Torment: Tides of Numenera's sales have been "disappointing" - but why? | PCGamesN

Torment: Tides of Numenera's sales have been "disappointing" - but why?

Torment: Tides of Numenera sales

It is February, 2017, and respected fantasy author Pat Rothfuss is livestreaming Torment: Tides of Numenera. Viewers are watching him play through the earliest scenes of the isometric RPG, for which he has written an inspired companion character. But you would be hard pressed to know he was playing at all.

Related: How Brian Fargo's hustle kept inXile alive long enough to revive the RPG.

Sometimes Rothfuss clicks to move his character through the world - until a paragraph of descriptive prose pops up. When that happens he falls silent to read. Occasionally, he chuckles. During these long moments, of which there are many, the screen is almost totally static.

“It couldn’t have been more dull,” inXile head Brian Fargo laments. “I love Patrick, I love the game, but that’s not fun to watch.”

The fact that Tides of Numenera is not exactly a spectator sport might go some way to explaining why this 9/10 RPG will not bother Steam’s top-seller list for this year.

Torment: Tides of Numenera Brian Fargo

“I would honestly say that Torment has been disappointing sales-wise,” Fargo tells us. “There are some reasons for that, some of which are our fault, and others... let’s just say that a game with a lot of reading is not very much fun to watch on Twitch. I’m not laying it just on that. There are a lot of different dynamics at work… [but] that is an important medium for getting the word out.”

In our review, I wondered whether Torment: Tides of Numenera had a pacing problem. It was a game that finally fulfilled the RPG genre’s promise of making combat wholly optional. But in doing so, it broke a traditional loop: one that intersperses dense chunks of storytelling with fighting and derring-do. Torment’s writing, sublime though it was, taxed the imagination - and offered very little else as respite.

“I believe the combat system was not fulfilling enough, that core loop,” Fargo says. “Reading cannot be the core loop, and that ended up being what that was.” 

Torment: Tides of Numenera combat

That problem was one that emerged from inXile’s experimentation in the genre - a side effect of trying to push things forward. But there were other issues they might have seen coming earlier. Tides of Numenera was pitched as a spiritual successor to an underappreciated classic, Planescape: Torment. Perhaps that underappreciation should have rung alarm bells.

“Planescape: Torment wasn’t a huge hit either,” Fargo recalls. He should know: he ran the publisher that bore the brunt of its lacklustre sales. And the release of Beamdog’s Enhanced Edition in April this year proved a timely reminder.

“That didn’t exactly light up the charts, and that was a great title,” Fargo says. “Planescape: Torment has a 91% Metacritic, but it didn’t sell a ton of units - not what it deserved to. I think there’s something to that.”

Torment: Tides of Numenera inXile 

There is certainly a gulf between those who say they are interested in Torment, and those who actually play it. That might sound like conjecture, but inXile have noticed that “hundreds of thousands” of Steam users still have Tides of Numenera wishlisted. That is why, this week, they cut the game’s price to less than half to see what happens.

“I think this will probably get them off the fence, because it’s not going lower than that,” Fargo says. “I hope they’ll appreciate it for what it is. From an artistic perspective, I think it has to be recognised for being pretty damn good. The writing was great, we had some wonderful characters. So I’m not embarrassed by the title in any way. But it couldn’t have been more un-mainstream.

“It’ll keep selling. Over time it’ll keep going, and going, and going. And we’re proud to have it in our catalogue. But as far as comparing sales to our other titles, I wish it had done more.”

Torment: Tides of Numenera story

The lessons learned from Tides of Numenera will inform inXile games in the future. For Wasteland 3 they will “change the dials” - focusing less on descriptive passages and more on banter between characters. Fargo’s new favourite writer is Taylor Sheridan, who wrote two sharp screenplays for Sicario and Hell or High Water.

As for the future of the Torment series - Tides of Numenera is probably destined to remain an odd artefact, like one of those you might pick up in the Ninth World. Wondrous, unique, and possibly a little bit dangerous for those who dare to handle it.

“It feels like a one-off, sitting here now,” Fargo admits. “But you might have said that about Planescape: Torment too.”

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Malentor avatarGlen_Runciter avatarpanbient avatartroybpierce avatarJenks avatar
Malentor Avatar
5 Months ago

I backed it on Kickstarter, and never really kept up with the development process. It wasn't until after I had completed it, which I very much enjoyed, that I learned how many of the kickstarter promises they had reneged on - that probably saved me from some of the feelings of disappointment I've been hearing from "fans" of the Planescape game, as I didn't have the same expectations.

Tides of Numenera also felt an awful lot like a visual novel, with added clicking for moving about, instead of skipping to the next slide. I tried going for a combat-based playthrough, but was bored within the first half an hour.

troybpierce Avatar
5 Months ago

I personally am loving this game. I bought it for PS4 back when it was originally released, but I didn't play it for several months because I was waiting for more patches to be released. I finally decided to start playing the game last week (months after it's release), and man am I loving it! If you loved the old school isometric D&D games (Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment) or the more modern Pillars of Eternity and Tyranny, you will love this game as well.

I wasn't a backer on kickstarter and didn't follow the development of the game, but it's my understanding that they made WAAAAY more money from kickstarter than they had initially expected. As the money kept pouring in, they apparently kept expanding the scope of the game and making more and more promises to backers of content to be added. Apparently on release the backers realized that some of the promised content was never added to the game, and many backers were mad. Since I wasn't a backer, nor was I following the development of this game, I had no preconceived notions of what to expect going in, and thus I am not disappointed in the final product at all. I am loving the game.

There is a lot of text to read, but it is very interactive - there are constant skill checks, which if passed yield rewards such as gold, items, experience, and stat bonus. This makes the game feel very interactive (and also very rewarding). You are not just sitting there passively reading walls of text - you are actually interacting with the characters in the world. This makes it feel like you are actually playing a game (not just reading a novel), and your dialogue choices have consequences.

Also, while they did eliminate enemies populating maps which must be killed (trash mobs), there are still plenty of opportunities for combat depending on your dialogue choices. Quests have multiple ways to resolve them, and one way is often combat (should you make that choice). The choice is yours whether you want to engage in more or less combat.

I feel like this game is underappreciated, as it has exceeded my expectations. I am truly loving every moment with this game.

Glen_Runciter Avatar
5 Months ago

We are pretty much past the point when quality meant success.

panbient Avatar
5 Months ago

I'm one of those many with this game sitting on their wishlist. It's still on my radar, but it never seems to ping high enough whenever I do have the disposable money to spend on a new game.

And when is that price change / sale actually supposed to happen? I'm still seeing it at $50

Jenks Avatar
1 Month ago

I picked this game up having never played the original Planescape Torment (but did play some of its peers like Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale and their sequels).

I have to say, I'm blown away by the settings. I didn't realize until playing this game how bored I am with normal fantasy. I bounced off Divinity OS and Pillars of Eternity in under 10 hours, I just had no motivation to continue. The 9th world is just so crazy, so out there, I was gripped once I started running into the craziness. I wish the game was longer and the ending was a bit lacking. I'm sad to read it sold poorly because this is a world I want more of.