The great, the good, the rest : my review of TTON

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kilobug
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The great, the good, the rest : my review of TTON

Post by kilobug » April 4th, 2017, 12:37 pm

Introduction / context

Here is my review of TTON after my first playthrough of the game.

Technical info : I played GOG version on Linux, on a med-end PC, started with 1.0.1 and switched to 1.0.2 when the patch was released mid-game.

Role-play info : I played a "Charming Jack who Brandishes a Silver Tongue", finished with Gold/Blue Tides, and did a "low reload" playthrough (with perhaps half-dozen reloads in total).

The great and awesome
  • The world building : The Ninth World is awesome, full of delicious weird and alive with so many details. Everything is weird but in not a silly or unplausible way, with its internal consistency that really gives the impression of being in an alien world - exactly how it should be.
  • The writing, at the level required for a worthy Torment successor.
  • Most quests, original and interesting, with lots of paths for completion.
  • The background of the areas, beautiful, varied in theme/tone, rich with details.
  • The overall feel of the game, which is really Torment-ish.
The good but perfectible
  • The music : it's nice and match the ambiance of area, but not as memorable as PsT music was.
  • The technical aspect : loading times are very reasonable, no major bug, performances are smooth, got one freeze (during the Crisis at the
    end of the Bloom) which prevents me from putting in "great" but else everything worked well.
  • The companions : they have interesting quests, backstory and personalities, the best companions in a CRPG in years, not as great as Morte or Dak'kon (but that was a high standard to beat).
  • The Crisis system : the UI could be improved, so does the balancing, but the overall system is very interesting, and the variety of different Crisis is refreshing compared to repetitive combat of many CRPGs.
  • The Castoff labyrinth : some very interesting things in it, overall nice art, but feels a bit empty.
  • The amount of content : with some reviews I was afraid the game would be too short, but it doesn't feel that short (took me 30-40 hours), similar to PsT if you don't count the hours spent in trashmob fights (and Modron maze).
  • The Meres : the content (story, writing, art) of the many Meres is good, but they feel (for most of the non-essential ones) too disconnected from the rest of the game, both mechanics-wise and content-wise.
  • Equipement : the variety of Cyphers is refreshing, some Artifacts are nice too, but some categories (such as medium might, for Aligern) are lacking.
The rest (what's not so good)
  • The art of the character "sprites" feels a bit mundane and uninspired, for example the "visitants" look very much humans.
  • The UI for menus (load/save/options/main menu) feels a bit shallow/cheap.
  • The cut content... I really wish (no, not Wish) we could have seen more of M'ra Jolios, and that the Tides/Legacy system was more developped, but well. Glad to know "the Toy" will arrive soon.
  • The balance of the game : it felt too easy for me, especially since apart at the very beginning, you can rest more or less freely.
  • The economy of the game : you end up with lots of cash in the Bloom but not much to buy in it/after it.
  • The level cap (Tiers 4) is reached too early in the game (before the end of the Bloom), it's not specific to TTON, but it's always frustrating to me to reach the level cap early like that. PST didn't have that flaw.
Improvement suggestions
  • Give us more of the Oasis of M'ra Jolios (I know that will likely not happen but had to include it).
  • Add difficulty settings, I would say one easier and two harder than current difficulty.
  • The Crisis feel a bit sluggish at times with all the movement of enemies, there should be a way to accelerate that.
  • The Crisis UI could be improved in many ways, for example :
    • When equipped with a ranged weapon, it would be nice to see the expected range of the weapon while previewing movement.
    • When using an area-of-effect Cypher/ability, it would be great to have a preview of who will be affected.
    • It should be possible to click to move outside of allowed movement range, the character just moving as much as he wants in that
      direction.
    • The cursor should reflect more what you are currently doing, sometimes it's not very clear if you did click on the ability or
      not/canceled it or not/...
    • Allow to delay your turn.
  • Clicking somewhere on the map should move the view to that location, like in Infinity Engine games.
  • We should be able to ask companions their opinion about various side-quests more frequently, that would make them feel more alive.
  • Add a couple of additional Focus for more variety in replays.
  • Have some items (Cyphers or Artifacts) that react to your Tides, and give different effects depending on them.
  • Add a way to review previous conversations/interactions (scroll-back buffer like in Infinity Engine games, or full fledged logs entries).
Conclusion

Overall an awesome game, especially the world building and writing, thanks inXile and everyone who participated to this. The best CRPG I've played since PsT.

