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Burning Maaaaaann!! ----------------------------- There are many CRPGs (That's Computer based Role Playing Game) that folks claim to be the "best CRPG ever". It's a proud boast in most cases, but one year before the Millenium the best CRPG came into existence, or at least, into the marketplace. And yea, it rocked. I've played countless CRPGs since, and while we have some worthy contenders, none has ever equalled Planescape: Torment. It is the entire package. At the time of release, the graphics were gorgeous. The role playing aspect could not have been bettered. The game world was rich, incredible, new to CRPGs if not new to the RPG community. The characters were memorable and the plot was the best aspect of all. The weak suffer. I *endure*. --------------------------------------- In most CRPGs, you play as Barbarian #2, or Warrior in plate armour with greatsword, or Halfling Thief because I read Lord of the rings, or Elven ranger dual wielding swords whose hair I've made white. The point I am making, is that these are templates. Interchangeable templates. Oh, the background story may be slightly different, but they are all remarkably similar. Not here it's not. You are The Nameless One. Immortal. A walking, shambling corpse of a man hundreds of years old. You also have amnesia, waking on a cold mortuary slab in a huge mausoleum, your only guide a smart-talking foul-mouthed floating skull. It is not the first time you have died. And not the first time you have lost your memory. And that damn skull knows something he's not telling. Rather than write down messages to yourself in a journal that could be taken from you, you have tattooed yourself from head to foot. Sounds great, eh? But here's a problem. Not only are the messages limited or extremely cryptic, some were written down when you were completely, utterly, barking at the moon insane. Every "life" you have lived has been different in terms of choices, attitudes and experiences. You have been a wise and thoughtful, cruel and manipulative, an incorruptible agent of law, a dedicated servant of chaos. You have been a fighter, a thief, a wizard. Or a combination, if you like. But these things feel less like a straitjacket and more like a favoured suit. Even if said suit consists of badly cured skins and animal bones. Planescape is perhaps the first CPRG where your statistics opened up additional dialog options. A high intelligence results in excellent perception. A high wisdom, the ability to see beyond the obvious. A high Charisma makes you charming. A high strength, and you can intimidate many. This CRPG allows you to play as you want. Not just a character class, but a set of statistics that can mean additional experience points worth more than just hacking your way through. Add onto this alignment choices through the story made from an initial position of true neutral and permitted membership of a number of the city of Sigil's many factions, and you have an unforgettable gaming experience. Steel marks flesh, but flesh cannot mark steel. -------------------------------------------------------------- Gaming mechanics, check. What about the gaming world? The city of Sigil sits at the centre of the multiverse. Not only that, but it sits physically on an impossibly tall spire. And the city is alive. You may think this limits excursions, bit Sigil is also known as the city of doors, for those that can find them. Overseen by the lady of pain, wreathed in spikes with an expressionless face and limitless power. Sigil feels dirty, crowded, old. Despite a limit of displayable characters on screen, the game achieves this by the means of some wonderful artwork with great palate choices and background sound clips. Many races walk the streets. Some are humans. Some of these humans are Tieflings, with a touch of infernal blood. Where there's darkness, there's also light. Aasimar are humans with blood of an opposing vintage. Being one or the other does not necessarily make you good or evil. Sigil, unsurprisingly, has many areas. Some are dangerous. Others are far worse. The Nameless one needs some companions to help him find the answer to himself. Who he was, how he came to be, what he's done and where he's going. You can have up to five of seven possible companions, and they are uniformly excellent. Mortimer Rictusgrin - Or Morte to his friends, if he had any. One of the must-keeps, this floating skull can bite, absorb a fair amount of damage, and access his most useful ability. A slew of mouth-mouthed invective that has been known to interrupt enemy spellcasters who try their utmost to beat him to death with their bare hands. Morte is also a source of much black humour and information about you and your past selves. Like all your companions, he can be upgraded a number of ways, including by uncovering your past and his part in it. Your companions tend to have their own personal demons, and this is another area where high wisdom or intelligence can really pay dividends. Annah of the shadows - A tiefling girl with an Irish accent and a quick temper, she's a fighter-rogue. Useful for scouting and backstabbing, she also serves as one of a few potential love interests. Unless you're taking on the role of rogue, Annah is also a must-have. Dak'kon - A Githzerai, one of the peoples of limbo, Dak'kon is very much like a Samurai. He has a rigid code of honour and a sword made out of chaos matter that forms itself according to the wielder (i.e. upgradable). He can also cast spells, giving you the ability to tailor him to the situation. Dak'kon is another excellent character. Someone who once swore his allegiance to the nameless one, without realising he was immortal. Now a slave to that vow, he has been cast out by his people. He clings ferverently to a religious object like a puzzle box which one of your old personalities crafted. With a high enough wisdom, it can start to be unlocked... Fall from Grace - A succubus, with a deadly kiss designed to tempt and murder men, She chooses instead a life of celibacy, running the brothel of sating intellectual lusts. A brothel where no sex takes place. She is a cleric and a great healer. But she will not accompany you unless you can convince her to. The benefits of high wisdom and intelligence again coming to the fore. She is also a potential love interest. Just don't kiss her! Ignus - The aforementioned burning man, and star attraction of the smouldering corpse bar. Once the student of a particularly brutal teacher who believed suffering was necessary for learning, he can be recruited by his old