Some games don't age that well, but Planescape: Torment is a name that players still speak with hushed breath even today. Still widely regarded as one of the greatest role playing games of all time, this PC exclusive basically redefined an entire genre when it launched back in 1999, crafting a dark, and twisting narrative focused around player choice that still holds up well today (for proof, just check out its 4.9/5 on GOG.com, with over 10,000 votes). Along with Baldur's Gate, it was one of the main pillars of the "golden age" of PC role playing games.
As technology has moved on, though, crafting a role playing game with the same scale has become uneconomical at best, as games moved into full 3D - and so, as is often the way with these things, when inXile decided the time was right to make a successor to Planescape: Torment, the team went to Kickstarter instead. They ended up with the #3 best funded gaming kickstarter of all time, and had everything they needed in place to get the gang back together, and start making the game the team had long dreamed of making. As the game's lead writer, Colin McComb explained "One day, in 2013, Brian called me up and said 'Colin, come and make the successor.' And I said 'Brian, let me change my underwear'". Colin then proceeded to wax lyrical about the team that's working on the game - Chris Avellone, one of the leading voices on the original is on-board to offer his guidance; Mark Morgan, the composer for Fallout 1 and 2 is providing the music; while Pat Rothfuss, a man Colin described as the "number two living epic fantasy author of all time, behind George Martin", is helping out with the writing, making it nothing if not an all star team.
Of course, all of this won't mean anything to you if you haven't played the original game (and if you haven't, you're in good company, as almost ashamedly, we actually haven't either) - but all you really need to know is that Torment: Tides of Numenera is looking incredible, it's coming to PC, Xbox One and PS4, and there are so, so many reasons to be excited. It's probably best if we start things off with a trailer to set the scene, so here's a quick look at what Colin describes as "our single player, story driven, sci-fi, fantasy RPG - set on earth, one billion years in the future..."
Of course, a billion years is a long time, and in that time, eight civilisations have risen and fell, leaving behind a world that's probably best described as "science fantasy". This isn't all shiny metal and polished dystopian corridors, but instead feels a little bit more organic, perhaps a little bit steampunk, with some weird fantasy-style elements thrown in. In the game's plot, humanity left Earth at some point in the distant past, and they've now returned, for reasons that are yet to be revealed, to find the world they left behind has changed quite substantially in their absence. All around you, you'll find remnants that the long forgotten civilisations have left behind - technology that you'd never dreamt of - and that you can't possibly hope to understand. As Colin explains, "Arthur C Clark once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic", as so it's safe to say the game has a sufficiently fantasy feel.
When it comes to the story itself, though, the team chose to write a plot that revolved around a rather philosophical sounding concept - "what does one life matter?" In Torment, you aren't technically an archetypical hero - you're just some dude, on a planet he doesn't recognise, billions of years in the future - but what can one man achieve, if he puts his mind to things? "We didn't want to tell a story that's like 'hey guys, you've got save the princess', or 'hey guys, the bad guy's coming, he's going to take over the world'. We wanted to tell a story about you - about your choices, about your legacy, about what you leave behind. And fortunately, that's our strength as a studio. inXile believes the best RPG is one that changes the world around you, that the world should react to you, and the world should respond as though you have a meaningful impact - because you do.".
There have been a lot of games that have said that over the years, but Colin seems certain that Torment will be one of the games that really makes it come true. For starters, when it comes to the dialogue options alone, you're rarely just limited to one or two, obvious "good" or "bad" conversation options - instead, you'll be given more like six or seven, with each leading your encounters in a drastically different direction. Sometimes you can talk your way around combat by intimidating your opponent, or reasoning with them (with the game showing you your chances of success before you attempt it) - but your dialogue options are only one small part of the humongous galaxy of choices you'll find ahead of you, as Colin explains.
"You can die to unlock ghosts in your mind of people you've encountered in the real world, and you can press them for secrets they would not reveal to you otherwise. You can enter someone's memories and change their past - not just their memories, but their actual reality, and when you emerge from their memories, reality will change around you. You can sell your companions to slavers - everybody loves doing that! You can unlock a puzzle box with a key literally made out of music. You can help a giant robot give birth - and you can then steal their babies and use them as explosives. You can get cybernetic implants fitted, without anaesthetic, in the middle of a town square. If you don't have enough health, people will simply watch you scream, bleed and die. You can travel to a world of crystal inhabited by beings of light, and discover these are the last remnants of consciousness of a super-computer that killed itself out of loneliness as it circles a dying star in a dying galaxy." Just your average, common or garden role playing game stuff then(!)
Firing up the game on an Xbox One, we got to saw how the decisions you make will affect your game in practice, as our party were dropped off on an ancient burial ground, where no sooner had we stepped out of our ship than we discovered we'd been followed here by a gang of murderous cultists. As you'd probably guessed by the whole "murderous" thing, they weren't here to chat, and instead try and intimidate us into going and hunting someone down for them. Unfortunately for them, we're having none of it, and so we decide to send in our bruiser to intimidate them (chance of intimidation: 100%) - and as if by magic, already, our actions have had a consequence. Straight from the off, your actions here can lead down two very different paths - while we could have dealt with the murderous cultists there and then, our decision to let them go might come back to haunt us later on, as free to go about their business, the cultists would report back to their boss, and tell him we're here...
Much as you'd expect, you aren't alone in your quest across the future-Earth either, and you'll be able to forge your own party of followers, each of which has their own backstories and personalities. While some are softly spoken, others will have no qualms telling you if you're making a decision they don't like, adding an extra layer of storytelling to the proceedings. Every now and then, if you have the right party member with you at the right time, you'll also unlock special, character specific quests, that let you learn more about your buddy's backstory. The idea is to make it so each play through is significantly different, based on the choices you make.
So, that's the conversations and quests sorted - what about the combat? As Planescape: Torment was based on Dungeons and Dragons rules, Torment: Tides of Numenera takes its cues from a similar tabletop setting, and the battles here are actually turn based. At the start of each round, you'll have the ability to move your character a set distance, and either attack, or use an ability, with the hit chance and damage being determined by (virtual) rolls of dice behind the scenes. We'll just be keeping our fingers crossed the system turns out easy enough to pick up and play!
So, in a cosmically sized nutshell, that's Torment: Tides of Numenera - and if you aren't excited after reading this, the chances are you've probably lost your soul somewhere along the way. Set for release on Q1 2017 on PC, Mac, Linux, PS4 and Xbox One simultaneously, this has shot to the top of our most wanted games for 2017 - and we hope it's done the same for you too.