PlaneScape: Torment - Sweet, Beautiful Torment

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PlaneScape: Torment - Sweet, Beautiful Torment

Considered by many to be one of the best RPGs ever made, PlaneScape: Torment delivers a surreal, almost insanely deep experience filled with questions and ideas that few other games would dare to broach upon.

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StewShearer:
(Snip).

The title says 'PlaneScape: Torment - Swe' (Insert roflcopter joke here).

OT: I've heard a lot of people saying that this game reduced them to tears. I can't believe it's been sitting unplayed in my GOG library for nearly a year. I gotta get round to it...

As someone who played this late, I can agree with this review 100%.
Well, I did cheat a little on the last part because fuck the combat, but for everything else: It's pretty much the best story (maybe narrative would be a better word) I have yet experienced in a videogame.

Well, if you play it, mod the resolution first. Do yourself the favor. Otherwise, just get in on the ride.

Edit: Oh, and prepare to read. A lot.

I remember the first time I played Torment, I was drawn in but bored of it at the same time. I put it down three times before finally sitting down and letting it absorb me. In a way, I almost wish I hadn't because I've been at least partially disappointed in every RPG since because none of them could come anywhere near Torment. Even a few of gamings "Golden Childs" of RPGs just pale in comparison.

It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't played it how far beyond every other CRPG Planescape really is -- and not just the paint-by-numbers games; even the other classics like Fallout and Baldur's Gate suffer by comparison.

You know what can change the nature of a man? This game.

I'll agree...this game's combat is somewhat of a burden, but at the same time doesn't actually drag it under. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the absolute absurdity of it, too...

When you can send a signal to the plane of Law to fire their gigantic death cannon through a magical portal at targets you designate...you just kind of start to understand how crazy things can get.

Yes, PS:T is something you have to experience for yourself. I love CRPGs like Baldur's Gate and DA:O, but nothing has come close to what this game achieved. It is, simply put, a masterpiece

I have come across nothing else like it and the only other game out there that means as much to me is Shenmue.

the silence:
Well, I did cheat a little on the last part because fuck the combat.

More specifically: fuck Curst Prison. That dungeon was so atrocious that I almost gave up on the game, and it tainted a lot of what came after until I was able to calm down and look at it rationally.

Still, as much as that part of the game sucks - and the quality does drop markedly once you leave Sigil - Planescape is still one of the best RPGs ever made. As per the review, it has perhaps the best story in gaming and actually uses the fact that it is a game to tell a story that you couldn't tell in any other medium. It's a role-playing game whose story is fundamentally about role-playing games, and that's a lot of what makes it so engaging.

Barbas:

StewShearer:
(Snip).

The title says 'PlaneScape: Torment - Swe' (Insert roflcopter joke here).

OT: I've heard a lot of people saying that this game reduced them to tears. I can't believe it's been sitting unplayed in my GOG library for nearly a year. I gotta get round to it...

Oddness... I'll just blame it on our back end as it wasn't like that last night.

Regardless, thanks for pointing this out and it's fixed! :)

As others said, it's definitely the best story I've ever seen in a video game.

One day, I may find a better one, but I don't know when it'll happen. Odds are that I'll have to wait quite a long time.

They don't write games like this these days. Screw this cinematic voiced characters fad in the AAA industry. I've played it ages ago, but I can still remember the dialogue at some of the most awesome moments in the game by heart. Especially TTO's booming monologues.

Absolutely adored this game, such a beautiful, sad, thoughtful world full of memorable characters and profound themes. Agree with the guy who said it's (by quite a margin) the best story in gaming.

That game which truly delivers on it's hype, if you give it enough time to do so.
The payoff might be too far out of reach for many gamers not familiar with older, slower games. Can't blame them.

Anachronism:
More specifically: fuck Curst Prison. That dungeon was so atrocious that I almost gave up on the game, and it tainted a lot of what came after until I was able to calm down and look at it rationally.

That part of the game is one of the big reasons that I stopped playing for over six months. The only reason I got through it was by continuously sending the Nameless One on a suicide mission to kill one or two guys at a time.

But damn, is that game good. Easily the best writing in any game I have ever played. I can't think of a single thing that comes even close.

I'm also super stoked for Tides of Numenara. If that one is even half as good as Planescape, it will be incredible. Too bad it's still a long ways out.

Not only is the game all sorts of awesome, but the HD mod let's it shine like never before. It's just insanely beautiful at high resolutions.

