Torment: Tides of Numenera and the character creation gone wrong



As I've been playing Torment: Tides of Numenera beta I've came to a conclusion, that it has probably the worst character creation system I've ever encountered in a CRPG. To put it short, it's far too complex for its own good and it's a system that takes far too much time. It doesn't feel fun or involving more than it feels overdrawn and over thought. In things like this, I do believe less is more.

So how does the system work then. Let's start from the beginning, where you fall through the sky.

While this is an interesting way to star a game, I don't think it's the best way to start your character creation
Not only do you fall, you get to hear a narrative of your falling and you can do decision. Until you crash on a shiny dome and wake up in a dark room with floor created of pillars that wave up and down.

In this room you need to interact with glowing spheres and do basic decision, which will grant you more points for your effort pools. Slowly you ascend upwards until you get to a mirror, which shows you reflections of yourself in a different situations and you get to choose your own personality. You step through thinking, okay, that was it. But it isn't over yet.

It is, at least, a pretty nice looking scene. The still image doesn't do it justice.
You get in room with a green ghost who gives you lay of the land and tells you what to do: there's tanks here, filled with different kinds of creatures. You'll need to interact with those tanks and command those creatures to do what you'll think is right, or what you just want them to do. As you do so, fragments of sorrow enter the room, trying to kill you. Instead of fighting you need to run to the tanks, activate them by using a corrupted computer next to them, interact with the tank and do another decision until you've gone through all the tanks. The kicker is, that you are doing this all in a turn based combat mode, having only two moves for yourself per turn.

This is probably the slowest and most boring bit of the whole process.
So now that you've interacted with all the tanks you need to go to glowing coffin, which you use to get rid of the sorrow fragments. But it's not over yet. You'll get into a memory flow, where you need to read lenghty narrative and make decision to refine yourself some more. And then you get back to the room with the tanks.

The narrative where you get to make some more decisions. While I do think they're generally well written, you'll see a different ones depending on your previous choices, they do add yet another layer of bulk on an already long system
A portal has opened now and the ghost explains some more things to you. As you go to the portal, you now choose a class for yourself. After this the character creation is done and you'll get a sheet showing how you turned out. In this screen you can still refine yourself, change the class and attributes. And in the end this is the only piece of character creation you really need. This fast, nice and tidy sheet, where you make choices and put in numbers. Not a tedious segment you need to go through every time you want to start a new character.

Sure, it might feel fun for the first time, but after that it feels more like an arbitrary task that has no merit towards what kind of a character you REALLY want. Also, what adds to my dislike toward the system is, that it also acts as a mandatory tutorial segment, which you need to go through every time you start the game, no matter how familiar you'd be with it already.

What it all boils down to is this. This is what I wanted all along. A nice sheet with all the attributes so that I can now change things the way I like them. I didn't ask for a mandatory tutorial, I just hoped for a character creation screen. And this, I think, is pretty well suited for the task.
Basing character creation on moral choices isn't a new thing. Ultima games had something similar, but in more condensed and finely execute manner. Instead of several lenghty scenes they had a scene where a fortune teller asked you questions and you answered accordingly on what kind of a character you wanted to be: a warrior, a mage or something else. It was fast and involving enough. But what Torment has now is just plodding and unnecessarily complex system, that leads into the only small snippet that matters: a compilation sheet where you can change what ever you want before jumping in game.

This is how Ultima VI did it. It had text, but didn't take nearly as long as Torment does.

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