mentor (you). He is an incurably insane pyromancer, his body linked to the elemental plane of fire as punishment for his past crimes. He is also a powerful spellcaster and can teach you (if a mage) some of his spells, though his teaching will require you to suffer as he did. Nordom - A sentient clockwork construction, he's the only available archer type character. As essentially a self-aware robot, much of his interaction involves trying to understand what motivates living beings. He has the least rich of backstories, and for me is the weakest companion in this regard. Vhailor - A fanatic warrior and member of the Mercykiller caste, he inhabits as a spirit his armour, wielding a great axe. He was killed trying to track down a great criminal (guess who?), but refused to truly die while there exist so many in need of judgement. What can change the nature of a man? ---------------------------------------------------- As you travel throughout Sigil and other planes in search of resolution of the endless cycle you find yourself in, you will experience a LOT of descriptive text. If you've gotten this far through my review, you will likely enjoy this as much as I did. There's also a lot of dialog. Add these two things together, and you end up with a truly immersive CRPG. And one still spoken about in gaming circles. Planescape torment still sells for around £12 on the PC, fourteen years after initial release. It will work on Vista. I presume it works on windows 7, but best to check before purchasing. The graphics are inevitably dated, though a "enhanced" edition is being actively worked on. If you want a unique setting, great characters and story, the ability to choose to champion an assorted group of the walking dead or an amalgam of brain rats, to have the chance to face a tattered Angel in order to stop a plane literally sliding into hell through your actions, look no further. It. Is. The. Daddy.
I have been a fan of games that have used the Infinity engine for some time now. I started out on the original Fallout, before moving onto Baldur's Gate and, more recently, Icewind Dale and Neverwinter Nights. Many moons ago I played Planescape:Torment (known as PT from hereon in) and found it boring and pedestrian with a terrible combat system. My mistake was trying to play it as I had played the likes of Baldur's Gate, for PT is correctly regarded as one of the greatest ever Role Playing Games, coming from a time when the name actually meant something. The beauty of 2 dimensional games is that they tend not to age as badly as 3 dimensional. Whack a filter or two over Megadrive and SNES games and some still look pretty sweet. Try the same on early Playstation and Saturn games and the results are pretty damn ugly. PT benefits from some patches to play it in widescreen and touch up the whole game engine, so be sure to download these before play. In PT, you are the Nameless One. You awake on a mortuary slab with a disembodied, floating, sassy skull for company. Your quest is to find out just what has been happening to you. So far, so standard, but the difference here is that within the game, (except for the most extreme circumstances) you cannot die. Should your health points be reduced to zero, or you decide to disembowel yourself, or rip your arm off, you simply awaken at a restart point with full health and any companions you should have, patiently waiting for you. This probably comes as a relief to those of us who love to constantly quick save and restart should things go wrong, and it is an interesting game mechanic. Some critics believe that this mechanic damaged the story and characterisation as there was no harm in sending the Nameless One off to battle, leaving companions to cower a safe distance away. I feel that to level this criticism completely misses the point of the game. Let's be honest now, the Icewind Dale games were good fun, but little more than a series of battles with a bit of waffle in-between. PT proves to be the polar opposite of this. Whilst you can battle your way through the game, to do so would be to miss out on a great deal of fun along the way. The developers and writers have spent a huge amount of time and effort creating a wonderful world within the city of Sigil for the player to explore. Quests are abundant and NPC's provide genuine entertainment and interest. On my first play through I kept my character as a fighter, but massively boosted the mental statistics, resulting in an intriguing and fascinating adventure. On your journey of self discovery, you can recruit party members or completely ignore them. I completed my first game with only four companions and I am sure I could have managed with less. The real joy comes from interacting with these companions, learning their histories and opinions, romancing them and then betraying them as you see fit. The story is an absolute joy to discover, with plenty to be found, even on multiple play throughs. Quests often have multiple solutions depending on what type of character you wish to play as. An interesting character mechanic is that you can switch between thief, fighter and mage at will by talking to your party and learning new skills. I felt that combat was slightly underdeveloped compared to other games in this engine. Spell animations are absolutely awesome, although can drag on a bit once you have seen them a few times. The battles felt nowhere near as satisfying as the likes of Baldur's Gate, with enemy AI extremely poor as constant thief backstab-> runaway worked on just about everyone. However, with a plot this rich and rewarding, you will find yourself avoiding battles simply to try and outwit your opponents to discover more of the story. The graphics are luscious and rich with the city of Sigil well represented. Characters animate well and I had no problem with slowdown. There are a wealth of modifications and patches that can be downloaded to restore missing content and add additional quests which are well worth investigating. The voice acting is excellent with characters conversing in an odd oldee style of English which matches the setting beautifully. Overall, I think I preferred the action of Baldur's Gate to this game, which you have to invest a great deal of patience and attention in. Whilst the story was glorious and engaging, I am not sure if I will seek to constantly play through as I have found with other games such as Fallout. Planescape: Torment will not suit everyone and is definitely not one for newcomers to the genre, but for those with the patience and time to invest, it is a glorious experience which I am glad I came back to.
