Rolling With the Tides
More seriously, this is the kind of thing you don't want to spoil, so reviewing early seems reasonable. I can't really spoil anything because I don't know much of anything yet anyway.
The fact that I'm caring about spoilers should say something. Normally, I don't care, but this is one of those times where it feels like it matters. Not necessarily for the plot, but because of the setting.
Yes, the setting. Numenera is a weird place. It's a bajillion years in the future, in the so-called "Ninth World". Each "world" is like an era of mankind. Mankind rises and then falls and then a new "world" happens. From our 21st century perspective, we might be on the second or third world now, right? Fall of Rome, World Wars one and two? Something like that? Nope. We may not even be the first world yet.
Yeah, we're talking huge gulfs of time here.
Consequently, the world is very weird. Not surrealistic by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly weird. Odd. Off kilter. Not quite right. As I play the game, I feel like an intruder. Everything is weird and different, but somehow not quite to the "weird for weirdness's sake" that happens a lot. Sure, there's some of that, but that's also part of the world. Just weird crap floating around being weird. The regulars just ignore it.
So this leaves us with a fascinating world to explore. And the more I explore, the more I realize I have no idea what's going on. I say something to a merchant and my Silver Tide increases "a tiny amount". What does that mean? I'm not entirely sure. I know it's the game's version of a morality system, but that's it. I don't even know if I can see my tides on my character sheet. I could probably learn that by reading the manual, but I think that hurts things in this case.
I like that I have no idea what's going on and that I'm walking around gawping like a tourist. Now, the game isn't as heartless as, say, Hacker which just threw you in with nothing more than "Login please". There's little tutorial things and popups explaining most of the basic mechanics and UI elements. The rest? The rest is discovered through dialog. Lots and lots and lots and lots of dialog.
F'instance, I spent close to twenty minutes the other night, chatting with a nice fellow called "The Genocide". It took me close to twenty minutes to explore all of what he had to say -- without exploring if repeated questions gave new information, mind you, because that's a thing here, too -- before finally wishing him a good day. As near as I can tell, he's not a recruitable NPC. He doesn't appear to tie into any quest. His information hasn't been a secret to any puzzle. He's just some dude they put in the game and then devoted a few thousand words to. Just. Some. Dude.
Which leads us to the caveat section of the review: this is a wordy game. In those three or so hours that I've played, I've had two combats. The first a tutorial in how combat works and the second a fight I ended five seconds in by talking to the main bad guy and convincing him to leave. There's no scrub "kill ten rats" stuff here. This isn't a game about combat, which you really, really, really, really, REALLY need to keep in mind. I've seen people complaining about the lack of combat, but combat was never, ever, intended to be a major portion of this game. Buying this for the combat is like buying a moped for the acceleration and protection from rollovers. Frankly, this is more like an adventure game with RPG elements than anything.
That said, I've really been enjoying myself. It's peering through the looking glass, but everything there is certainly interesting. I don't know how much I particularly care about the Last Castoff and his problems and issues, but I'm certainly enjoying exploring the world I've been given. It's a strange, strange world, but so far, I'm really enjoying it.