I was quite young when I first played it and think its about time I give it another go, especially with a some Uni philosophy experience behind me now. Bet it will be quite different for me now XD

Absolutely can't wait for Tides of Numenara though, gosh I'm loving this return to good old times with Divinity Original Sin and Wasteland 2 and such.

Was an absolutely beautiful game set in my honest to God favorite D&D campaign setting. I was and still am a huge fan of Planescape's 'verse and this game captured the majesty of Sigil. Actually it gave me a better sense of the City of Doors than the books did, and inspired many campaigns. I'll admit I took some plot mechanics and other pieces from Torment for my own games but nothing direct, just some inspired by sections.
I think I've spent years on that game since it came out and still keep finding little things I didn't notice (or even run across) while playing through the first time. For its time, the game world felt alive.

EDIT: Also modern players should definitely use this guide to play Torment on modern PCs. Definitely worth it.
http://thunderpeel2001.blogspot.com/2009/01/planescape-torment-fully-modded.html

It's a one-of-a-kind game, made more so by the lack of a sequel. It's beautiful with high artistic vision and succeeded in realizing much of that vision. The love the developers had for the world and it's characters could hardly be more different than the assembly-line garbage the AAA industry typically puts out these days.

Games with great narratives are so rare that every one of them has a strong following. Several games with great narratives came out around the same time - Baldur's Gate 2, Deus Ex, and Anachronox at least three, which led me to the erroneous belief that making a game with a great narrative isn't actually all that difficult. The subsequent years proved me extremely wrong, much to my sadness.

The problem with recommending a game like PS:T today to today's gamers is no one expects to read as much as it makes you. Anyone picking up the game should be aware that they are playing a novel, and not some precursor to Mass Effect. That difference alone could kill someone's experience with the game if their expectations are in the wrong place.

briankoontz:

Games with great narratives are so rare that every one of them has a strong following. Several games with great narratives came out around the same time - Baldur's Gate 2, Deus Ex, and Anachronox at least three, which led me to the erroneous belief that making a game with a great narrative isn't actually all that difficult. The subsequent years proved me extremely wrong, much to my sadness.

1997-2002 were the golden years of gaming. I miss them greatly.

I read an article once that blamed the death of that era on Microsoft with the Xbox. I really don't know how true that really is, but it did show how many games that had been made for the PC switched development for the new console. The classic games that trickled out after the Xbox announcement and release were mostly in development before the announcement took place. Deus Ex 2 certainly gives credence to that theory.

StewShearer:
In fact, the game arguably pushes you toward more peaceful routes; often rewarding more experience points for talking through conflicts as opposed to going all murder/death/kill on people.

Idea for your next review?

image

StewShearer:
PlaneScape: Torment - Sweet, Beautiful Torment

Considered by many to be one of the best RPGs ever made, PlaneScape: Torment delivers a surreal, almost insanely deep experience filled with questions and ideas that few other games would dare to broach upon.

Read Full Article

Curious why you didn't mention Dan Castellaneta's voice work... I mean a game with Homer Simpson voicing one of the characters should be noted in any review... :)

Clive Howlitzer:
I remember the first time I played Torment, I was drawn in but bored of it at the same time. I put it down three times before finally sitting down and letting it absorb me. In a way, I almost wish I hadn't because I've been at least partially disappointed in every RPG since because none of them could come anywhere near Torment. Even a few of gamings "Golden Childs" of RPGs just pale in comparison.

Yeah that really is the trouble with stepping so close to perfection....everything afterwards becomes...meh.

The only RPG I can think of that has the chops to stand toe to toe with Planescape (although in its a bit more focused on combat....) is Baldurs Gate 2.

I absolutely love both these games to death, and I've replayed BG2 lots of times. Maybe the time has come to replay Planescape. I've only solved it once.

"Homer" is an optional character, and might have been perfectly reasonably just missed. At least I missed the whole cube, and Stew probably missed something else in addition.

Torment truly is a gaming classic, it has its flaws but in terms of narrative there are few games of any genre or platform that can compare. There are games I consider better, Baldur's Gate 2 gets mentioned often when Torment is brought up and for good reason, but for anyone with any interest in gaming as a means of storytelling has to play Torment as it truly is easily among the greatest in that regard.

High hopes for Tides of Numenera, if that game manages to achieve even a fracture of what made the original Torment so amazing we're in for a real treat.

