Reviews: Planescape Torment
Fantastic, but play for the story, not the action.
Planescape Torment is one of the best-written games I've ever had the joy of experiencing, along with Witcher 2 and Alan Wake. As the other reviews here note, the game has an incredible amount of text, leading to phenomenally well-realized characters and areas. It's one of the few games I've played where the story alone was enough to compel me onward, and where my allies felt like actual *people*, and not just a collection of companion archetypes. That noted, absolutely do not purchase this game for the combat. Character attributes are derived from a variety of confusing, often counter-intuitive statistics, some of which are actually hidden from the player. Judging by who gets the best items, the game clearly wants you to play as either a Lawful Good Fighter or a Mage- but staying Lawful means forgoing some fun dialogue options, and the magic system is awful, necessitating constant trips to and from dungeons to replenish spells. Thankfully most of the fights are fairly easy or skippable, so you don't really need to make the Nameless One into a powerhouse. If you purchase the game via GOG be aware that it still has a number of bugs, so you'll probably want to install some fan-patches first; the GOG game forum has a stickied mod guide. You also should consider consulting a guide for the final area- the end of the game was clearly rushed, and it's very easy to have all the tools necessary to obtain the "best" ending and still miss it by picking a seemingly-innocuous dialogue option which instantly directs you on a one-way trip to Bad End. The rest of the game must be experienced spoiler-free to the maximum extent possible. Planescape is cheap on GOG and often on sale, so if you're a fan of narrative-heavy RPGs it's a must-buy.
A well-worthy contender for greatest game of all time.
The first thing you see in Planescape, is your character dead, on his way to the mortuary. And then you wake up, you've got no memory of who you are, you can't die (if you die in in-game combat, you just pop up revived in a safe place), your body is covered with scars and messages to yourself and it's clear that other people in the world recognise you but they've all got their own secrets and aren't honest with you, and you seem to have been a powerful person in previous lives whose done a lot of things. To put it simply, the writing is amazing. What's the game about? It's about finding out why you keep dying and putting an end to it. Or finding a way to die permanently. Or understanding the question 'what can change a man?'. Or discovering who you really are, not just what you've been but how a man can truly know himself. ... It's not just this game has a lot of themes, but how you play can change the very fundamental of what this story is about and all these different themes have echoes and reminders that you can have throughout play and even the very climax of the game can reflect this. And the written dialogue allows so much, there are cursed items, items you'll have to explore, read, learn about, take with until you finally understand whats going on. You can dig clues out of zombies ... The most fun in questing, is finding mainly dialogue based solutions, learning things about characters and the world, you can just fight your way through everything, but the king stat is really wisdom and the other speech stats. I spent a happy hour in one unique brotherly, with 9 people, running from one to the other, uncovering secrets, solving problems, sharing life goals. There are lots of moments in this game where theres dialogue not focused on advancing, but just giving you the opportunity to say what your goal is. Saying that, it's a contender, but probably isn't the greatest game. Combat is stale, formation based, but almost no ranged weapons which makes it a bit pointless. And because talking is so much fun, it can be easy to keep the PC underpowered in a fight and there are sections of the game where you probably will have to fight. And the licensed setting holds it back a bit, there are things they can't reveal and people you don't interact with as much as thought. Yet all in all a completely fantastic game
One of the greatest stories ever told
Planescape Torment is amazing. It's firmly a CRPG, and yet takes care to avert or subvert every trope in the genre. There are no dashing heroes in your party, just a bunch of twisted, damaged people and monsters. The goal isn't to save the world; it's to find out who you are and why you're there. There are virtually no swords, there are only a few required fights, and most importantly of all, you can't actually get a game over (unless you screw up royally). The gameplay has definitely suffered from Seinfeld Is Unfunny, and there are some very long dead spots, but for the most part it plays awesomely. But that's no why you fire this puppy up. This is a story more than anything else. Torment boasts a frankly ridiculous amount of text, far more so than is actually needed. And yet, all of it goes towards drawing the player into the world presented. It actually reads a lot like a novel, with paragraphs of exposition and detailed descriptions on each important NP Cs' appearance and mannerisms. Sigil and the other Planes are all fully-realized, and each add something new and wonderful to your experience. There is also a whole lot to do, several important choices to make, and a whole lot of sidequests to complete in interesting and unorthodox ways, thanks to the way gameplay and story are integrated. Ultimately, Torment isn't a heroic tale of adventure; it's the journey of a man to discover his identity. Throughout the quest, your immortal protagonist sees the triumphs and crimes of his past selves. Most of his party consists of people he has wronged, for reasons almost fully unknown to him. And even when he learns the truth, he must still undue his greatest sin: he has to finally die. The game is you trying to find a way to die. And it's a story told so well that you'll be compelled to keep playing just to see what happens next. Even the ending, which bugged me to hell at first, is downright perfect in retrospect, as it sums up the hero's journey wonderfully. For those worried about the price (and too honest to pirate), it's now on Good Old Games. If you haven't played this gem yet, do so. Torment is something you have to play once. If gaming is to be represented as an art form, it's titles like this that help pave the way and show what the medium can really do.