Would have been even better without the cuts (especially the Oasis...), but we should judge a game on what it is (brillant) not on what it could have been (even better).

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sear
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Re: The great, the good, the rest : my review of TTON

Post by sear » April 6th, 2017, 4:51 pm

Appreciate the detailed feedback! Seeing the things you enjoyed vs. places where the game could improved is definitely useful. Thanks for letting us know. :)

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Re: The great, the good, the rest : my review of TTON

Post by cyklak » April 8th, 2017, 12:44 pm

I have to say I agree with most of the things in this review. TTON is a good game, however I found it too easy. Even though it may be considered more of a book, it is still also a game and needs to present some challenge. To my knowledge, there is only one really necessary fight in the game (at the end of the Bloom). I know it was the intention to give us the choice to fight or to solve situations peacefully, but then there should be some challenge in the peaceful solutions as well. I would definitely have liked to play at a higher difficulty.
Also, what I didn't like was the first part of the story until you reach the Miel Avest crisis. The main quest just wasn't interesting enough.

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Re: The great, the good, the rest : my review of TTON

Post by kaiman » April 8th, 2017, 2:09 pm

Hope you don't mind if I piggyback onto that thread instead of creating yet another one. After finishing the game late yesterday evening, I too wanted to share my appreciation, and, since it seems helpful after all, the bits and pieces that irked me.

Technical info: I played GOG version on Linux, on a med-end PC, started with 1.0.1 and switched to 1.0.2 when the patch was released mid-game.

Role-play info: I played a "Stealthy Jack who Brandishes a Silver Tongue", finished with Gold Tide, and did a "low reload" playthrough (with perhaps half-dozen reloads in total).

The Highlights

Best writing: While the writing was generally high quality (with some less-than-stellar bits here and there), the absolutely best I've come across was the derelict construct in the south-eastern corner of Small Nihilesh. The writing was so evocative, it made me sad and I really had to think for a long time about whether to further disturb and loot the construct or not. Whoever came up with the idea and wrote those lines, well done! I didn't come across anything better. For the best humorous writing, I nominate Two Weeks and a Day.

Best area: Hands down The Gullet. I cannot even fathom how The Gullet could have ended up as C content in the first place, other than that it has little relevance to the plot. I am more than happy that my purchase of the printed novella collection enabled its inclusion in the game! To me, it is the area that allowed the kind of exploration I had expected to find earlier in the game, an uncharted territory known to none (aside from the poor devoured souls trapped there) with a nice mixture of puzzles, secrets, dialogue and combat.

Best crisis: The Anchorage. I managed the peaceful victory with my party of 3 (on 2nd attempt), and it was intense, nerve-racking and felt like right out of a Mission Impossible movie. A perfect demonstration what the crisis system is capable of, when killing the "bad" guys isn't the primary objective.

Best companion: While I did unlock all companions, I only played with Aligern, Rhin and Erritis. Of those, Erritis was clearly my favourite. While I did have to constantly keep him from acting foolhardy, I did so with a smile on my face. Learning of his ailment only made the situation more comedic (though perhaps not for Erritis himself). I was still happy to finally set him free in the Calm, after I had failed to enter the Labyrinth even once in the Bloom and as such failed his personal quest.

Best Mere: I really liked the Frictionless Merecaster. Took the route through the White Nests, which I managed (barely) after one reload. Again, a very intense, nerve-racking experience were victory had to be truly earned instead of being granted just so. And there weren't even any skill checks!

Best ambient sound: The soundscape of the destroyed Trade Post, with its gross and disgusting noises really brought the Bloom to live. In no other area of the Bloom was the feeling of truly being inside an enormous living creature captured so well. Again, kudos to the artist that came up with those. I am certain there's an interesting story behind! :-)

Best 9th world-building I really liked the concept of the Levies in Sagus Cliffs. While the world was certainly weird through and through, the fact that the Numenera setting has at its heart a medieval-level society made a lot of the things pretty mundane once you poked behind the plaster that had been slapped on. In contrast, I found the Levies a genuinely great idea, one truly worthy of a world a billion years in the future.

Best quest: Unfortunately, unlike the other points above, I don't think any of the quests stuck out in particular. One task I really enjoyed, though I think it didn't have its own journal entry, was figuring out who of the psychics in the Fifths Eye Tavern was the projection.


Finally, while this does not fit into a "best" category, I must say I was very much impressed with how well the backer NPCs were integrated into the game. I think you did those backers (and the rest) a great favour!

