Twelve short months ago, I began playing Planescape: Torment in an effort to motivate my writing and completion of stockpiled games on my Backlog Killer blog. (www.backlogkiller.com) I chose it as my first game because friends, Watch Out for Fireballs, were playing it for one of their episodes and I wanted a little support for finishing such a long game. Even though I had finished it when I was in high school, I wanted to complete it again to see if anything about the game had changed for me. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

Planescape: Torment is an isometric RPG using the Infinity Engine of Baldur's Gate fame. It is based on the Dungeons and Dragons Planescape universe in which an infinite amount of dimensions or "planes" intersect at one focal point: the city of Sigil where the game takes place. You play as the Nameless One, a scarred and weathered fellow who wakes up in a mortuary with no memory of the past. Sound like standard video game fare? Here's something else to add into the mix: you cannot die.

I mean this in the most literal sense. Every time The Nameless One dies in combat or for any other reason, he awakens in the mortuary to continue his quest to discover the past. Along the way, you meet many other colorful characters who each have their own back stories and motivations for following you. These include a half-demon thief, a fallen angel, an ancient warrior, and (my favorite) a floating, wise-cracking skull named Morte. Working together, you must work backward to piece together your past and uncover the true nature of your soul so that you can rest in peace forever.

What makes Torment so different from almost every other RPG is its dedication to TRUE role playing via dialogue and moral choices. This isn't a Dragon's Age choice of good, evil, or neutral. Torment lets you choose everything from promising to do good to the most evil option, in my opinion, lying about doing good to get what you want. The game lets you choose exactly what character you want to play with no systemic repercussions about your choices. If you can live with what you've done... that's another matter altogether.

I wholeheartedly recommend Torment, but be warned: it is a LONG game. It will probably take at least thirty hours to finish, and that's only if you try to find some of the extra content. If you see all there is to see, I would set aside 50 to 60 hours. The game remains one of my favorite PC gaming experiences and I hope to return to it periodically to revisit its intense and touching story.

Find out: "What can change the nature of a man?"

I have written my thoughts and experiences with Planescape: Torment on my blog, The Backlog Killer. (http://www.backlogkiller.com/2012/01/2-planescape-torment.html)

You can purchase the game for the low price of $9.99 on Good Old Games. (http://www.gog.com/gamecard/planescape_torment)

Travis   Admin wrote on 12/05/2012 at 03:31am

It sounds like I need your site. I have a backlog a mile long.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 12/05/2012 at 06:19am

Awesome, from your write up this game sounds great. The only BioWare RPG I have played thus far was Neverwinter Nights and it had some of what you mention.

I am wondering though, recently Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition was released and I wanted to play that. That said, if you had to direct someone to start would you say Baldurs or Planescape? I want to start one of them and go through it, wondering which one you suggest?

Will_Owens   Post Author wrote on 12/05/2012 at 08:14am

It really comes down to what you want out of the game more: combat or story. The story in the Baldur's Gate series is pretty good and typical fantasy fair, but the combat is a very well balanced and fun part of the game. On the other hand, Torment is almost all story and hardly about combat at all. In fact, the combat in the game is pretty much trash and could have been tossed out completely. I speculate in my review that the team may have been forced to put combat in, even if they originally didn't plan to, because it came out after Baldur's Gate and is an Infinity Engine game. It can get a little annoying in my opinion.

So, your options are pretty much as follows:

Story-- Planescape: Torment

Mix of Story/Combat: Baldur's Gate

Or, if you want full combat with almost no story: Icewind Dale (which I love)

Will_Owens   Post Author wrote on 12/05/2012 at 10:17am

*fantasy fare -- The editor

jdodson   Admin wrote on 12/05/2012 at 04:40pm

Thanks Will, that helps. Still mulling it over. Let you know how it turns out.

Just read this today:

http://colinmccomb.com/?p=157

Gary_Butterfield wrote on 12/05/2012 at 05:35pm

See my tweets for my response. I think Will is underselling how much better Torment is in terms of writing and story. Baldur's Gate has a good story and great mechanics. Torment is probably in the top 3 best written games ever and has a setting that is bursting with imagination and character. They're both mandatory at some point, but your individual tastes can determine which one comes first.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 12/06/2012 at 12:27am

Makes sense, I am thinking Torment due to the focus on story.

Thanks guys!

Will_Owens   Post Author wrote on 12/07/2012 at 01:02am

I very well may be. As for writing, I can't think of many other games that do have as competent and impactful writing. Actually, what suggestions would you have on that front, Gary?

jdodson   Admin wrote on 12/07/2012 at 03:19am

For me the game that stuck with me the most is Link's Awakening. I played it again a few years ago and none of its impact was lost on me.

Gary_Butterfield wrote on 12/07/2012 at 04:51pm

I love Link's Awakening but not for the writing. I think the writing in most of the Zelda/Mario games is more or less almost non existent. Note, it still has a very enchanting story but it's not one presented through writing.

Off the top of my head: The Walking Dead, Alpha Protocol, Fallout 1, 2 and New Vegas and Dear Esther (though it's barely a game).

It's hard not to confuse world building with writing. Is something like Dishonored well written? Well, yeah, but most of the good will I'm feeling towards the writing is actually the mythology/world building aspect.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 12/07/2012 at 05:26pm

Good point about LA. I sort of hitch onto it for the feelings I get when certain things happen. I think they handle simple scenes like Link an Marin sitting and talking well. They cover the concept of loneliness and the loss well. I think in the end the simplicity of the storytelling and its notion of things not being what they seem.

I love that game.

Gary_Butterfield wrote on 12/07/2012 at 06:00pm

Oh, it's great. The only flaw I find in it is that it's easy to not know what to do next. I would like a little more direction. Other than that, it's my 2nd favorite Zelda game (after A Link to the Past).

jdodson   Admin wrote on 12/07/2012 at 06:02pm

I agree, I couldn't remember how to get into the Catfish's Maw so I needed guide help.

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