Signa:
The problem with recommending a game like PS:T today to today's gamers is no one expects to read as much as it makes you. Anyone picking up the game should be aware that they are playing a novel, and not some precursor to Mass Effect. That difference alone could kill someone's experience with the game if their expectations are in the wrong place.

Yeah, I really enjoyed the Planescape storyline and background, but the text can get a little bit exposition heavy. If you recognise the limitations of the technology at the time, it's fine, but it's not easy to get into if you're used to the modern RPG.

The best thing about this game, that puts it streets ahead of anything else I've played, is the almost 4th wall breaking way the game deals with rezzing. When you die and just get up again as if to say "Meh", often with a snarky comment from Mort or one of the other characters, it's not only part of the game world but also takes away a lot of the frustration and need to save-scum.

I really need to play this one of these days. It's been on my computer for a couple of years just waiting. My main concern was that it would be a bit over my head since I have no experience with D&D and very little experience with CRPGs. I'll get around to it eventually though.

Signa:

briankoontz:

Games with great narratives are so rare that every one of them has a strong following. Several games with great narratives came out around the same time - Baldur's Gate 2, Deus Ex, and Anachronox at least three, which led me to the erroneous belief that making a game with a great narrative isn't actually all that difficult. The subsequent years proved me extremely wrong, much to my sadness.

1997-2002 were the golden years of gaming. I miss them greatly.

I read an article once that blamed the death of that era on Microsoft with the Xbox. I really don't know how true that really is, but it did show how many games that had been made for the PC switched development for the new console. The classic games that trickled out after the Xbox announcement and release were mostly in development before the announcement took place. Deus Ex 2 certainly gives credence to that theory.

Hmmmm... I'd say that it was the end of PC gaming,if not console altogether. There was a "dumbing down" of sort on a lot of mechanics, but I'd dare say that the PS2 actually kept that era alive for a while longer and allowed for some very interesting experience up until 2006 or so. Then the 7th gen happened, and the overblown budgets and the publishers getting a lot of cold feet about actually doing novel stuff. But I'd still rate stuff like Shadow of The Colossus, Beyond Good and Evil or Silent Hill 2 in my golden era.

OT: BG2 might still stand as the game that made me a gamer. it had an ease of approach that PS:T lacked, at least comparatively, but this was and is my favourite game of all time. It's wall of text is overwhelming by today's standards, but that belies the fact that the writing on this game was just superlative. It's verbosity that one *wants* to read, and that ay very well blow your mind if you open up to that fact. The process by which we learn the mage's path is probably *the* moment that became ingrained in my brain. Yes, it's a fetch quest. But the game is very much aware of that fact, and manages to give it actual meaning.

It is indeed amazing just how well the game manages to stand on its story, up to this day. And yes, a shitload of credit must be given to Chris Avelone and the other writers. They manage to include plot, story arcs, sadness, philosophy, absurdity and a shitload of humour into a cohesive whole.

So yeah, BG2 turned me into a gamer. PS:T made me realize games were art.

SmallHatLogan:
I really need to play this one of these days. It's been on my computer for a couple of years just waiting. My main concern was that it would be a bit over my head since I have no experience with D&D and very little experience with CRPGs. I'll get around to it eventually though.

The entry level is a bit eased by the fact the main character cannot die, and quickly gets the ability to revive team mates. Most of the complex D&D mechanics similarly play under the hood, so it's not that overwhielming. I'd actually say that what might prove a bit overwhelming is the huge amount of text. "But, endure it. And in enduring, grow strong".

This game irritated me for reasons that are completely my own fault.

I don't want to play the game multiple times, I want as many options available to me at any decision point and I don't want to make mistakes. As a result, I extensively used a walkthrough and destroyed my own immersion. I didn't get very far as a result.

It felt so promising and I know it is but I stonewall myself at each decision, unable to free myself from the metagame.

Imre Csete:
They don't write games like this these days. Screw this cinematic voiced characters fad in the AAA industry. I've played it ages ago, but I can still remember the dialogue at some of the most awesome moments in the game by heart. Especially TTO's booming monologues.

To be fair, they didn't write games like this at any other point in history either. :V

Totally agree with your review man..it's my favorite RPG ever from a story standpoint.

This game felt like reading a great huge book (finished it with minimal amount of fighting via dialogue only with max Wisdom and Intelligence).