Planescape:Torment is one of the best role playing games ever created for the PC. This is not so much due to the game engine - this is a pretty standard point and click RPG in the model of Baldur's Gate - but because it emphasises the story and character development over hacking and slashing creatures in dungeons. In practical terms, this emphasis means that conversations become important to directing the plot, not just moving along it. Character development of the Nameless One is quite freeform and the class and abilities you choose will have a big impact on how you can play the game. The planescape setting is also one of the most wonderful in D&D history, and it's difficult to understand why it has not lasted longer. It is a surreal and baroque world that draws from all sorts of strands of mythology and alchemy, and has a great aesthetic as a result. But importantly it also has personality, with quirkyness and even a little humour appearing very much part of it. Can't recommend this title highly enough for anyone who prefers a little more character to their RPGs.
I must have played maybe 30 RPGs or more over the years, however in these days of Guild wars, Neverwinter nights and Final Fantasy 139.0's, I can't help thinking back with a certain degree of wistfulness to a game released on PC years ago which still towers head and shoulders above it's much more flashy decendants. Why? Because it had a story that grew and branched out and was riveting in its complexity and depth. It had henchmen that were actually interesting, with stories of their own that were'nt simply links to fetch 'n carry quests. It had possibly the most trippy setting of the D&D Universe and it had a unique central character that could be any class, any alignment. The nameless one (you) wakes on a slab in one of the giant morturary buildings of the dustmen in the city of doors, Sigil ruled by the enigmatic Lady of Pain. The city is a gateway to many other planes, including demonic ones. You have no memory, only wizened skin over a body covered by writing in an attempt to preserve memories that are long lost to you. How old you are, there is no way of telling. You cannot be killed, merely stopped until you recover and rise once more. What you have done in your prior "lives" is something you will have to find out, and some of this will be far from pleasant. Luckily there is a floating skull with the sort of foul mouth normally associated with a new york cabbie to help you out. It will take a long time to complete the game and a long time even just to get out of Sigil itself, with its many different regions and factions before you finally track down the hag, Ravel who can point you onwards to the next chapter in the game. I say chapter, because you will do a lot of reading - and here's the thing - it is ALL interesting. You will encounter many henchmen, some of whom are easy to enlist and some that are not. They will include Annah, a tiefling theif (human hybrid with demonic blood), the samurai-like Gythanki warrior Dak'hon, the brothel keeper Fall-From-Grace, a Succubus whose kiss can kill, the mad forever-burning mage Ignus, the machine being Nordom and the animated spirit encased in armour called Vhailor. Interaction with the at times quite deep backstory of these characters can enhance your own abilities dependant on your level as well as theirs. All these "people" are linked to you via past incarnations and their motives are at times far from pure. As regards your own class, this can be anything on offer (Warrior, theif or mage) and can be changed at set points to make an amalgam. Lastly, remember that while you cannot truly die, your companions can. Your conversational skills and choice to be good or evil are permitted not only with your own henchmen but also many NPCs. Often, direct combat can be avoided with benefits that are greater than wading straight in. One of the beauties of using Planescape as a setting is to get away from Orcs and Goblins and face the planetouched and demonic entities and strange beasties. The settings are different as well, with Sigil's living city and at times organic structures. One particular location allows you to prevent (or assist) a town's slide from purgatory into one of the planes of hell. I will not give away too much of the plot, but an overriding theme is to do with redemption and acceptance of one's fate. Even the ending does not cop-out. The one drawback of the game is that the Nameless one can never wear armour. The quality of the writing is superb - Descriptive and flowing prose that avoids bad fantasy cliché. It really helps in setting the scene in detail, but on the flip side it will not be suitable for those gamers who prefer their RPGS to be on the distinctly slash, bash, monster mash side of things. The game is based on the infinity engine developed for Baldur's gate and the graphics have not aged well even if the score remains fantastic. Interface is straightforward point n' click with a few keyboard shortcuts. Although FFVII and KOTR have come the closest to matching Torment's story, I'm still waiting seven years later for something quite as good. Getting hold of Torment can be difficult unless you are willing to pay a premium for a cult classic. I would advise buying from Ebay for under a tenner as this is a much cheaper option.
