The Let's Play Archive

Torment: Tides of Numenera

by TheGreatEvilKing

Part 9: The Psychics that Wouldn't Shut Up

The Psychics that Wouldn't Shut Up.

For this update we're going back to Cliff's Edge.

I am going to be brutally honest here. I do not like this area. I do not like this sidequest. I don't like New Age psychic hippy shit, and I don't find it interesting.

I strongly recommend that you read the dialogue summaries instead of forcing yourself through all this pretentious crap. You have been warned.

Again, if the game had character portraits for all these characters you could actually show instead of tell.

: It's a labyrinth.

: "A labyrinth?" He raises an eyebrow and leans back in his seat. "That's a novel construction." He starts ticking items off on his fingers. "I've seen people construct psychic fortresses, cathedrals, graveyards, hellscapes, and vortices from which no life escapes. All dramatic places, all powerful and foreboding... but a labyrinth? Well! That's a whole different construction. That speaks to cunning and guile."

Two things jump out. The first is that the author is obviously not confident in their dialogue's ability to convey things to the reader. The second is that I legitimately have no idea what the difference is between a black hole that traps people and an unsolvable maze that traps people. Either way, you're not getting out!

Despite what common sense would tell us, we actually want him poking in our head.

: Go ahead.

: He sets the glass down and shakes your hand. "I'm Dhama. Dhama of the Bloom."

He pinches the bridge of his nose, his eyes tightly shut, and you feel a gentle and powerful presence surround your consciousness. "I have a request for you. It might seem strange, but you have an interesting topography to your mind. You might be able to help us."

: I'd be happy to help. What do I need to do?

So someone is probably going to think about all the cool "world-building" these Adversaries have but - they're literally just devils. The world Satan means adversary in Hebrew. In some sense this is ultimately just symbolic of the Numenera setting as a whole - you take something vaguely normal or genre (in this case war veteran vigilantes) and add a bunch of sci-fi technobabble crap to it. Thus this isn't a vigilante bar, it's a psychic bar and the enemy isn't a devil, it's a "dreamscape nightmare".

: Tell me about yourself.

Dhama of the Bloom: I told you they call me 'Dhama of the Bloom'. I was born there, and I knew nothing of the world outside for the longest time. I thought it was normal to play in passages made of gut and tissue, to hide from slavers in diverticula, to watch visitants staggering in from other worlds. I learned how to read people there, and how to understand them. And one day I left the Bloom and came to Sagus Cliffs, and I discovered the world was a different place than I'd thought. A better place.

: "That's when I learned to fight. That's why I learned to fight." He gestures at himself. "This isn't a warrior's body, of course. Not in the usual sense." He smiles, and a great pressure swells in your head and vanishes before you can even register alarm.

Dhama of the Bloom: "But I'm not usual. No one in the Fifth Eye is. We're psychics, psionics, seers. Call us mind-benders or thought-rippers. But we're warriors. We keep the minds of Sagus Cliffs safe from threats they don't even imagine."

I am pretty sure "psychics" and "psionics" are synonymous, and there's the bad sci-fi prose this update needed!

: What is this place?

: Can you tell me about the nature of the Fifth Eye? What did you mean when you said it was a veterans' hospital?

: He raps on the nearby wall. It's a solid sound, no vibration. "We don't know what this place was - though the pipes and the machinery make it seem like a kind of pumping station - but what it is to us is -" and then his mind whispers in yours - ::sanctuary::

: A crawling sensation, like insects under your scalp. ::this is what the outside world is:: You see an image of the city beneath you, writhing with ribbons of light that flare in a million colors.

: Tell me about the history of the Fifth Eye.

I'm snipping the navigation back to the top of the dialog tree. Sorry!

: What can you tell me about the Adversaries?

Satan, from Paradise Lost posted:

Fall'n Cherube, to be weak is miserable
Doing or Suffering: but of this be sure,
To do ought good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist. If then his Providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil;
Which oft times may succeed, so as perhaps
Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb
His inmost counsels from thir destind aim.

: "A good question. Better if I show you." He closes his eyes, and you feel an insistent nudge in your mind. Then your vision goes black, replaced with a nightmare.

: You see a void, oblivion, a place where black stars hang and shriek with formless rage. Violet lightning arcs through the sky, and you witness enormous masses of pustulent orbs raging against each other. Streams of conscious through rocket from the, and they scream of need, desire, hatred.

This is not good writing, but once again, they could have cut to a drawing of a spooky demon and let an artist go full Bosch or Fuseli on this shit. They have drawn backgrounds for the CYOA sections, so who knows? These jerks in this bar are considered significant enough that they show up in the ending crawl

: Other emotions arise with these, wisps of mental energy that curl like steam. They brush your consciousness with a touch beslimed with the unknowable hungers of an alien mind. These luminous wisps quest through invisible cracks in dimensional walls.

