Planescape: Torment is the greatest game never made; *KNOW* that it was made too early

Planescape by Nick

Planescape: Torment was way ahead of its time. It is a great game, with an excellent story. The characters, individually, are amongst the best; deep backstories, interesting personality quirks. The setting is the Planescape plane of the Dungeons and Dragons universe, the hub plane for the rest (Baldur’s Gate’s Forgotten Realms, the traditional/original DnD, etc). It is unlike any setting you have seen, in any media.

The massive amount of dialog used to deliver this story, however, is presented with the Baldur’s Gate engine. Dialog trees stretch sometimes up to 15 options, each with several subcategories, with several more sub-sub categories, each with multiple pages of text. Key conversations can take a long time to absorb all of the information.

These conversations are well written. Some people have taken the dialog, and strung it together into a novel. The delivery has heavy hints of Memento (several years before). You play the game as a character that can never be killed. Every time you are defeated in combat, you simply wake up on a slab in the mortuary. The challenge comes from what to do next: discovering who you were, why things are happening, and what to do next. You truly role play as this amnesic main character, trying to discover who you are in a strange environment.

The overall plot is in the 3 acts, and none of them disappoint. Even the ending is holds up (I’m look at you, Bioshock).

You’ll need some unofficial files to get the program in its proper state: Fan patches help:
Also, make sure to power up your Willpower, Int, and Charisma. And playing as a Mage makes sense with an emphasis on these stats.

I passed by this game when it was initially released. The advertising for the game was awful. I wanted to play it until I saw the first ad. The real actor portraying the Nameless One was a poor decision. I’m glad I went back.

I highly recommend this game. It is considered the greatest RPG, and is a great game. You must *know* patience to *know* this.

13 thoughts on “Planescape: Torment is the greatest game never made; *KNOW* that it was made too early

  1. I played a bit of planescape and it was pretty good. I don’t have the same worship for it as Aaron and other internet legions, but it was interesting all the same.

    Some of the issues I had was I enjoy the weapon/armor harvesting where I could equipt my traveling companions with found loot. In Planescape, Torment, I found that I was limited in how I could distribute my wealth.

    The story was interesting, but as with most games, the story just isn’t dense enough. What I mean is that if we put all the pages of a video game story together, at the end, it might be 100 pages, but it’ll take 60 hours to tell the story. If it doesn’t have good gameplay, then trying to squeeze even a good story out of that would be difficult. This isn’t to say that Torment had poor gameplay, just very standard gameplay for rpgs of that time (ie, balder’s game engine)

  2. Weapon harvesting works like any japanese rpg. Weapons are specific per person. Once you’ve got your full party, which you don’t get until the end of act 1 (last party member is partway in art 2). I don’t think most had much trouble with FF7’s inventory system.

    The story is very-memento based, or like Babylon 5. Very heavy foreshadowing, and hint based in the first act. The idea is that, by the time of the reveal, you’ve figured it out. You are meant to read between the lines and try to discover who you are without the game every directly telling you. Having the high int, char, and wisdom also greatly helps, as many reveals are given only if your character is smart enough to reveal it.

    Finding your journal is the first quest. Finding it is only the beginning.

  3. Well, weapon harvesting didn’t work that way in Final Fantasy 3, so I don’t think the comment “any Japanese rpg” is quite accurate. In FF3, you could equip most of the weapons on most characters, you could have a “hybrid” classes, etc.

    A couple of the things that computer rpgs brought (at least games in the same vein as Balder’s gate) was the additional freedom it brought over console rpgs. I think I tended to go for max power in my party over story elements, even if it didn’t make sense.

    For instance, at the end of Balder’s Gate, my party consisted of 3 evil characters and 3 good characters. I actually had to kill an innocent bystander because I had done too many good quests and my evil members were about to leave. But I did this because those evil characters were the best and the good characters were the best, equipped with the best. Some of their story’s weren’t necessarily very strong and some of them were downright annoying, but if I wanted to just hit a go button and have them crush everything, that was a trade off I was willing to make.

  4. Weapon harvesting: If you are referring to the floating skull (no weapons, obviously), the theif (daggers…), or the neutral planes wanderer who uses the sword made out of that and uses only that because , or the mage who is eternally on fire because he has a portal to the realm of fire (anything near him will burn, even your regenerating immortal), then it all makes a lot of sense why they can’t use everything. Plus, you recruit more characters later who are more…versatile. You can use whatever you’d like. The fighter characters in your party can use any weapons. The non-fighters, not trained to do such, cannot.

  5. Best game ever, I got immersed into it for 6 months forgetting everthing else. Until this day I still remember it with melancholy, actually looking for fan art is how I got here. I ended the game with a level 28 mage. Many years went by so I don’t know if this is accurated but anyways, my favorite secuence as I remember it:

    I wake up without knowing where or when I am and more important who I am. But there is someone else, an old lady with grey hair, she is smiling at me, and as if we were having a conversation already she asks me what is going to be my third wish… I hesitate but answer (inevitably) that I want to know who I am, and now she laughs. Before granting my last wish she says: how amusing… you asked for the very same thing with your first wish…

  6. I love playing RPG that allow weapon harvesting/weapon creation. But nothing beats a good story. For me, Torment is the best RPG created. You really get involved. Thats the gist of roleplay. Being immersed. Anyway, I have wished this for the past few years that someone would just make a remake of Torment, on better platform, showing full detail of the character and the environment.

  7. Agreed. The story in torment is very detail oriented. Lots of information is presented and it is up to the reader to figure out some of the meaning. This allows for some great puzzles where you actually figure out the clues, rather than just select obvious dialog choices.

    Torment’s biggest downside is it’s presentation. With so many pages of text, some of the large conversations can take half an hour to an hour just to get through, or more if you replay them to pick other options. But rarely has a conversation been as tense as a boss battle (or even used as some).

    Either way, Torment gives you a lot of player freedom while constraining you to a very strongly written story. The amnesiac character has never been so well thought out.

  8. Now re-released by Interplay on DVD – get it at Amazon – so maybe not released too early for today’s gamers, but re-released just at the right moment!

  9. Given the way modern games have developed (style being heavily favored over substance) and Torment’s decidedly old-school reliance on a text-heavy narrative I’d say that it was released too late rather than too early. It may employ the mechanics of a for-the-time contemporary cRPG, but the design is more reminiscent of old adventure games or even interactive fiction. Torment’s commercial reception would probably have been more favorable if audiences had come from a background of games like those, but 1998 was the year of Half-Life, not Zork.

  10. @FIFO that is some great insight. I do believe it would have been well received (relatively, as niche as PC gaming was). I think now, with the latest developments in interactive storytelling (Mass Effect’s “emotional stance” and Heavy Rain’s “Interactive Movie”) we are approaching a new means of presenting the alien world of Planescape. There was just an unfortunate middle period where the technology had moved past “interactive novels” but not quite reached the point of “interactive movies.”

  11. I see a lot of Mass effect in this game.
    All the markers are there ,plain to see .

    Amazing that Half Life came out the same time .
    A lot of todays gamers wouldn’t have the patience required for this classic .

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