Saturday, January 27, 2018

Can't ride the red tide

"Jump in my car, we'll go one hundred around the bends
 And we'll pretend feeling rage is feeling real"

Missy Higgins - 100 Round the Bends

A few second impressions of Torment: Tides of Numenera, after completing my second playthrough.

First off, though still annoyed at dignity being considered a gendered concept, I did enjoy the company of the male half of the game's cast well enough. Aligern could've definitely used more fleshing out (pun intended) but then again he and Callistege both were more about their superpowers than about personal growth. Said power seems much less super than Callistege's (especially with the rings of entanglement) but still has potential. Tybir's writing was surprisingly level-headed given his inclinations and current politics. Erritis... suffice it to say I'll be playing Original Sin 2 soon and whatever else Chris Avellone is working on next. Like Durance and Grieving Mother in PoE, Erritis manages to twist a trite archetype into the most interesting character in the game.

Second off, while my party's gender mix was not originally meant as the opposite of my first playthrough, my actual playstyle was. Instead of glorying in the various non-combat options, I glaived myself up to explore TToN's more bellicose side. Smashy-smashy!
I was sorely disappointed. Not in the lack of combat as such - TToN offers about as many pugilistic possibilities as its plot dictates, give or take a victim here and there, and the [Smash] dialogue option is satisfyingly frequent. However, it's clear the combat side of the game was hardly tested. Not only are most combat options simplistic and  redundant but quite a few major fights have bugged out on me. The Endless Gate, the crystalvores, several fights in the Bloom, even the very last, climactic showdown have frozen on some character's turn or another, forcing several reloads or even skipping the encounter altogether via dialogue. Even if not completely, strictly gamebreaking, this being a year and at least one major patch after release it seems pretty unforgivable.

Last off, cast-off, smashy-smashy reads as "red" to me, so I did my best to play as a hotheaded fanatic as per official boilerplate. However, it seems my initial assessment was correct: Tides makes it much too easy to acquire blue alignment bumps and downplays the logically (or rather illogically) red mindless aggression. Shooting first and asking questions later, bullheadedly chasing down a single goal, should fairly reliably redden you. Instead, dialogues constantly reward you blue for merely advancing the plot, qualifying the player's aimless fumbling as "expanding the mind and spirit" even when you're purposely ignoring all the information around you and refusing to investigate context. Take this mission for example:
I'm scavenging a macguffin from a transdimensional vehicle's onboard computer. As I begin, ghostly simulacra of the vehicle's passengers materialize around me, attempting to communicate... and I choose to completely ignore them. For ignoring their motivations, ignoring the technologically fascinating means by which they manifest, the information they might have to impart, ignoring their very nature no less and thoughtlessly ripping out the gizmo I need then leaving, for mindlessly blowing past that uncanny event I'm rewarded with the maximum possible alignment shift in the direction of "wisdom, enlightenment and mysticism" a.k.a... willful ignorance apparently?
Never mind that this is a side quest and "Huge" alignment boosts are in fact so rare that the few red equivalents are handed out only for irreparably sanguine actions like permanently dooming one of your companions as an increasingly suicidal whirlwind of destruction. All the times I yell "Attack!" before my opponents have even launched into their pre-match banter don't seem to count for much either.

As things stand, I couldn't manage to stay red until near the end, when tiding the tongues provides a facile, story-independent red/silver fix. So either I'm incapable of not acting like a nerd (possible) or the game's purposely masking its customers' true nature from themselves, flattering them. Given the choice, most idiots would rather be Narcissus than Damocles so it pays to shift the baseline a bit in favor of barbarity, make them feel less like the sadistic, codependent, self-aggrandizing, anti-intellectual drooling aneuploids they are. We all know that if those purty colors really reflected gamers' commitment to the pursuit of knowledge, most Last Castoffs would never finger-paint their way off the short bus. They just don't want to admit to being brainless petty thugs with the analytical ability of gerbils, to see their actions truly reflected on screen.
 "But then I see my damn reflection in your eyeball"

No comments:

Post a Comment