::new worlds, unsuspecting minds, brilliant lights enfolded in the Adversaries' decaying orbits, imprisoned stars, winking out forever::

: "They came through the Bloom, shining and tenebrous at the same time," he whispers. "They offered games, riches, promises for the future. I felt their passage and was afraid, and I hid my mind from their questing touch. I felt them reach for me, and I cowered in my shell."

: What are the adversaries?

I don't understand why the writers were enamored enough with their generic Lovecraft Satans that we are offered the opportunity for another text dump, but you will suffer as I have suffered.

It seems pretty clear to me! They're powerful beings that want to destroy, tempt and kill and you literally call them Satans. It's wrapped in sci-fi psychic bullshit, but so is the rest of this game.

: How do you fight the Adversaries?

: "Are you thinking you might use your labyrinth to trap it? Don't. Don't do it." He steeples his fingers under his chin and considers. "Though. Wait... it might might work. It might."

: He looks at Theboros and Ziobe. They exchange a wordless communication and he shrugs. "We used a spotter - someone trained to recognize their scent. He'd give them the briefest engagement, enough to whet their appetities, and he'd bring them to a battlefield of our choosing."

Milton, on devils posted:

Nor had they yet among the Sons of Eve
Got them new Names, till wandring ore the Earth,
Through Gods high sufferance for the tryal of man,
By falsities and lyes the greatest part
Of Mankind they corrupted to forsake
God thir Creator, and th' invisible
Glory of him that made them, to transform
Oft to the Image of a Brute, adorn'd
With gay Religions full of Pomp and Gold,
And Devils to adore for Deities:

: Can you tell me about the people here?

: He smiles, a little wistful, "Sure. But keep in mind most of them can hear us. Who did you want to gossip about?" The others burst out laughing.

: He gestures around the bar. "They've all got their stories. Some of them aren't from this world. Some aren't even real." This summons another peal of laughter.

: He points his chin around the room. "There's Theboros, Ziobe, and Leto. Oh, and Feriok. We own the place together. We've fought in all manner of wars, battles, and conflicts. We've traveled for some, worn esper helmets for others, or projected ourselves across the world. But the worst was the Adversaries. They were the true test for all of us. They forged our friendship tighter than any other experience could've."

Theoboros: Best part is, we've sacrificed our lives, our friends, and our sanity for a city that'll never know. They keep on with their daily lives, and just assume the rash of madness is some effect of the numenera. Gave up the best part of our minds, and they don't even care. Doesn't matter to me what the rabble think, but it'd be nice to at least get some professional recognition..."

: Let them continue.

We could have fucked with our tides here, but why bother?

Theoboros: Sure. Saving the lives of people who flinch when they see me coming. I love seeing mothers snatch their children from my path. Clearing the insects from my bedroll is the next important step in knowing that I took action, because the ingrates in Sagus Cliffs won't even sell me a damned clean sheet. If they were dead, at least I could steal their sheets.

Dhama of the Bloom: Who do you think the Adversaries would go after once all the citizens were dead, friend? You think they'd head out into the world, leaving your mind glowing bright behind them?"

Theoboros: I could shield myself, no problem. I did it when they came out, remember? Just like you.

: What did you mean when you said some of the others here aren't even real?

I want you all to note this is the dialogue tree for one guy and this bar is full of people. Jesus Christ!

: Let's talk about Theboros.

Dhama of the Bloom: Theboros, despite his terrible complexion, gaunt face, bird-like nose, and questionable taste in haberdashery...actually, I'm trying to think of any redeeming qualities that might offset all of this.

Theboros: I'm right here, you know.

: He ignores his friend. "Ah, yes! Despite all these obvious disadvantages, Theboros has become one of the pre-eminent warriors of language in the entire world. You can laugh, but the old saying is definitely true - the tongue with the word is deadlier than the hand with the sword."

So he's a writer, but because this is Numenera, he's a quantum writer.

Theboros: "Unless the sword-hand gets to you before you can make someone else get in the way," he mutters.

I missed a screenshot, but rest assured, we will get to Theboros' ultimate power. It's Pepe the Frog memes, and I'm not even kidding.

: Let's talk about Ziobe.

Dhama of the Bloom: "Nonsense. Ziobe is our enforcer, our telekinetic. She summons visions for us to distract our foes, projects deadly energy, and harnesses the power of the physical world to anchor us - or our enemies - while we deliver the killing blow. She also lets us focurs our energy through her. She is what you might call our heavy weaponry, because she makes the immaterial world much, much more tangible. While we frolic in the playgrounds of the mind, she's concerned with more earthly matters."