You like role-playing games, of course you do , what can be more fun than at the end of a stressful and boring day of work, you set about bludgeoning to death a series of bizarre monsters who have more points of articulation than a Swiss army knife. And so this is one of those opinions where I tell you how wonderful the product is, you read it, I get dooyoo miles and everyone is happy at the end of it ... hopefully. But enough about this introduction, onwards! Oh yeah and plot details are discussed so look away or turn off the computer and walk away. Well isn’t Black Isle just marvellous. Not only did they help produce the brilliant games "Fallout" and "Fallout 2”, in which you took on a character in a post apocalyptic world trying to save your people from extinction, they also created the fantastic "Baldurs Gate" and "Baldurs Gate 2: Shadows of Amn" as well as the add -on packs "Tales of the Sword Coast " for Baldurs Gate 1 , which proved to be a huge success as well as the other add on pack for Baldurs Gate 2 (which I canna remember the name cap'n) , they've gone and created a new role playing game for the PC. The game itself goes along the title of "Planescape Torment" which is a rather odd name but with most of Black Isle's titles they seem to run along with the theme of the game itself for example "Fallout" the whole game was practically set in a radioactive wasteland and so on. The plot itself in this case is a strange one , you aren’t really the sole survivor of humanity nor are you its last great cause. In this case you wake up in a mortuary with your body laced with deep scars and you don't remember a thing of who you are or where you're from . From the sight of your wounds you SHOULD be dead , but then again you are the nameless one (also the game would end pretty quickly) Now comes the sneaky bit , the plot revolves around t he fact that you the character are immortal , your "mortality" in a sense has been stolen which you learn a little later into the game . If you die you get back up again fully revitalised with no real damage done to you , though in some instances you can be removed from the planes by being fried , eaten , captured or tangling with deific figures whose power is way beyond your own but in the majority of instances you cannot die and this makes for some interesting scenarios. My favourite out scene has to be in a game when a religious spokesperson is having a debate in one of the buildings and he states that "After death there is nothingness" , to this you can say that you cannot die and you can repeatedly kill yourself to prove this point to the extreme embarressment of the spokesperson and also to give you some good experience. When you start the game you can choose your statistics which are Strength (STR) Wisdom (WIS) Intelligence (INT) Constitution (CON) Dexterity (DEX) and Charisma (CHR/CHA) , the game is actually on the same engine as the engine for Baldurs Gate 1. They all start from a base of 9 and you get 21 points to spend on each statistic or "stat". These “stats” govern certain factors of your character. Increasing Strength allows you to dish out more damage and carry heavier items in your backpack making it good for the fighter class. Wisdom is good for the priests and for some dialog options aswell. Intelligence is a must for mages as it allows more spell spaces for the character to use so he can cast a spell more than once a day. It also introduces more dialog options and is useful for certain puzzles and situations . You may be able to outwit stupid enemies or figure out traps before you set them off. Constitution is your health controlling statistic but seeing as you are an immortal there is no real point in using it unless you want to last in those big fights with scythe wielding morons who seem to k eep on coming back. Dexterity is important should you want to become a thief but with the inclusion of the PC “Annah” who is a thief you have no real reason in pursuing the class of thief , Dexterity also affects your armour class , a high dexterity value means you have lower armour class making you harder to hit. Charisma is the final statistic and it allows for more dialog options and can reduce prices of items at shopping markets and so forth. Personally I like to choose the Mage class purely for all the cool spells that you can learn , the basic spell “Magic Missile” looks a lot better on Planescape Torment than it does on Baldurs Gate 1. My favourite spell has to be the priest spell “Call Lightning” which sends down a huge lightning bolt in the area of your choice and does around 50 damage depending how close the enemy is to the bolt of lightning. Unlike Baldurs Gate or Fallout , there isn’t a large number of party characters you can acquire so I can list them here. Morte : Morte is a hovering talking skull who you meet at the start of the game and he has a penchant for insults as well as for fighting . Do the quest for “Ingress’s Teeth” and you can turn him into a powerful fighter. Talking with him can dispel information on what to do next in the game. Dak’kon: Dak’kon is of the race githzerai and as you learn is an outcast of his own people for going against their ideals . He is a Fighter / Mage and a powerful combination at that. As he levels up his sword (which is made from a special material) changes shape and consistency . At level 7 fighter the weapon changes to a “Chained Blade” which gives plus four to AC and one to twelve slashing damage which is quite funky. You can also learn spells from his religious item “The unbroken circle of Zerithmon”. This item can teach you up to six new spells depending on how high your wisdom and in telligence