Torment: Tides of Numenera
Regular Game Masters readers will know that I’m a big fan of old-school roleplaying games (RPGs), which means I’m definitely part of the intended audience for Torment: Tides of Numenera (ToN).
A spiritual successor to 1999 cult classic Planescape: Torment, Tides is a throwback to the golden age of isometric RPGs, that time around the turn of the century that saw the release of seminal works such as the two Baldur’s Gate games, the aforementioned Planescape: Torment, the Icewin Dale series, and Fallout 2.
Crowdfunded via Kickstarter and developed by inXile, ToN takes place on Earth about a billion years into the future, a rich science fantasy setting originally developed for the Numenera tabletop RPG.
It’s a fascinating backdrop for a game that puts story front and centre, as should be expected of a title that wants to take over where Planescape left off.
Be prepared for a lot of reading; like the games inspiring it, ToN makes use of minimal voice acting, which means you’ll have to read dialogue. There are also very detailed descriptions of people, environments and events that pop up regularly. Luckily the writing is very good, and actually pulls you into the game instead of out of it. It’s almost like playing a living, breathing Iain M Banks Culture novel.
This may all sound rather sedate, but here’s plenty of action to be had, if you so choose, and the turn-based combat system is deep and satisfying. Fighting is, however, just one of many ways you can resolve quests and situations you come across.
If you’re a fan of old-school RPGs, or you’ve never played them but wonder what all the fuss is about, ToN comes highly recommended. For many — you know who you are — this will be an essential purchase.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Linux, Windows, OS X
From one weird and wonderful future to another, this time in the form of NieR: Automata. This action-RPG is the brainchild of the enigmatic Yoko Taro, whose unconventional streak runs not only through the games he’s worked on (most famously the first Nier, and Drakengard), but is also on display in the real world, where he wears a mask when appearing in public.
Like its creator, NieR: Automata is quite unlike any game out there; yes, it’s a 3D real-time action-RPG that’s heavy on action, but at times it’s also a side-scroller, or a Galaxian-style shooter, and some other things besides.
You take the role of 2B, a female android who shoots her way through a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by machine enemies that range from the tiny to the outright gargantuan.
The opening sequence is so thrilling and action-packed that it could have easily served as another game’s satisfying finale. Here, it’s just the start for even greater things to come.
This is a truly difficult game, and will satisfy anyone looking for a challenge. But if you’re just looking to take in the incredible sights and sounds (the score, by Keiichi Okabe, is a work of art in its own right) there’s an Easy mode that allows you to use some optional assists that should see you through most of what’s thrown your way.
As is to be expected, the story is fascinating, complex, weird, and emotional.
Everything, from the character and world design to the gameplay and the music combine to make for what can only be described as a unique and unforgettable experience.
NieR: Automata will make you feel things, even if you’re not always exactly sure what it is that you’re feeling.
In a world of cookie-cutter sequels and uninspired clones of whatever proved successful for another publisher, bold and unapologetically original games like this deserve to be rewarded with good sales. Give it a try, even if only for that reason.
Platforms: PS4, Windows