimensions and scattered across time, multiplying the horror exponentially.
  • Future Slang:
    • Everything but slang and far-future curses is translated. Among the ones that see the most use:
      carked - crazy, cracked
      carker - a crazy person
      skist - shit
      tulk - crap or garbage
      draff - something worthless
      drit - dirt
    • Jherem, the young boy who can be found playing in the market in Circus Minor offers some lesser-heard examples: mard and siro mean mother and father, while a shuva is a grown up (as in "shover").
    • Manth Pa, a guide/small-time hood who can be found in the Underbelly, uses a whole range of unique slang you won't hear elsewhere — but only until he realizes you're not a local and have no idea what he's talking about.
      Manth Pa: Keep it high, cit.
  • 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.
  • Guide Dang It!: It is possible, albeit extremely difficult, to turn many of the Memovira's inner circle against her once it's revealed that she's actually the First. Being castoffs, you'll have interacted with (and possibly controlled) several of them through the meres, where the choices you made and the details you learned can open up dialogue options which can help you persuade them that the First's plan is just as insane as the Changing God's and needs to be stopped. The Memovira notably cannot be conversed with during the crisis. Although you can opt to let her start the process and sabotage it after the Sorrow begins its assault on the Memovira's fortress.
  • Hero of Another Story: The game is absolutely full of them, but to name a few:
    • 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.
      El-Jinto: The priests of the million gods of Lhauric wandered the streets seeking sacrifices, you see, and opposing them was — is — a sin.
    • An adventuring party in the Fifth Eye are Fire-Forged Friends and join you in a battle against an entity called The Adversary.
    • Utwag Los, a self-proclaimed do-gooder who had his luck stolen; Narve the Blessed, a Card-Carrying Villain whose misdeeds inevitably go wrong, to the benefit of everyone around him; and Jenkins the Jinxed, another would-be do-gooder, except his help inevitably turns out to be a curse on anyone who asks for it. They were searching for an artifact called the World String, a line of gossamer thread so strong it could supposed cut through the world like cheese if you could somehow pull it tight enough. You find the three of them in Necropolis, where they tried to help the Memorialists, and are now on the verge of being executed by the Children of the Endless Gate.
    • Sundermun the Elder found love and had countless adventures after tumbling into one of the Bloom's interdimensional maws... and has since been sent back in time by a Temporal Paradox, where he's taken on his younger self as an apprentice, preparing Sundermun the Younger for the day when he falls through that maw, but never telling him exactly when it's going to happen, because that's how it happened to him.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Miel Avest, a sanctuary for castoffs, cloaked and shielded from the Sorrow. It's also neutral ground in the Endless Battle, meaning castoffs on opposite sides of the war mingle peacefully (not that they're necessarily friendly, mind you) within its bounds. It's almost immediately set upon by the Sorrow as soon as you arrive.
  • 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.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Often subverted, however, as many of the places in the Ninth World were named so long ago that their previous meanings no longer apply, or are otherwise misleading.
    • The Reef of Fallen Worlds — the last part of the game's Noob Cave, it's at most slightly melancholy. Dangers exist, but are easily avoided.
    • The Valley of Dead Heroes — before the coming of the Endless Gate, it was a somber cemetery, no worse than the other ruins of the Ninth World.
      Erritis: Heroes are here... Dead ones.
  • 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, none of them exclusive or in strict opposition to the others.
    • 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.
  • Knockback: Any attack that inflicts Energy damage will push its target away from the attacker. The target will take extra damage if this pushes them into a wall or other obstacle.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The Ruins of Ossiphagan has a number of pools of glowing orange liquid. Subverted in that it's seemingly a kind of luminescent Hollywood Acid instead — still lethal, just not quite as instantaneously so.
  • 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.)
  • The Load: Rhin is just a child and out of her depth when you first recruit her. She's next to useless in combat and has almost no hit points, making her a waste of a companion slot for a long time. Unlike other companions, you can't temporarily dismiss her from your party when you need someone with different talents, which can make some early combats much more difficult. She makes up for it by eventually becoming very good at using cyphers, turning her into one of the most useful companions in the later stages.