is and is very useful. Talking to him can reveal about his past Annah: As I’ve said before Annah is a Fighter/Thief . She is useful in opening doors and doing backstab damage and plenty of other thief skills like detecting traps and sneaking. Talking with her usual gives some sort of backchat or quick witted remarks but shes useful nonetheless. Fall-From-Grace : This is the only priest in the entire game and she is of a Succubus race , but don’t worry shes a good one. She doesn’t get on well with Annah and there’s some kind of female competition going on between the two but her healing skills are extremely valuable. Talking with her reveals secrets of her troubled childhood. Ignus: Ignus is a pure mage who due to your characters actions in a past life made him completely aflame. He is essentially a walking fireball but his fire magic is second to none and he has an incredibly high intelligence and constitution score which means he can learn a lot of spells and he regenerates health like the main character. Talking with him allows you to learn secrets of your past lives and you can learn fire magic spells of him but they come at a cost , your health will be lowered permanently by this but the experience for doing so , and the spells , are well worth it. There are two more characters who I wont reveal because they are secret (tee-hee) but they are well worth it as one is a confused and backwards robot whilst the other is a spirit that inhabits a suit of armour , they are called Nodrom and Vhailor . See if you can find them. The graphics in this game are great , the spells look good , the character models and enemies look good and even though it’s the same graphics engine as the first Baldurs Gate game , it looks ten times better and plays a hundred times greater. In terms of longevity this game is HUGE. There are so many quests its unbelievable and with the option of switching betwee n classes of character (fighter mage priest and thief) there is lots to accomplish depending on your path taken in the game. You can choose to be the old goody two shoes or you can go around ruthlessly beating people to within an inch of their life or beyond that. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing this and there is no end to it , you can become any level of experience that you want in the game regardless of class and become as strong as you want. And theres plenty of the wee side quests to keep you interested and those elusive level nine Magi spells that are just plain ridiculous and take about a minute to fully cast. In conclusion , I would definitely choose this game over Baldurs Gate purely because it played a lot better and you can never get lost regardless that the game itself is absolutely huge . Be sure that you listen to Morte’s curses ! -Dude
Sadly I am a Dungeons and Dragons veteran. It's not something I'm proud of, but it is a hobby I can pursue without embarassing recrimination thanks to a software company known as Black Isle. These darling people are responsible for bringing the world of Role-Playing (RP) to the masses in the form of graphical adventure games for the PC. They started out with the superlative post-apocalyptic Fallout series (recently extended with the new Fallout Tactics game). They then moved into partnership with TSR (the makers of Dungeons and Dragons) to bring us the ubiquitously lauded Baldur's Gate. If you've heard of PC games you've heard of Baldur's Gate. Well the same engine is used for Planescape: Torment - the difference however is the subject matter. Even as a fan of D&D, I recognise it's slightly childish short-comings. Planescape completely overthrows this problem with an overall theme that encompasses everything from necrophilia to interdimensional existentialism. Whew, this is heavy stuff... and not for the faint-hearted or easily offended. It is finally a game in an adult market that can actually claim to be adult oriented. For too long have games companies held onto the idea that computer games are for kids, despite the success of the Playstation amongst adults and the knowledge that adults are the primary purchasers of video games. We are still steeped in an ethos of video games = childish end-user. Well, Planescape: Torment ardently rejects such commercially viable rubbish and cuts to the fact that games buyers are adults. Not to get too detailed in an article that will be read by a wide variety of age ranges, Planescape encompasses a host of adult themes... You wake up on a morgue table with no idea of who you are, prior to having an autopsy performed on you for crying out loud! You continue on to replace body parts, find equipment hidden in bodily tracts and all manner of hitherto tabboo topics in the realm of compu ter games. However, unlike the Quakes and Duke Nukems of this world, Planescape doesn't attain it's adult rating through gratuitous use of gore and violence - it is its innovative use of adult plot that sets it head and shoulders above the competition. You won't find beardy dwarves and legions of kobolds here (to incorporate the necessary D&D cliches into the review)... you'll find neurotic immortals who've spent eternity encased in flames and pregnant alleyways (yes alleyways). As you can see, Planescape's storyline is comparable to that of the most imaginative of novels. And that's the beauty of this game - it really transcends the tiresome computer game typicalities that have built up over the years and brings us to a new standard of design. It's far and away the best benchmark for the RP genre... and the benchmark for any game that would claim to incorporate an innovative plot. It's now out on budget. So buy it. Or else.
