Torment (series)

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Torment is a series of video games unlike any other. Instead of sharing a same setting, the Torment games are set in different universes. However they share similar gameplay, narrative and thematics.

The series is composed of two games: Planescape: Torment (1999), by Black Isle Studios and Torment: Tides of Numenera (2015), by inXile Entertainment.

Origins[edit | edit source]

A series was never envisaged in the first place, since Planescape: Torment tell a story without any possibilities of continuation. Later, legal difficulties made it impossible to see a sequel of any kind set in the same setting. Colin McComb tried to negotiate with Wizard of the Coast, but it did not go very far[1].

It was the rise of crowdfunding, through Kickstarter, that created a fertile soil for a sequel, with both Monte Cook Games and inXile Entertainment relying heavily on the crowdfunding platform for their respective products: Numenera and Wasteland 2. Strengthened by their experiences, they joined hands and decided to create a spiritual sequel of Planescape: Torment set in the new Numenera universe, created by Monte Cook. This common effort led to the Kickstarter campaign in 2013 and permitted the production of a sucessor.

Both Monte Cook, the creator of Numenera and Brian Fargo, the founder and CEO of inXile Entertainment, had a history with Planescape and Planescape: Torment. Monte Cook wrote several supplements for Dungeons and Dragons: Planescape, while Briand Fargo founded and directed Interplay, the publishing company behind Black Isle Studios. Furthermore, the development team behind Torment: Tides of Numenera is composed of several members of the original Torment game.

Narrative[edit | edit source]

Both games narrates a strong story, with a great deal of dialogues, focused on one character and his personnal quest: The Nameless One in Planescape: Torment and The Last Castoff in Torment: Tides of Numenera. They can be joined by several companions or can cast them aside to pursue their goal alone.

They both don't know who they are, The Nameless One being an immortal who lost his memories each time he 'died', developing a new personality in the process, and trying to figure what or who made him come back to life every time, while The Last Castoff is the product of an immortal being (The Changing God) who jump from a corpse to another to extend his life, leaving shell-bodies with new consciousness (Castoffs) behind him each time. In addition to that, they both have to deal with a seemingly-invincible nemesis who is hunting them and which originates from the past of the main character. Respectivly, The Transcendent One and The Angel of Entropy.

It is possible to revist or learn about previous Incarnations (in 'Planescape') or previous Castoffs (in 'Tides of Numenera'), through diverse narrative means.

The narrative of these games tend to break archetypes and tropes, thanks to the liberty offered by the settings.

Thematics[edit | edit source]

Torment games share many themes. Death, and the research to escape its grasp, are thematic pillars. Generally speaking, the past action of the character (for The Nameless One) or of its creator (for The Last Castoff) are of great importance in the game, and Tides of Numenera works heavily with the theme of legacy. Each main character is also confonted with abandonment at the beginning of the game.

Both games ask a particular philosophical question, influencing heavily on the narrative. Planescape: Torment wonders ' What can change the nature of a man ? ', whereas Torment: Tides of Numenera asks ' What does one life matters ? '. Planescape gave importance to belief, while Tides of Numenera puts action first. Existentialism is a recuring philosophical theme in the series.

The settings display a sense of weirdness and wonder. For Planescape, it is thanks to a complex cosmology (collecting the whole scale of the Dungeons and Dragons games) where belief shape everything. In Tides of Numenera, the Numenera, the technological remnants of the heights of prior civilisations, spanning together a bilion years, play that role. However, a major disparity is to be noted: if the first setting is a universe of magic and gods, the second focuses only on technological marvels, but which can be mistaken for magic (' Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. ' -Sir Arthur C. Clarke).

Also, both settings give a major importance to what can be described as a sense of discovery and mystery. In Planescape: Torment, the player travels through the Planes of existence, beginning their journey in Sigil, a city at the very center of the Outer Planes (the Planes divided by alignment, from Law to Chaos, Good to Evil, with every possible combination displayed) connected to the whole universe through numerous portals. They then travel to several of the Lower Planes (and what lies between) and even to the Plane of Negative Energy, in the Inner Planes, where the elements rules. In Torment: Tides of Numenera, the player travels through the Ninth World, among the ruins of civilisations of old, now occupied by new inhabitants, human and alien alike, unable to understand the full complexity of the Numenera, but still using them to survive as they can. Here, the player can explore a refuge for outcasts that is in fact a gigantic living organism, the Bloom, and later travel to an aquatic city located in a desert, the Oasis of M'ra Jolios. They can even travel beyond the Ninth World, to another dimension made of crystal.

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

Torment games are isometrical roleplaying games. They have a lot of mutual design aspects (e.g., similar UI), but split when it come to combat. Planescape: Torment show real-time (with pause) combat, while Torment: Tides of Numenera is designed with a turn-by-turn combat system.

The Alignement system for Planescape and the Tides system for Tides of Numenera are gameplay elements exclusive to the setting of the game, but very similar in nature. While the Alignment System comes directly from the setting of Dungeons and Dragons, the Tides mechanics did not existed in the Numenera setting before the introduction of the ideo in the game, while still being perfectly impleted in the setting, with the help of Monte Cook. However, the Alignment had very few gameplay influence in Planescape: Torment (it was still much important in the setting), but the Tides in the second game have a major influence over the gameplay and the narrative, being linked with another system called the Legacy.

Graphics[edit | edit source]

Even the graphics are very similar in the overall feel the games deliver. Both are isometric, with 2D environments. However, Planescape: Torment was in full-2D (with sprites for the characters, etc;), but Torment: Tides of Numenera includes 3D elements.

References[edit | edit source]