Planescape Torment

Planescape Torment is a role playing game released by Interplay Entertainment in 1999.  While the game is obviously quite old, I want to make the case here that it is actually still a highly playable and enjoyable RPG game and retains an active fan base to this day.  The reason for this is as much due to the ideas explored in the game as well as the design used by Black Isle Studios in coding it.  Computers and the software that runs on them may well change and improve over time, but exploration of ideas, if well executed, can be almost timeless.

Planescape Torment is a True RPG Game

Self evidently the idea of a role playing game is to play a role, or to put it another way, to escape from everyday reality.  Unfortunately many RPG games promise an escape from the everyday grind, but then just force a player down a virtual railroad track and right back into that grind.  The choices offered are false and the ability of a player to truly affect the game is often quite limited.  I hope to show that this is not the case in this Planescape Torment review.

While the game is in some ways quite linear, it is the choices a player makes that allows the game to be truly your own.  This is the essence of role playing.  The richness that these choices add to the game tend to make any but the most basic kind of Planescape Torment guide redundant – the whole point is to play and enjoy it rather than chasing after powerful items and maximum level.

What Makes Planescape Torment So Good?

Planescape Torment - Annah PattyPlanescape Torment begins with your character awakening in a dark tomb with no memories of who you are or how you got there.  The idea of the game is to rediscover who you are and no, being called “The Nameless One” isn’t good enough!  This is fundamentally different from many other RPG games as it offers the chance for the player to affect how their character develops and also to make changes in the plot of the story.

This helps to explain part of the reason why this game is still popular so many years after its initial release, but it is only part of the story.

The game make good use of the Forgotten Realms combat system which is well known to fans of Dungeons and Dragons, or the earlier and also excellent Baldurs Gate.  The biggest difference here is that the Infinity Engine is used to generate a much closer view of the game world.  This makes the models used in the game appear larger, which improves the visual detail, but can sometimes cause a problem if you are casting a ranged spell for example.  This closer focus means that creatures tend to be a lot closer before you start the cast and that they can be upon you before you finish.  This has obvious implications – especially if the spell has an area of effect!

Another difference between Planescape Torment and other roleplaying games is the fact that in this game your character is immortal, but this fact does not reduce the difficulty of the game as you might expect.  Immortality brings with it a different set of problems and using your brains will often prove more effective than your brawn.  It is worth mentioning that when Torment was released the whole aim of most RPG games was just to survive.  A game with an immortal hero, with puzzles that could be “solved” by dying was revolutionary.

A wise man once said “You are what you do” and you have almost endless choices in Planescape Torment, each one will alter how the game progresses.  For instance you character can play as a warrior, mage or thief – at the same time.  Similarly your actions will alter your declared alignment.  If you fail to keep promises then of course you will become known for that, where as if you keep them you will become known as being lawful/good and so on.  This exploration of morality, along with some excellent voice acting is part of what makes the game memorable.

If you have ever wondered “What can change the nature of a man?” then Planescape Torment is the game for you.

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