  • Loving a Shadow: In Sagus Cliffs, you meet a man named Omahdon who's pursuing a purple-haired woman, 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. She ran instead, so now he intends to use another device to Mind Rape her into "loving" him back unless the Last Castoff can convince him, throw him off her trail, or otherwise get rid of him.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Deconstructed. The reason the Last Castoff stumbles into conflicts only they can solve wherever they go is because the Tides provoke those conflicts in everyone whose path they cross. The pentagonal tattoo branded on each castoff's skull — like the Sigil of Torment from Planescape: Torment — draws out suffering everywhere they go.
    The Sorrow: [regarding Aadiriis] Her passage left lovers squabbling, children crying, and conflicts escalated that might have been avoided. Though she suspected this truth and sought the shelter of Miel Avest, even she has been the author of invisible miseries. Every one of you is the same.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The Forever War of the Endless Battle 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, he 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.
    • A black frame forms a major part of Aligern's personal quest.
    • 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. You can obtain one of them as a pet; it makes you tougher, stronger, stupider... and you can blind enemies.
  • The Needs of the Many: Discussed, in part through the game's Arc Words: which many? Which few? What does one life matter? The Indigo Tide in particular maps to putting society and the greater good first, but it's up to the player to decide whether that's more important than the safety and happiness of the individual, the freedom of others to choose for themselves, or future knowledge and progress, history, art, or some other abstract ideal. Where the latter fall among the other four Tides can vary based on your intent.
  • No Hero Discount: An actual aversion for once — in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, reluctant Intrepid Merchant Lady Anshe gives you multiple healing items and weapons at no charge, and even provides a full Trauma Inn. Granted, she doesn't have access to her full stock, but it's something. It's possible because, you, she, and all the other castoffs have been drawn into the Labyrinth by the resonance chamber.
  • Oh My Gods!: "By the Black Three!" seems to be Greater Garravia's oath of choice, or indeed anyone from around Sagus Cliffs. It refers to the Tabaht who invaded long ago.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Castoffs differ in a fundamental way from most settings' elves, in that they're a series of custom-designed bodies (some of which aren't even human) rather than a naturally-evolved people, but they fill the niche surprisingly well, with even a few elements of The Fair Folk.
    • Their bodies generally don't age and can survive staggering physical punishment.
    • Despite their longevity, they are very few in number compared to all the other sapient species of the setting: a new castoff is born only when the Changing God abandons a body, and it's not clear if they have any means of reproducing on their own, or if a castoff's child would inherit the traits that make Castoffs so "elvish."
    • They tend to be extremely intelligent, as a side effect of inheriting some of the Changing God's knowledge after the consciousness transfer.
    • While they have no universally-present skills, each of them was engineered to be superhumanly good at something, be it combat, diplomacy, or scholarship.
    • They have their own society apart from human ones, with its own territory (Miel Avest), a ruler (Aadariis, though she sincerely sees herself as Just the First Citizen), and even its own civil war (the Endless Battle). They often involve themselves in human affairs and drag humans into their own, but they view themselves apart from the rest of humanity.
    • Their view of mortals is paternalistic at best, seeing them as tools to use and discard at worst. Even Matkina, who shuns her fellow Castoffs because of this, is callous to the suffering of most non-Castoffs. Even mere physical proximity to a castoff is dangerous for mortals. Indeed, the only way for the Last Castoff to ensure that their people get to have a free future is to sacrifice thousands of mortal residents of Sagus Cliffs in order to kill the Sorrow.
  • Player Party: There are a total of seven companions who can join the Last Castoff on their travels.
  • Press Start to Game Over: If you choose to dive for the ground during the initial fall, the damage will be too much for your Healing Factor. You do leave a nice crater behind... The achievement is called "Terminal Velocity".
    "Slow" is a relative term. You knife through the air, piercing its veils and... you have no time for the poetry of falling. [...] As your skin explodes and your organs liquefy on impact, a brief thought flashes through your mind: your life was utterly and completely meaningless.
  • Purple Prose: The prose style of the whole game is extremely stylized, with sentences often littered with the most complex and arcane language possible. Be prepared for casual usage of words like "stentorian," "internecine," "anodyne," "autochthon" and "saccade." The game also uses exotic terms of foreign cultures in place of standard English words, calling a sailor a "lascar," a soldier a "jemadar," a mercenary captain a "condottiere" and a village an "aldeia."
  • 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.
  • Ruins for Ruins' Sake: The premise of the Numenera setting is that the Ninth World is built on the detritus left behind by a billion years of past civilizations on Earth. Every settlement is built on some kind of ancient ruin — the entire world is a kind of neverending Dungeon Crawl. That being said, the most obvious cases of this are the mini-dungeon of the Anechoic Lazaret, the Necropolis and surrounding Ruins of Ossiphagan, and the deepest depths of the Bloom.