I had bought this game when it came out last year, and as it has just been re-released on budget i thought i should write and tell everybody how fantastic it it. This is an RPG adventure like no other you have ever played. It is set in Sigal, city of doors and it a million miles away from the normal RPG world of dwarfs, beards and kobolds. It is a world populated by bizarre creatures and landscapes. The best way to illustrate the nature of the world is to tell you that one of the entities you incounter is a pregnant alleyway (yes an alleyway). You take the role of 'the nameless one' who find himself on a slab in a mortuary with no idea who he is or how he got there. The nameless one is immortal and everytime he is killed he wakes up with just a few extra scars. An adventure game in which you cant die? Well nearly, you can be erradicated by a few things such as being digested by something, etc. The character development is fanatstic but a little limited, a thief, figher or mage being the only classes available. But because you are not learning new skills, you are remembering them (becasue of all your past lives) you can switch at will between the classes. By the end of the game you are incredibly powerful capable of astonishing attacks or truely awe inspiring spells. The immortality aspect allows for some very clever plot devices, such as being able to locate your old eyeball to replace your current one or finding a ring inside your intestine that you put there for safe keeping. The story itself is amazing, full of twists and turn and guarenteed to keep you interested right up to end. You can have up to another 5 characters in your group out of a total of 7. This may seem small but it has allowed the developers to build up much rounder characters and the interaction between the group is great, with love, arguements, bitching and full scale fights braking out. If a character doesn't like the what you are doing he may deci de to leave all together. e.g a good character would object to evil actions. There is so much more to this game, with factions, which you can become a member of to gain quests and artifacts, the personalities of the characters you meet as well as the ones that can join your group, the great spell effects, similar to the elaborate spell efects in the Final Fantasy series, to its dark dark sense of humour. It made me laugh out loud a couple of time and any game with necrophilia jokes in the first 2 minutes gets my vote straught away. Please bear in mind this is an adult game, and not suitable for young children. This is the best RPG i have ever played, its original, full of surprises, and will suck you into the story and you wont want to end. Now its out on budget you have no excuse. If you are in anyway interested in gaming and even if your not, Buy this game now.
Some computer games are very dull or very stupid. Some computer games are very dull AND very stupid. So when you stumble upon a computer game that is not only neither dull nor stupid, but actually very exciting and very clever, it is a cause for great celebration. And PLANESCAPE: TORMENT is just such a game. It is certainly the only PC game I have ever played to suggest that the format can approach the cinema as a medium for great storytelling. PLANESCAPE: TORMENT was made by Black Isle Studios, who were responsible for the best-selling Role Playing Game BALDUR’S GATE (and its sequel), but although I played and largely enjoyed BG, even its biggest fans might admit that it was prone to lapse into cliché on occasion with its silly songs and pantomime villains. TORMENT is also based in an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons setting, but rarely if ever resorts to the often rather tired stereotypes of that genre. In fact the game’s narrative is blessed with an enormous degree of originality and invention. TORMENT is – initially - set in a place called Sigil, otherwise known as “The City of Doors”. Sigil is a most unusual city, because hidden within it are countless ‘Planar Portals’ – gateways to other dimensions. These portals can be located anywhere within Sigil, and the keys that open them can be anything from a weapon or a piece of junk to an uttered word or simply a particular thought (well it beats taking the Tube). Sigil itself is populated by all sorts of strange and wonderful characters, representing numerous races, most of them unpleasant, from every dimension. The city is ruled over by The Lady of Pain, who is not, despite her name, a multi-dimensional dominatrix, but rather an enigmatic and largely unseen presence, who will zap anyone who annoys her into one of her interminable mazes. So actually I suppose she is a kind of multi-dimensional dominatrix. There are also fifteen ‘factions’ withi n the city – groups of citizens with distinctive philosophical, spiritual, and political convictions - such as ‘The Transcendental Order’ (who are a bit like the Natural Law Party), ‘The Free League’ (more Liberal Democrat), and the ‘The Xaositects’ (er…?) The character you play is simply known as ‘The Nameless One’. It is unusual for a Role Playing Game not to allow you to name your character (you don’t get to choose his appearance either, and he’s an ugly, hulking bastard), but it is essential for this game. That is because The Nameless One is a complete amnesiac, who can remember not a jot of his past existence, let alone his name. The object of TORMENT is to recover your memories and find out exactly who you are. The Nameless One’s second key quality is that he is, for all intents and purposes, immortal. He can die (and in fact the game begins with you sitting up on a mortuary slab), but death is rarely permanent. Indeed death is sometimes advantageous, or even fundamentally necessary for progress throughout the game (a feature that takes some getting used to when you play). PLANESCAPE: TORMENT uses the same graphics engine as BALDUR’S GATE, and the isometric view of events is similar. However the perspective is noticeably closer, allowing for more detail in the characters and better animation. The scenery is also highly detailed, with every brick and stone of Sigil rendered with enormous precision, and the taverns, marketplaces and other locations looking surprisingly realistic. The gameplay is similar to that of BG, with well-judged use of the pause button essential for combat, use of spells, and any inventory juggling. The characters in your party appear along the bottom of the screen (rather than along the side like in BG), and there is even more of a text-based side to the game, the interface for which is quick and simple to use. Progress in TORMENT is measured in Experience Points, which are gained through combat, and – more often – through movement towards your overall goal and the completion of the many optional quests available along the way. With experience comes better fighting/spell