The Let's Play Archive

Torment: Tides of Numenera

by TheGreatEvilKing

Part 3: A World of Wonder And Mystery But Just Things We've Seen Before

A World of Wonder And Mystery But Just Things We've Seen Before

When we last left The Last Castoff, she had fallen from the sky and some random wizards popped out of nowhere to deliver exposition.

The thread voted to take Callistege to the Cult of the Changing God.

: Callistege, will you take me to the Order of Truth?

: Of course! Once I provide an introduction to the priests, we'll have your chamber fixed in no time.

: You'll end up without your clothes and broken in a ditch while she laughs it off as a good experiment. It's probably best I come with you as well.

: Why do you want to go with me? What's in it for you?

: All right. Then let's go.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Hey, check it out, a woman just fell from the sky!

: She must be the Changing God! Only the Changing God would have such a stupid haircut!

: farts loudly, knocking Callistege and Aligern down

: Dammit Callistege, I told you not to eat those bean burritos but noooooo -

: Don't blame me, Aligern, it must have been the phase vibrator emitted when :technobabble:


: Who are you people?

: We're explorers. You're a castoff of the Changing God, a man who cheated death by passing from body to body. However, when he abandons a body it becomes sentient.

: No you're the real Changing God and you're going to help me with my dra-

: I'm a woman. With girly parts.

: Anyway, either one of you guys know anything about "the Tides" or how to fix this resonance chamber? I just want to advance the plot.

: Nope. Come with me!

: Sure, why not.

We loot the room and get a bunch of healing items, but we also have some text encounters.

This pops up when we examine the busted mechanical arm. I use our 1/day hedge magic to autopass the check.

The game takes the opportunity to tell us that we can use our companions' stat pools to solve stuff instead of our own. Yes, both wizards are in the party, give it time and one will leave.

Sprayflesh is the game's standard healing potion, shims are the questionable currency of Numenera.

: Examine the housing.

: The sharply-pointed apparatus that formerly topped the device appears burnt out and useless, but the equipment in the base remains at least somewhat operational, as the constant stream of sizzling motes can attest.

: Leave the device alone.

That ends that. It could have just been us clicking a sparking mechanical arm to loot it. We know the device is broken because...the game shows a broken crystal with mechanical arms in the center of the screen. Oh well, what's this next dialog?

...but we did. This isn't particularly insightful reflection. There is a shattered resonance chamber.

...we can see all this shit! All of it!

If this were a text adventure game I'd give it a pass, but it's not.

: Take another look at the sarcophagus.

: Examine the suspended arms.

None of this shit means anything. It's describing stuff we can see, but there's no emotion. There's no attempt to highlight, say, the ominousness of the arms or speculation about what kind of person the Changing God is based off these machines. It's not setting an atmosphere. It's providing the illusion of depth by listing off physical attributes.

I suppose we could contrast the value indicated by "gem-like lights" with the unemotive broken machinery, but as we see the tone goes back to dull description.

: Inspect the metal ring.

Again, the gem as wealth motif is discarded for a vague hint of...what, exactly? Being on display?

: Examine the shards on the ground.

And here is where I fuck up and fail to take option 1, which I'm pretty sure gets us a free weapon. Oh well!

In my defense, the bad prose and uninteresting descriptions are shutting my brain down.

: Step away from the device.

I guess I'll go back for it later.

Again, we can see all this shit. I suppose the animators didn't want to have the shards reflect light or actually put little blinking lights on the model. but there it is.

Let's touch the computer and blow this joint.

: A towering crystal arch rises over a jagged-grey landscape. The air is dead and stifling. And there, at its emerald peak...

: What 'commands' do you recognize?

: Who are you?

: What was that arch you showed me?

I will admit, the inclusion of smashing it is a nice one but I suspect that bones us for reasons I will get into in a bit.

: Show me that list of commands again. Slower, please.

: Examine the outside of the device.

: An indignant hum rises from the intelligence's engines as you examine its ancient casing.

: Show me that arch again.

: The device's triangle of lights throb in time with the growl of the engines within its casing, and the mental image unfolds once more.

