Planescape: Torment is a game that couldn’t have come to my attention at a better time. The game that I played through prior was Skyrim and as I was going through it, I realized something. The world of Skyrim is so uninteresting, all the quests felt generic and the story is something I have seen a million times before. Now, I am not saying Skyrim is a bad game, the combat was engaging, the spells were fun to tool around with and the graphics were beautiful. Not to mention, It was filled with secrets and treasures that were a blast to find/collect. But after putting some time into it, I found myself craving a good story, something that I hadn’t seen before. Thankfully, Torment fulfilled that longing.
You play as the Nameless One, an immortal who has lived hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. While immortality may seem like a gift, in this mans case, it is a horrible curse that has taken his tole on him through the years. His body is scarred and maimed beyond recognition and he has lost all the memories of his past life. Thankfully, your character comes with instructions tattooed on his back. These can be read by your first companion, Morte. Now Morte is a bit of an oddity as far as game characters are concerned, he is a wise cracking skull that floats along with your character. After a lengthy introduction and some instructions, you are thrust headlong into a struggle to regain your mortality.
Though, it may seem like combat is a primary focus of the game, it isn’t. Almost every encounter throughout the vast majority of the game is done through an incredibly dynamic dialogue system. In most games, you get only a few options of dialogue, in Torment, 10-15 options is pretty common. Not only that, but many of the options, if done right, can give large amounts of experience that can be used to further your characters skills. Another interesting aspect of the dialogue is that almost every person you meet in the world, has a story. From your average guardsman trying to find love to a wizard trying to steal a job from another to a giant metal construct who builds weapons in the hope that they will be used to destroy all living things. The world feels alive and is incredibly intriguing. Though I have to admit, hearing everyone’s life story can be a bit tedious at times and not everyone is that interesting, but isn’t that the way life works?
Which brings us to one of the games weaker aspects, combat. It is all run on the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2.5 game system, but instead of physically rolling dice, the game does it for you. While the thought of AD&D brings up a very deep and engaging system to mind, Planescape: Torment takes a different approach, there are limited weapons and the only character you can truly customize is your own. So your teammates will only level a very specific way. But it isn’t all bad, the spell effects in the game are breath taking and are some of the coolest I have ever seen in a game. One of my personal favorites causes a lightning storm to hit all the enemies in an area.
As is common in games of this era, the areas are static backdrops that are teaming with detail. The only thing that moves are the characters within the world. I personally like this style because it really allows the games art to shine through. None of the buildings look alike and each area is unique in it’s own way. For example, the city of Sigil is fairly typical looking whereas Curst, another city, looks entirely different and is much, much less inviting.
This brings us to my favorite aspect of Planescape Torment, the fact that it really messes with your perceptions. One example that I always bring up is the Brothel of Slating Intellectual Lusts. When I first came across it, I was expecting a typical brothel. No, this one is meant for the mind. People come in and hire one of the workers to talk to them in a variety of ways. Some are more kind and gentle, some are verbally abusive and others are there to debate with. I never thought I would see something like that in a video game. And this is just one of hundreds of examples from city blocks that are alive to kind hearted demons.
The final element that I need to discuss is immortality. Death in Torment has absolutely no negatives, unless it is your companions. If the Nameless One dies, he just respawns in a different area with full health. Your enemies on the other hand, don’t. While this may seem like cheating it…well…it actually is. Being able to cheat death makes you feel incredibly empowered and is sometimes even necessary to complete the game. But don’t let that fool you, there are still some areas that are quite difficult to navigate due to the massive amount of enemies.
I honestly could write an entire novel about how much I love Planescape Torment, it has a staggering amount of detail and some of the most fascinating dialogue of any game I have ever played. The only downside is the simplistic combat and general lack of it for the first half of the game. Thankfully, the world is so interesting that you won’t notice it’s absence. I highly recommend this game to anyone looking for a good story