casting/thieving abilities, and you can switch between Fighter, Mage, and Thief class at any time. Though you can choose your initial character attributes, such as Strength, Wisdom, Charisma etc. (allowing you to be hard but thick, clever but dull, Mr Average, or whatever), your alignment (Good, Neutral, or Evil) is shaped by your words and actions, and may fluctuate throughout the game. The Nameless One’s qualities (and those of his party) can be boosted by various magical items and weapons, and also – bizarrely – by tattoos, which can be obtained from Sigil’s famous parlour. What makes PLANESCAPE: TORMENT a classic game is its superb writing. Black Isle have had no hesitation in making it a dark, complex story, with a depth of character and narrative that is almost unheard of. Sigil is a grim, grey city, with ugly and claustrophobic architecture, and the scenery gets no prettier when the story expands into the outer planes. This makes it at times a discomfiting game, but also one with an unbelievable amount of atmosphere. The themes of the story are similarly bleak, with pain, torture, and particularly death recurring motifs. As the story deepens, so does its themes, with oblique questions such as “What can change the nature of a man?” becoming ever more relevant to the Nameless One’s search for answers. No less important to the game’s compelling ambience are the characters. As an immortal amnesiac, The Nameless One has great scope for character development, and he definitely becomes more fascinating the longer the game progresses. Unlike in BG, there are only a tiny number of Playing Characters whom you may invite to join your adventure. Though it is not essential to enlist all or most of them, the game is considerably more difficult and less interesting if you don’t, simply because each is such engaging company. For example you are joined at the very beginning of the game by Morte, an over-opinionated and oversexed floating skull (!), the cynical but witty contributions of whom light up proceedings throughout. Similarly fun to have around is Annah, a tailed but otherwise humanoid thief. Though it is not clear where she got her strong Scottish accent (perhaps there is a portal in Sigil leading to Aberdeen?), her harsh and uncompromising manner is refreshing in an RPG, even if she does occasionally appear to have wandered in from an Irvine Welsh novel (listen out for her deriding Sigil as “Wanker City”). As if anticipating the cult following this game has acquired since its release in 1999, the makers enlisted many respected actors from the world of cult television to voice the key characters. These include Mitch Pileggi (Skinner in THE X-FILES), Dan Castellaneta (Homer and others in THE SIMPSONS), John De Lancie (Q in STAR TREK) and, er, Sheena Easton (well she was in MIAMI VICE for a while). In many ways PLANESCAPE: TORMENT is a brave game for the mass market, since its mature themes and grim visuals are hardly consistent with the bright and inconsequential fare that still dominates the games market. However it must also rank as one of the most intelligent, engrossing, and rewarding computer games ever made. One could almost call it unforgettable…
When I first saw this game for sale in the shops I was a bit hesitant as to whether or not to buy it, while I had liked baldur's gate I had never finished it and in fact got fairly bored with the game. Within minutes of playing Planescape: Torment however I really got drawn into the story, it was the best I had ever seen in any game for a long time and really kept me interested until the very end. I really hope a sequel is made. The game centres around a character known as the nameless one, you wake up with no memory of who you are, yet other people seem to know who you are. As you progress through the game you gain more and more memories as well as meet more people who know you, as each memory is unlocked you may gain new abilities or simply gain more insight into your character. I really enjoyed the way that new abilities were unlocked by simply remembering them as it seemed a fairly unique idea. The game is very text based, the amount you have to read while playing is quite large so people who get bored easily with heavily story-based games will probably get bored of this easily, the combat system isn't the best you will ever have seen either although I personally found it fine. One of my favourite things about this game was the variety of ways you could actually choose to play the main character, rather than being stuck on a single character class you could easily switch between fighter/mage/thief, you also get more choice over how your character advanced as you advance in level as you get more control over what abilities to improve than you seemed to in baldur's gate or similar games. I also enjoyed the way that any alignment was playable rather than games where being evil is very hard or nearly impossible. I also found the game more replayable than certain games, there are many paths you can take in certain encounters and the encouragement to go back and try the paths you previously didn't take are good, the fact that there are less possible party members means that each one seems to have more character and you feel you "know" them far more than I do in most rpg's. My only complaint would be about the stability, after playing for a while the game seemed to slow down quite a bit, something which I and other people noticed, it also seemed to crash on occasion much like baldur's gate seemed to for me. However this is a minor problem really that is soon ignored. Overall I would say buy this game and play it as soon as you can, provided you enjoy the storyline you should love the game.
Planescape needless to say is different from any other rpg. The humour is no way for some younger bg fans and is more in line with the stylings with fallout but then this is a black isle game as opposed to a bioware game. The first thing to notice is that everything is much bigger and frankly if you play this then go back to bg you'll wonder why you were ever satisfied with the scrawny bg figures. The spells are better than even baldur's gate two and it is certainly harder to play. The concept is more interesting and as it contains millions of lines of dialogue the plot is more than fully-formed. The drawbacks are in the form of mainly of the fmv used for some of the higher order spells, the ease with which if youare a veteran of bg that you can defeat the game and the fact that you can run and no other characters can. Quick tip by the way unlike in the dale and baldurs gate only one member of the party needs to cross to the edge of the zone for them all to leave and this makes escaping bad guys much easier. This game is original and refereshing but beware it will eat into your time like no other i once went two whole days without sleep playing it.