As I said earlier, the Anamnesis skill is solely there for getting plot dumps from the Changing God's memories.

: [Amanesis] Try to remember more details about this strange place.

: Examine the jagged wasteland.

Is this supposed to indicate that the tower is in motion? I can't honestly tell. Terrible use of passive voice, though.

: Close the image of the arch.

: Unleash the contents of Cell 0.

The "Unstable Detonation" is just an energy grenade. Thow it and it does 4 physical and 6 energy damage in an area. Also, it's our first cypher. Cyphers are one-use items that if we carry too many we start to take penalties.

You want to use these ASAP to make the awful combat go faster.

: I remembered something.

: "I knew it," Aligern says, baring a savagely triumphant grin at Callistege.

: Meaningless, Aligern. She clearly has basic skills and knowledge from the Changing God having been in her body. Who's to say there aren't even more specific memories locked away in there?"

Now that we are done with all the non-crystal-shard related crap in this chamber, we can leave. No, I'm not summarizing that, it's just a "click through the menus to get grenade" puzzle.

As we step outside, Aligern says he wants to talk to us. Ok, why not.

: Why were you looking at me when you said that?

Is it just me, or does Aligern come off as a jealous ex?

: What makes the Reef so dangerous?

: What are the numenera?

: "You want me to tell you?" He laughs without mirth. "The numenera are all around you, everything left over from the prior worlds. Sagus Cliffs thrives by trading artifacts from ancient civilizations. Hells, you can't scoop a handful of earth without finding drit[sic] from prior worlds mixed with it."

: "Numenera is anything from the prior worlds, but mostly we mean the stuff of value to us. A lot of the numenera are just oddities, fancy trinkets with real little use, but sometimes you'll get a cypher that lets you do something incredible. Artifacts are worth even more - a cypher will only do something once, but artifacts last a lot longer. Though they can burn out at the most inconvenient times." He frowns. "Not that it's ever happened to me."

For all of this mystery and wonder we are supposed to be feeling, we have really only seen genre cliches.

-A space station. This exists in real life, though you probably won't get on one.
-Some kind of maybe healing sarcophagus. These are fairly common in sci-fi, from Luke's bacta tank in Star Wars to the Go'auld sarcophagi mentioned in the thread to the friggin Necrons in Warhammer 40k. This is vaguely associated with resurrection and rebirth, which I think is our ultimate goal?
-A grenade. You can find these in real life.
-A whiny computer.

Has any of this inspired wonder in any of the characters? The Last Castoff/and narrator approach it all with a clinical, bored detachment despite supposedly just coming into the world, Callistege nerds out about it in incomprehensible technobabble like a nerd discovering a 1st edition Jar Jar Binks action figure, and Aligern is too busy trying to hatefuck one of the women to care.

: What's your story?

: What do you think of Callistege?

: Can you tell me about your tattoos? They look almost alive.

This is kinda screaming "do not trust him" more than Callistege who...has been nothing but polite and courteous so far. Yeah, they probably both have some ulterior motive, but Aligern has been screaming about how awful Cal is and has magic snakes that kill people.

: What do you think we should do next?

: Let's keep going, alright?

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: We gotta get out of here! It's super dangerous! Also, we're stuck with that SKANKY HO Callistege!

: Hey!

: She sucks so hard people mistake her for Stormy Daniels. Anyway, it's super dangerous.

: Who are you?

: No time for that! We need to leave because there's so much numenera!

: Ok, that's not a real word.

: Yes it is! It's worldbuilding! It means "lost technology", but i have to use the fake worlds to create a sense of Maybe someday we can learn real science and become a real civilization, but right now I'm a wizard vaguely impressed by your discovery of that most advanced technology: the grenade.

: Ok, let's change the subject. What's with the tattoos?

: Oh, they're just magic snakes I use to murder people. Don't mind them.

: You're branded with snakes.

: Yup.

: And you think I should trust you over Callistege because...

: Because she's a mean lady.

: Let's just get going, please.

Anyway, we go east across the bridge and come to this.

I immediately back off and set my flex skill to "smashing" so I can pass this.