Ziobe: "How poetic, you old scholarch. Truly, you took the words straight from me... why, you dirty thief!"

: Let's talk about Feriok.

: He doesn't look toward the bar, but his mood turns somber. "A true empath. Our spotter, back when he could do the work. A brave man, aware of the risks he took. Psychically sensitive, able to catch the lure of the Adversaries, and willing to run with it. If it hadn't been for him, we'd never have had the success we did."

: He looks down at the table. "The last one we fought caught him. It took his.." He pauses, lost in thought.

Ziobe: Don't you speak an ill word about him, Theboros. Not after what he did.

: Let's talk about Leto.

: "She's our seer. Our prescient. She knew where the Adversaries were going to be. She knew when they'd be there, so we could set ourselves up in time." His voice is somber. "But they grew wise to her. They threw themselves through probability-space, played the game of Maybe with her, and they were better than she was."

Stop, cease, with the synonyms, similar words.

: How did you all come to this place?

I then exit the conversation because we are out of menu options.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Damn girl, what's that in your head?

: It's a labyrinth.

: A labyrinth? That's a clumsy metaphor I've never seen before in my career as a psychic. Mind if I...slide in?

: This seems like a terrible idea, but you asked nicely, so sure.

: Have an intellect bonus! Anyway, there's something I was hoping you could help me with. We have a Satan problem. I think Satan's in the bar but I can't find him. Back in the day, we used to fight devils all the time. But now I can't find Satan.

: I'm sorry, what?

: Oh, this is the Fifth Eye. It's a psychic bar I started after the Force called us to this ancient sewage plant. The five of us here are all veterans of various psychic wars, battles, conflicts you might have heard of. Anyway, we used to fight Satan together and that's how we became friends.

: Can you stop using synonyms like that? It's really annoying. So tell me about these devils.

: Oh, they're basically your generic Christian devil. But this is Numenera, so they might be transdimensional devils. Just throw them in the labyrinth.

: Ok, fine. Who are these people?

: Oh, this is my RPG party I used to fight devils with. Ziobe is the tank, Theboros is the wizard, Leto is our seer, and Feriok could see devils without being really high. Maybe Feriok is dead!

: I'm off to find Satan now! Bye!

Well, there are two more people at this table.

: So you're not going to guess who I am?

: I actually don't know where I'm from. I was born in a falling star.

Ziobe: A...what? How is it that you know the language here? You must be particularly observant.

I...what? Can anyone in the thread point out where The Last Castoff shows any of this? She's an incredibly blank personality with generic dialogue options. I guess because she doesn't use stupid Numenera slang?

: Can you tell me more about yourself?

: What's going on with this place?

The Last Castoff really comes off as a moron who needs everything explained to her multiple times if you go through the dialogue trees.

: "It's the Fifth Eye. It's where the psychics and psionics of Sagus Cliffs have been coming for generations to protect ourselves from the noise of the city. Life is easier when you're among friendly people, those of your own kinds." She laughs. "Though not everyone here is technically one of us. Some of the people you see here are manifestations of our minds. Some of them were called here by our minds. Some have come from other dimensions, even!"

: Are you the psychic projection?

Spoiling it now - it's Feriok, because Dhama was about to say he was dead before Ziobe interrupted him. You're welcome.

: What can you tell me about the Adversaries?

: Farewell.

Ziobe: May the wind carry you.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Hi I can't read your mind, but you sound like a country gal. The writers wanted me to tell you you're speaking kinda archaically, but they have no idea how to write a character that does this.

: I have no idea. I literally fell from the heavens and now all of these weirdos are vomiting poorly written exposition all over me. Who are you, and do you know anything about devils?

: I'm Ziobe. I like killing devils. I know! You should talk to everyone in the bar to figure out who I'm psychically projecting! Look for clues like 'Dhama almost said this guy was dead' and 'this guy shouldn't have this psychic power'.

: Uh, sure, bye.

The third guy. Oh, I'm sorry, the third guy at this table. We have a LOT more of this shit.

: I was born falling from the sky, and now I'm trying to repair a chamber that will stop a nightmare.

: Ziobe says one of you is a psychic projection. Is it you?

Is this deep yet, duuuuude?

: Yes. Depending on that image, anyway. I might change my behavior to improve your opinion.

Theboros: "We might as well say that we're all interconnected at a fundamental level, that our thoughts and actions have effects on each other. It might not be reality - that is, the truth, but we each have a perception of a truth. It's a guiding star that we use to live our lives. It's not reality for everyone, but it's reality for us. It's our story.