One of the strangest paradoxes of this game brought about entirely by the engine is that the mage is the most powerful class in this game, but because the screen is so zoomed in compared to other Infinity Engine games like Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale, even as a mage you are forced to use close combat.
This is where if you now play the game with the WEIDU widescreen and resolution mods, that allow you to play it on a 16:9 screen at 1920x1080 or whatever, the game really is different than the original since you can actually plan your attacks ahead.

This makes all combat easier actually.

It's also amusing that the devs chose to not include swords. I can't think of any other western fantasy games where swords simply don't exist as player weapons.

And it's one of the very few games where you can completely miss out on several party members, with no indication you did so unless you know this from other playthroughs or external sources -- and still be able to play until the end.

Lastly, as others mentioned, this game is getting a spiritual sequel called 'Torment: Tides of Numenera' by the same guys that brought us the excellent Wasteland 2.

-Dragmire-:
This game irritated me for reasons that are completely my own fault.

I don't want to play the game multiple times, I want as many options available to me at any decision point and I don't want to make mistakes. As a result, I extensively used a walkthrough and destroyed my own immersion. I didn't get very far as a result.

It felt so promising and I know it is but I stonewall myself at each decision, unable to free myself from the metagame.

Yeah, the modern gamer in me kept me from getting into PS:T. Knowing you're making long lasting decisions and locking out content at almost every turn hurts the completionist in me. Also, the reading overwhelmed me a few hours in. I've only made one attempt so far though. I'm going to try again and just role play a guy and try to relax into the story next time.

Some background on the Planescape setting should help understand the game. In Planescape, belief creates reality. If enough people believe in something, then it becomes true. This is heavily thematic in Torment. If you tell enough people that your name is Adahn, eventually, a bloke named Adahn will show up. The game provides ample opportunities to completely change your direction. Perhaps the nameless one, after having lived so many lives, can call up his mindset from that time. At times, this can mean changing your alignment to fit the current need.

The combat is rather dull if you are used to playing a modern game - that is to say, its the same combat from Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. The game is also very text-based. I do not believe they would have made a game with this story if all their efforts were going into improving the combat and making the game more inviting. Instead, we'd have received a comparatively shallow game like DA:O.

On a side note, I think the best artwork ever introduced into a fantasy setting is in all the old Planescape source material. The style is incredible both in scale and theme. My only real complaint about Torment is that the format of the Infinity Engine didn't really allow Torment to capture the artistic themes used in the tabletop setting.

erbkaiser:
One of the strangest paradoxes of this game brought about entirely by the engine is that the mage is the most powerful class in this game, but because the screen is so zoomed in compared to other Infinity Engine games like Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale, even as a mage you are forced to use close combat.
This is where if you now play the game with the WEIDU widescreen and resolution mods, that allow you to play it on a 16:9 screen at 1920x1080 or whatever, the game really is different than the original since you can actually plan your attacks ahead.

This makes all combat easier actually.

It's also amusing that the devs chose to not include swords. I can't think of any other western fantasy games where swords simply don't exist as player weapons.

And it's one of the very few games where you can completely miss out on several party members, with no indication you did so unless you know this from other playthroughs or external sources -- and still be able to play until the end.

Lastly, as others mentioned, this game is getting a spiritual sequel called 'Torment: Tides of Numenera' by the same guys that brought us the excellent Wasteland 2.

Very true, and I'm a backer of the upcoming game, however it should be noted this will be using the Numenera setting as opposed to the Planescape setting which could be hit or miss. While Numenera gets a decent amount of praise there isn't as much material to draw on, nor does it have quite the same following, probably due to the state of PnP RPGs in general.

*THAT* said you can very much blame Wizards Of The Coast, and perhaps more specifically one man named Ryan Dancey, for what happened with this game, and to a lesser extent PnP RPGs in general, and it's quite possible because of them that damage was actually done to the genera of computer games as a whole.

To set the wayback machine, I was a member of the RPGA back when "Torment" came out and I was on their forums. This was a time when someone at WOTC decided that PnP gaming needed to be dumbed way down and they wanted the 3E rules to become more approachable than ever before, despite claims that they would lose none of the depth that exist in 2E. Early versions of the rules got leaked and at one point Ryan Dancey in a thread dedicated to me claimed he could accurately translate any 2E character into a 3E equivalent even if I broke the rules. Unsurprisingly he couldn't do it.