: [Smashing] Break off one of the hands.

This gets us a melee weapon that does a mixture of physical and chemical damage. Why yes, there is an imminent confrontation, why do you ask?

: Walk away.

I decide to leave, because I suspect I'm just going to get something about how the hands have eight fingers and are vaguely bronze colored, and have a detail the artists didn't bother to put in the model.

Oh boy. I will admit this is kind of different?

: What are you?

: Watch them for patterns.

: [Quick Fingers] Touch a cone as it passes.

: What are you for?

: The cones greet your question with a split second of hushed silence, followed by delighted peals of helpless giggling.

: Leave the cones alone.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: What the hell is this?

: Mystery! Space! Implied people burning alive!

: Is this supposed to represent something?

: Nah, it's just the writers trying to set up some kind of mystery to make this seem deep. Ever seen Lost?

: Aligern suuuuuuuucks!

: I don't have nearly enough booze for this.

I'm honestly not sure how we're supposed to find any wonder in this, especially considering the target audience are nerds who will have consumed a ton of superhero movies, comic books, genre literature, and videogames where miraculous feats like a man flying are "eh, whatever".

Take these force walls/bridge, they remind me of Halo.

Oh no! Bad guys!

I think he's supposed to be trying to evaluate us as threats, but maybe he's just checking us out? Maybe he likes girls with half-shaven heads and vaguely angry, untrustworthy men.

: Callistege, is something wrong?

: "Nothing's wrong, dear. I accompanied Qorro on an expedition once, long ago. His methods were too... crass for my tastes. Though in his defense, he never tried to kill me when my back was turned." She beams at Qorro. "Or if he did, he failed, and I didn't notice."

I will give the game this: Aligern and Callistege sniping at each other is fairly amusing.

: Turn to Qorro. "What do you want?"

: What are those gloves for?

: "Unwelcome but anticipated complications." He does not elaborate.

Why did the last sentence need to be in there, my God?

I'm sure you are all going to be heartbroken that I skipped some dialogue, but I don't want to risk starting a fight. So let's just get this over with shall we?

: [Deception] I'll be honest with you. I saw the star, but don't know where it landed.

Remember, as a Clever Jack, we are trained in Deception.

Qorro wanders off into the distance with his gang as the screen fades out.

: They saw me fall from the sky and came to investigate.

: Oh sure, and they just had that ambush ready to go at the same time as we're leaving. No, kid, Callistege sold us out.

This is completely implausible. Presumably if Callistege wanted the ambush to succeed she would have just told Qorro and his goons that we were the fallen star, or backstabbed one of us to start the fight.

: Excuse me? Are you suggesting that I had something to do with Qorro's plans?

: Are you suggesting you didn't? An old friend of yours just happens to be waiting for us, armed and outnumbering us, as we return from the greatest find the Reef has seen in years? It's too convenient for me, too convenient by far.

I'm not really sure what they are planning to do with a regenerating maybe-god that is going to get them crappy plastic coins, but what do I know?

: Of all the idiotic, paranoid delusions... You really believe that, don't you? You really believe I'd use a half-wit like Qorro to stab you in the back rather than do it myself?"

Uh...maybe Aligern is on to something? She's not denying being a backstabber.

: You see, kid? She'll stab you in the back, first chance she gets. Most likely in your sleep.

: Aligern, I really don't think she was trying to betray us.

: He snorts bitter laughter. "I do. You haven't seen one-tenth of her depths, not one twentieth. She's a back-stabbing bitch, mark my words."

: You are insufferable to the end, Aligern. Looking for the worst in a situation is the only way you know how to see. Do you know how long I've carried your pain for you? How much I've had to turn away from your judgmental stares? But you're right. I've had enough.

: She turns to you. "Child, I am happy to guide you, but I will not walk another step with this paranoid buffoon."

Cal that sounds like a breakup to me.

: Why can't I travel with both of you? Can't you just work it out?

Holy shit it totally is! Someone get Maury on the line!

: I'd rather travel with Callistege.

: Right. Well, if you want me - and she doesn't sell you for parts - you can find me in the Underbelly. But not with her, mind you."