The Good and the Bad

Overall, I enjoyed the game very much, and for now it's my #3 best loved RPG. I liked the ratio of combat to dialogue and exploration, and the fresh setting and role playing system. I will not dwell on individual aspects here. Consider everything not explicitly mentioned above or below as well-received and liked. I do however want to call out a few bits where I had hoped for more:

Choice and Consequence Especially in the Bloom, there was quite a bit of reactivity that could be observed, even without a second playthrough. Perhaps there is some of that earlier in the game as well. However, after being advertised as a game more deep than long, I would have expected some kind of macro-level reactivity as well: side-quests that are mutually exclusive, a branching main quest that might lead you through different areas depending on your choices before merging again. As it stands, there's a lot of micro-level reactivity, and that is certainly appreciated, but as it stands I am not compelled to replay the game before I had time to forget some of the specifics.

Exploration: With a game set in remote parts of the 9th world, I had hoped to be able to visit at least one or two locations no other soul had set foot on since the demise of the previous civilization. While there were some small places like that, I really missed the sense of discovery that seems such an appeal of the Numenera setting. Sure, there were lots of things to learn and find, but everywhere you went, other people were already waiting for you.

Cyphers: I confess that I am a compulsive hoarder, and I was thrilled to learn that cyphers had to be used or else ... . Well, sadly, even with a party of 3 after Rhin's departure, I never really made use of any cypher. Firstly, I did not need to use any, and so I kept waiting for a better opportunity rather than wasting them, but more importantly, the effects of carrying one or two too many weren't near as bad as I would have liked them to be. A higher difficulty would be welcome to create a need for the cyphers, and instead of affecting the least-important stats of a character, cyphers over the limit should really randomly blow up in their face!

Difficulty: Being someone who finds "normal" difficulty challenging enough in most RPGs, I have to say that TToN is too easy. I hardly used any healing items, and slept perhaps 3 times in the whole game to refresh my stat pools. By the time I reached the Bloom, many skill checks were at 100% without even spending a single point of Effort, or only required a point or two. Since I often went with 80% or 90% chances, as 100% is so boring, I didn't have to spend a lot of points in any case. Combat too was trivial for the most part, though I guess I may have skipped some of the harder fights. A simple difficulty slider that would affect the difficulty of each task in the game, with no other "balancing" besides could work wonders.

The Examine Object Window I cannot count how many oddities I sold accidentally, while inspecting them from within the vendor screen and then hitting that one big button to "close" the object description. Even though it's clearly labelled "Sell", I just did not pay attention and gone were my treasures. (One reload was because of that). This is simply bad UI design. A separate "Cancel" or "Dismiss" button really would be appreciated, and certainly would have spared me some grief.

The Ugly

There was only one thing that I truly disliked about the game, and that was the voice acting. I cannot really say if I just didn't like the voices, or if the acting itself was off, as I did not really endure it for long. Luckily, voices had their separate volume slider and after meeting with Aligern and Callistege I turned that all the way to 0 and played the remainder of the game without any voiceovers. Even though I missed out on all the party-banter that way, it did not bother me much. While some games benefit from being voiced, I don't think TToN is one of those. All in all I believe the need for AAA RPGs to be fully voiced these days has severely reduced their depth and turned a once great genre to a shadow of its former self.

I guess all things considered, my experience of TToN was the better playing without voiceovers.

kilobug
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Re: The great, the good, the rest : my review of TTON

Post by kilobug » April 16th, 2017, 8:36 am

Thanks kaiman for completing ! :)

I just finished a second playthrough, and I wanted to add something else which I forgot (and didn't fully realize) in my first review : I love the way almost all quests have many different solutions, that promise was fully respected, congrats inXile !

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Re: The great, the good, the rest : my review of TTON

Post by kaiman » April 18th, 2017, 10:41 am

I definitely want to play it once more, as there were a few occasions where I would have liked to see how a different choice would have played out. That also will give me a chance to try the remaining companions and aim for a different Tide (though as of yet undecided which one). I will wait for any patches and content updates, however.

In the meantime, I started a 3rd playthrough of PS:T, after my 2nd attempt came to a halt after being killed by Hive Thugs one time too often. The release of the EE was a good excuse to give it another go, and its greatest improvement, IMO, is a difficulty slider. One notch down and the trash mobs are easily trashed, while bigger encounters still have a bit of challenge. Just made it to the Lower Ward. With both experiences as fresh as can be, I'll likely also find a few bits to add to my review of TToN later on.

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