"What about the cave, mannnnnnn"

I appreciate the game poking fun at its desperate attempts to seem philosophical, but they're still heavy-handed and uninteresting. The allegory of the cave is philosophy 101 and you don't have anything interesting to say about it.

: What can you tell me about the Adversaries?

So...they're devils. This is literally how CS Lewis wrote the devil in his Space Trilogy - spiteful and desiring to destroy.

: Can you tell me about yourself?

: "I'm the brains of thia operation." He gestures with a lazy hand around the table. "Without me, they'd lose the thread of their thoughts and spend all their time wandering in dreams."

Theboros: It's that nagging that sharpens my word, Dhama. Though I admit that my words are probably getting duller every second I spend talking to you.

: He turns back to you. "I'm... let's call me a warrior of language. Words are my weapons and my treasures. They might be pretty sounds to you, but to me... they're the tools that pry open your imagination and leave you vulnerable to my friends here. I build pictures, set the scenes, and create mazes in your mind." He takes a careful sip of his drink.

I'm sure this is intended as a clever meta-nod to this game's writing. The problem is that this game's writing is terrible.

I wasn't joking with the spoilers above. Really. His superpower is that he knows the dread Pepes of the past and will destroy his enemies with dank memes.

: What can you tell me about the Words of Qra?

Oh boy, biting political satire in our pretentious RPG. Whatever will they think of next?

Theboros: The problem was, they didn't count on their writings sticking through the ages. Some skist-brained fool ignored the warnings on the bindings, read the words, and spilled 'em out into the civilization that had grown up in that spot over the millennia. Eight rulers of Qra, eight words, and a continent-spanning empire fell, it's people bleeding from their eyes with hatred in their hearts. Survivors tried the scholar who'd released the words, buried him in stone. The words were lost again.

Didn't Dhama just say he'd never seen anyone make a maze?

: What are you going to do about the weaponized meme that's burning your mind?

Theboros: Well, I could always kill myself. Honestly, I don't think anyone else could carry it out, and the alternatives are too horrific to bear.

: I do have a space in my mind, and I can contain the Words of Qra there.

Give me the Pepes. I will use them responsibly.

: [Persuasion]: I'm more than strong enough. Use your psychic ability to read me.


Is it our haircut?

: I don't actually have a solution right now, but I do have more questions.

This is I believe the only chance you get to convince him to let you have the Doom Pepes. Not pictured - me going back to this menu to try to get my hands on a superweapon.

: What can you tell me about this place?

: Can you tell me any stories about the others in this bar?

: Farewell.

Theboros: And to you, I suppose.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Tell me about yourself.

: I fell from the sky and now I have to fix a magic sarcophagus because a blue ghost in my head told me to.

: Wow. That's pretty insane. People never tell me the truth, even though I can read minds.

: Are you the psychic projection?

: Before I can answer that, what does that mean? What is psychic? What is a projection? What is real? What I'm trying to say is, the author read the Allegory of the Cave back in high school, and it impressed them so much you got three whole screens of this shit.

: Can you tell me about this Adversary?

: It's just Satan. Satan is very bad.

: Ok, who are you?

: I'm a writer, but this is Numenera, so I'm a nanowriter. I'm like, really good at writing, like Colin McComb and Patrick Rothfuss. Super good. Also, I have, in my mind, dank civilization destroying memes.

: Give me that shit, I'm an RPG protagonist. Come on, I have an 85% persuade chance!

: Nah. Looks like you didn't save, shitlord!

: Was it my hair? Will you tell me anything else useful?

: Nope.

Sigh. Ok, let's talk to this man.

You know what? I'm not transcribing all of this shit. This setting is uninspired and uninteresting, the fictitious geography mostly doesn't matter to the story and this is just an excuse to dump worldbuilding all over you. Have a dialogue summary instead.

TheGreatEvilKing summarizes this shit so you don't read it posted:

: Hey wanna know about the setting? It's basically a pile of old science indistinguishable from magic. Instead of being a wizard who shoots fireballs, you can be a nano who uses transdimensional onslaughts! There's a bunch of machinery no one understands that I can arbitrarily classify into one-shot effects, reusable items, and vendor trash! There are some places you won't visit, and this is all called the Ninth World...arbitrarily! Go, young nerd, and put this on a wiki!

: Come back when you can help with with my datasphere problem, scrub!

: Let me tell you about character classes.

: Oh Jesus Christ no.

I'm cutting the update here. If people really want Sir Arthour's spiel transcribed I'll do it next update, but we have more long-winded NPCs before we can actually engage the devil in spiritual warfare, and I don't have the patience to transcribe all those guys on a Friday night. Sorry goons!