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: I'm robbing you! You seen any falling stars around here?

: Oh not this guy.

: Callistege is bad, and she thinks this man is bad, that makes him super bad!

: Jesus, Aligern, shut up! Anyway, this guy is a murderer I quit working with. That glove of his is probably a weapon, do not trust him.

: Look over there!

: You rock, bye!

: That was awesome! You know what's not awesome? Callistege. You set that ambush!

: I...what the fuck are you talking about? If I wanted you dead I'd do it myself.

: That is not at all consistent with her actions back there. God, just fuck already you two.

: No! Never again! I thought I could help you, Aligern! But no, you have slandered me for the last time!

: I thought I could help you, but you're an insane monster with a taste for freaky human experimentation!

: Ahahaha, you guys were a thing? Well, sisters before misters, so come on Cal.

: Yes!

: If you need me, you can find me at the bar. But don't bring that woman of loose sexual morals!

Aligern disappears and we exit the area.

Little does poor Callistege know she is now subject to the mad whims of the internet, and said mad whims include visiting the Cult of the Changing God.

But first we're going to do more exposition!

This is the part where I get horrible flashbacks to the Wheel of Time intros where the wind blew threw all the boring Forsaken meetings where they contemplated who was more narcissistic, Demandred mentally compared Graendal's tits to Lanfears and debated whether "don't stick your dick in crazy" was a guideline or a hard rule, and then fantasized about having power over the others.

You can skip Wheel of Time is what I'm saying.

We'll talk about the tides when they become relevant.

: But despite his hard words, his eyes settle on yours. Studying. Deciding. His mouth settles into an irritated line.

: "Look," he says, running a hand over his stubbled scalp. "You hide it well, but I can tell you're new here. I ent trying to offend you, but I... don't like leaving folk new to Sagus on their own. If you have questions about the city - or Circus Minor in particular - I'll answer 'em, free of charge.

: "Of course, it looks like you already have a guide," he says, nodding at Callistege. "Callistege." know what? This is getting fairly long, and this guy is kind of a tutorial NPC, so I'm just gonna summarize it. He tells us about major landmarks. Notably, the Cult of the Changing God is literally down the street, there's an inn in town but the Cult might let us bum a bed, he's a hobo looking for some girl, and either Prata the bug lady or the foremen in the Underbelly might know how to fix the resonance chamber.

Also, this:

I think this and Callistege's weird sisters are the only two interesting concepts that actually feel mysterious right now, and we'll get to the former in the next update.

We walk by this monster banging its head against the energy cage. I try to talk to it.

: "Oi! No gawking for free! Pay El-Jinto or get gone!" He glowers at you, hand reaching for the haft of his hammer until you step away from the cage.

We fuck off.

Now, before we continue, what do you expect the Cult of the Changing God to look like? Ritual disfigurement? Constantly upgrading themselves with machinery? Secret magical arts of shapeshifting?

Nah it's just a bunch of robed dumbasses. They send us to their leaders at the back of the medieval equivalent of a trailer park while talking about how holy we are and whatnot.

: Her partner is an unnaturally tall man, gaunt and sour-faced, his voice sonorous, with fingers that twitch and weave through strange contortions. Occasional light sparks in the air as he does.

: He turns to you and opens his mouth to speak, registers your tattoo and closes it again. His throat bobs for a moment and he says, "It is an honor."

: I don't know much about my tattoo. What does it mean to you?

: Who are you?

: What can you tell me about the city?

: Do you know anything about the Sorrow?

: What can you tell me about... uh... my sire?

: Do you know anything about a device called a 'resonance chamber'?

: I need to know who can repair it.

: "So you have seen it? You have touched it?" She catchers herself. She seems almost overwhelmed. "Your tattoo... like all the others, but this one is... different."

: He looks sharply at you now, all distraction gone. "I do not recognize you," he says. "You do not match any descriptions we have recorded."

Well, goons?

Decisions Lie Before Us!

Are we the Changing God? Also, feel free to add if this is our character telling a lie or if you think we really are the Changing God but with a bad case of amnesia.