  • Schmuck Bait: There's a lot of them. 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. You can opt to give the Changing God control of your body, giving you a non-standard game over. You can also drink 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 a woman named Leto, wears what is implied to be a stillsuit, and has the power of seeing possible realities and pasts — a clear reference to the (male) hero of Dune.
    • In the Necropolis, you meet the decidedly eccentric Oddwald the Sane — compare and contrast Hitchhiker's Guide's Wonko the Sane.
    • 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.
    • The Outworn Buckler also appears in both Pillars of Eternity games, a ratty, decrepit shield with a powerful enchantment, which grows even more potent in the hands of a paladin of the Darcozzi order.
  • Some Call Me "Tim": Honorary Aeon Priest Sn'erf, a being from another dimension. 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.
  • That Thing Is Not My Child!: The Changing God doesn't even consider the castoffs to be people, much less his children. He also refuses to believe that Miika is anything more than a reflection of his daughter, since she's just a copy of his daughter's consciousness. Which is pretty rich coming from the Specter.
  • Three-Stat System: The game, like the tabletop system it's based on, has Might, Speed, and Intellect as core stats.
  • Time Travel: No less common in the Ninth World than space travel or dimensional travel. No one set of time travel rules seems to apply.
    • The Changing God traveled in time, though the Sorrow followed him whenever he went.
    • Both the First Militia and the Changing God's supporters have access to temporal Reset Buttons in the form of the Reconciler of Truth and Heaven's Rejoinder, respectively. Neither device is seen during the game, though the fact that each side can simply undo the other's victories is a significant part of what makes the Endless Battle a Forever War.
    • The merecasters allow the Last Castoff to utilize a form of Mental Time Travel, seemingly a byproduct of being specially tailored to make use of the resonance chamber. Doing so can change history, yet castoffs remember both timelines.
    • A simple tanner (granted the leather he works with is the flesh of the Bloom), Sundermun the Elder fell through a Bloom maw and ended up going back in time, having to return home via The Slow Path — and taking on his younger self as an apprentice. Upon finding this out, the Last Castoff has the option of killing Sundermun the Younger just to see what will happen. Rather than a Temporal Paradox ripping apart the universe, however, Sundermun the Elder simply blinks out of existence.
    • Zwherezimian exists outside of normal spacetime as a kind of phantom, able to speak and be seen and heard, but unable to affect the world around him. He's trying to get back to his own time, one of the fallen civilizations that pre-dates the Ninth World, and he keeps running into the Last Castoff — and each time, he teaches you the second level of Tidal Affinity. He's been trapped in the same Stable Time Loop for millions of years when you meet him in the Bloom. He doesn't seem to mind.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: A random "Child" NPC in Circus Minor has some... interesting dialogue if you keep clicking:
    Child: I am a normal human child enjoying the sights. Please move out of the way of my forward sensors.
    Child: Subvocalized message — one of the humans is attempting to speak with me. Advise.
    Child: I do not wish to play with you. You are too old.
    Child: Candy is a delightful treat for children.
  • 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 Potential: A minor case, but you need to delay finishing one quest long enough for two people to lose their houses if you want to have an Expy of Boo as a pet.
  • 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 to 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.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: A major part of the game's arc question: What does one life matter?
    • The question is whether the castoffs are living, independent people in their own right, or if they're simply amnesiac clones of the Changing God, who wouldn't object to being killed off or reincorporated into him if they could simply remember what they knew when they were a part of him. During the endgame, you're forced to create a series of clones — at least one — in order to reach the final confrontation in the Labyrinth. The clone has no objections whatsoever, and it's implied they wouldn't live long no matter what you did — but what responsibility do you bear for having created them in the first place?
    • Many other elements of the game allude to this central conflict — the levies of Sagus Cliffs, for example, are Artificial Human City Guards created to obey orders, die after one year of service, and do this while seemingly outwardly entirely content.
  • 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, the Changing God's daughter Miika confronts the being who claims to be her father, the Specter... and doesn't recognize him at all. This is because he's 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 if even his own daughter doesn't recognize him, but if your persuasive skills aren't up to the task, this can also backfire.

"We will miss you, tenderling. All of you."

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