At any rate, at the time this was going on Ryan was the designated axeman who was running around killing off all the material and campaign settings which were too smart for their desired audiences despite massive protests from the fan bases. In reality his desire was at the time to pretty much axe everything except Greyhawk (which they wanted to make the game's new focus) and The Forgotten Realms (because the novels alone were a massive cash cow even WoTC wasn't dumb enough to slaughter all at once, though they intended to gradually poison the setting in hopes of getting people to transfer interest to Greyhawk and focus their audience. Events like "Threat From The Sea" were set up to destroy what a lot of people liked in an epic finale in hopes interest would fade... Waterdeep, Halrua, Baldur's Gate, and other locations were more or less flattened).

This brings us to Planescape, a setting that was quite profitable and had a dedicated following, having seen the successful publication of numerous boxed sets, modules, and full-color softcover books, as well as being popular enough where it was being crossed over into other campaign settings due to people liking the ideas. When Planescape was on the chopping block Ryan Dancey tried to talk crap about a lack of interest and said flat out that if "Torment sells well the setting will be spared". Let's just say that Torment went gold in pre-orders alone (trust me, I was there), and a lot of people even purchased multiple copies. Ryan of course lied about this and axed the setting anyway, but not before one last adventure/supplement called "Faction War" which took a giant sized dump on everything that made the setting awesome (kicking all the factions out of Sigil for example), pretty much the same thing they tried to do with "Threat From The Sea" but a lack of further publication and novelists writing dedicated Planescape novels prevented a recovery.

At any rate this is why Planescape is viewed as an "obscure" or "cult classic" game despite it being one almost everyone has played, bought, or was going to play, and being on almost every list of computer games. The thing moved truckloads of copies, but the guys holding the IP rights were insane and somehow thought it would be in their best interests to kill a product line that was making them money, so deliberately sabotaged themselves in the press. This is why the game is everywhere, despite everyone acting like it should be obscure.

The domino effect this caused of course is still being felt. It's arguable that the alleged "failure" of Planescape lead a lot of the gaming industry to believe that games like this just didn't sell. Likewise at the time when the RPG producers themselves were selling simplicity, and face it, most RPG mechanics with computer games and such go back to D&D in some form, the game developers of course did the same thing. RPGs, both computer and PnP, thus began a downward spiral of alleged simplicity and accessibility, while of course the original audience that made them popular largely moved on, or kept playing using previous rules and game systems. The "young, stupid, audience" that they were banking
on never really came out in force, and those that did, didn't stay so RPGs became a dying genera.

Some might of course think I'm overstating the case, and probably can't believe that a company would actually sabotage things that were making them money in hopes of MAYBE making more money if they went down a different avenue, but it did happen, and I actually talked to/confronted the guy who was running point for it.... and pretty much every prediction I made happened.

The irony here is that there is still a profitable niche waiting to be mined out there, but it's not big enough to get the attention of anyone that can do it right, meaning that "real RPG gaming" mostly stays at a low level, catered to by people that just don't have the resources to get it going again in anything approaching a big way.

As far as the combat in Planescape went, a big part of the problem I think was that the engine was just too old and it wasn't capable of achieving the level of complexity that later-era 2E could. Things like intergrating NWPS (the skill system) advanced weapon mastery and combat proficiencies, and similar things. The problem as I saw it was that by the time Planescape: Torment came out people were already getting tired of "Quarterback" type infinity engine combat, and some of the changes (as people point out with the view style) actually didn't mesh well. That and the game didn't make very good use of the magic rules for the setting which is why Magic seemed overpowered. Basically it seemed very little had magic resistance, and when you visited other planes the game didn't make you worry about obtaining the right keys/rituals/etc... to use magic in that dimension without suffering a huge penalty. Magic is powerful when you can
get it to work, but arguably brute force was king for a lot of adventuring because hitting someone with a big rock is universal (so to speak). It's also why a lot of wizards that are high level tend to stay in one place/dimension in Planescape and use adventurers to roam the planes, because if most of them travel they wind up losing X number of casting levels if they don't know specific things (and you never know the first time you go somewhere, and sometimes those keys change), it's easier to send adventurers since he'd likely be even weaker than they are if he went through gates randomly and he's a dedicated mage. Clerics likewise also tend to get screwed, and don't have the same kind of work around, basically the more planes between them and whatever plane their deity calls home, they more casting levels they lose, and there really aren't tricks (other than gaining multiple patrons) that can help. I might be forgetting something but basically being a mage was the best (after getting a few level of figher for hit points) because you didn't have to worry about say losing 10 levels of casting ability (say going from 12th level to 2nd level). That would have made the game annoying mind you, but it did lead to certain things being a lot more convenient than they should have been. :)

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