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One of the most acclaimed RPGs of all time is about to get a ‘spiritual sequel’ thanks to a phenomenally successful Kickstarter campaign.
Back in 1999, Interplay Entertainment released an RPG set in Dungeons & Dragons Planescape campaign setting called Planescape: Torment. Although sales were disappointing, the game received widespread critical acclaim, and it continues to appear on lists of the top video games of all time.
Now, inXile Entertainment is looking to build on Planescape: Torment’s legacy with Torment: Tides of Numenera. It will not be set in the Planescape campaign setting because inXile was unable to reach a licensing agreement with Wizards of the Coast (which owns Dungeons & Dragons). Instead, it will be set in the world of Numenera, a setting devised by veteran D&D writer Monte Cook.
Numenera blends science fiction and fantasy. It is a world where a billion years’ worth of civilizations have come and gone. The game itself will be set in the Ninth World, a place that is littered with the remains of the eight worlds that preceded it. The ‘numenera’ mentioned in the title are artifacts created by these vanished civilizations. The world is also subject to the push and pull of mysterious forces known as the ‘Tides.’ Only a few people know about them, but those who can control them can wield great power.
InXile originally sought to raise $900,000 on Kickstarter to finance Tides of Numenera, but they also set a series of ‘stretch goals’ that offered additional content and features as a reward for additional funds. The goals ranged from allowing players to choose their characters’ gender (unlocked at $1.2 million) to having fantasy superstar Patrick Rothfuss join the design team (unlocked at $3.5 million). All told, inXile took in $4,188,927 through their Kickstarter campaign, and almost all the stretch goals were ultimately achieved.
According to the vision document posted on the Tides of Numenera Kickstarter page, the game will be a single-player adventure with an isometric perspective. Like Planescape: Torment, it will feature rich dialogue that is a key part of the gameplay experience instead of fluff you skip through whenever possible.
Players will experience the game as the Last Castoff, a creation of ‘the Changing God.’ Over the course of the game, players choose a descriptor, a type, and a focus. The type is essentially your character class. Players will have three options: the glaive, the jack, and the nano, which roughly correspond to the traditional fantasy archetypes of warrior, rogue, and mage.
The descriptor is an adjective such as ‘tough’ or ‘charming,’ and it can modify some of the player’s abilities, while the focus appears to be something like a superpower. According to the vision document, the focus is influenced by the player’s relationship with the numenera, and it can be anything from the power to command electricity to the ability to interact with the dead.
InXile is also committed to providing players with genuinely interesting equipment instead of an endless assortment of +1 longswords. “Every major item (and even many lesser ones) will have some sort of history and function as well as a ‘personality”—an identifying hook to help give it character and enrich the setting and gameplay,” the developers said.
Just as Planescape: Torment was built around the question of what can change the nature of a man, Tides of Numenera will explore the extent to which a single life matters. But rather than force players to reach a predetermined conclusion, they will be free to come up with their own answers.
In the words of the vision document, “[y]ou’ll make choices based on how you want to handle each situation, not on the basis of an external scale of good and evil. And the people around you will judge you based not on your motivations but on the consequences of your actions. What’s more, the choices you make will determine your legacy, the history you leave behind as an example—or warning.”
Tides of Numenera will also eschew the traditional dungeon-crawling experience in favor of more nuanced, sophisticated battles. Players will have to make meaningful choices in combat instead of just bludgeoning their enemies like loot piñatas. The developers have not yet decided whether combat should be real-time with a pause option (like in Planescape: Torment), turn-based (like in Wasteland 2, another inXile title), or a hybrid option. They plan to come up with two or three options and let the game’s backers decide which one to use.
The only bad news is that Tides of Numenera will not be released for a while. According to the game’s website, the developers are aiming to release it in the first half of 2015. In the meantime, fans can still donate to the project in order to have access to the latest information and give input on the game’s development.
Image Courtesy of Jason Engle