Conceptually stunning, visually astounding and generally amazing. Planescape takes us out of the usual hack and slash settings we find in the genre (Baldur's Gate for instance) and into a series of worlds where your greatest weapon isn't a sword +5 or anything like that, but your mind. The plot is complex and cohesive from beginning to end, the NPCs are sensitively crafted and have believable personalities despite being incredibly varied (a talking skull, a succubus and a foxy half demon for instance). It's not something you can get through by being bloodthirsty although there's enough action to keep your ego flattered. It owes more to the Dark Sun games in terms of atmosphere while the smooth gameplay is straight from Baldur's Gate. I eagerly await a game that can equal this, but fear anything else will fail to match it. In the meantime, I'll settle back into playing it from start to finish - again!
RPGs are rapidly changing shape these days. With things moving into first-person and closer to the dreaded action/adventure game, it's easy to lose touch with what makes a *real* RPG. There have been very few true members of the genre appearing recently, as developers move into things which have a wider appeal for the general public. It looked like the genre was going to die, but Black Isle have restored my and countless other fans' faith. With first Baulder's Gate and now this, it's a dream come true! This game is based on the AD&D rule set. This doesn't mean that you sit in front of the screen looking at a pad of paper while heavily bearded men converse over the merits of orcs and ogres. The rules have actually been moulded into a computer game environment in such a way as to retain the same basics as the original pen and paper version but still make it very playable. The game is set in one of the standard AD&D settings: Planescape, a land of many different environments connected by a central hub: the city of Sigil. You begin your quest as you wake on a mortuary slab in this city. You don't know who you are or why you're there, but a floating skull tells you that you have instructions on what to do inscribed on your back. Sounds weird? It gets weirder, so watch out! The plot is easily the best that I have ever seen in a computer game. Ever. No joke. In fact, it borders upon some of the better novels I have read. The dialogue is also fantastic, and is up to the standard of said novels. There are a wide range of settings throughout the game for you to explore, and the atmosphere in each is very, very good and distinct. For example, in the starting city of Sigil there is a tangible feeling of decay and despair. It is so easy to get immersed in the whole thing, I really have seen nothing like this! Unfortunately, the dialogue is still based on the multiple choice response system, meaning that it is just a matter of time un til you can find the "right route" through a conversation. The AD&D origins of this title are quite apparent in the way that everything comes down to statistics and probabilities. You also have various other jargon to contend with including levels of proficiency, armour classes, alignment and worse. This means that things can get quite complicated at times, but it is not necessary to understand all the mechanics of the game to enjoy it. Still, this is no easy nut to crack, and I would not suggest that those dipping their toes into the genre start with this. The core of the game centres around completing quests. These range in size from the irritating "fetch and carry" tasks (of which, indecently, there are far too many) to monster sized quests which progress throughout the game. There are a nice range of things on offer, and loads of them. You always feel like there is something for you to be doing, which is a great feeling. You have to build up a party of characters as you progress through the game, and build up their stats and develop them into the kind of people you want. It's easy to get attached to them as each have a realistic personality. Combat. Ah yes, beautiful. It takes place in real time, but with one important feature: it's pausable. This means that rather than being the hectic and random experience that you might expect, you can sit back and look at your situation, instruct your players on who to attack, which spells to cast, and then watch it all play out. Great stuff. I wouldn't do not to mention the graphics, so I will. The backgrounds are all pre-rendered, so while being completely static, they are also very detailed, complete with good lighting effects. They would look even better if you could get out of the default 800x600 resolution, but it isn't too bad. The player models are similarly well detailed, however the animations are a bit jerky. In fact, the whole game tends to g rind to a halt under not much pressure. This is no game. It is a story, a real story that is very believable. Some people may argue that it is too similar to Baulder's Gate. It is true that the underlying mechanics of them are very similar and the graphic engine used is the same. However, the stories are completely different, and in the world of RPGs, it is the story that makes the game.
Having played Baldurs Gate and Fallout 2 I eagerly awaited the release of Planescape Torment. Sadly, I was hugely disappointed in the game. No loads of monsters, no items to buy etc and not much in the way of battles etc. It was more like having a chat than playing an RPG to be brutally honest. You have to interminably talk to everyone you meet, ok it has it's good points, some interesting supporting characters, but it's far too involved. I simply couldn't get into it and left it unfinished, unlike BG which I platyed through 3 times.
Planescape Torment This game is based on the popular Planescape realms of fantasy role playing fame. In it, you take the lead as The "Nameless One", a character that awakens on a slab in a mortuary with no knowledge of who he is or how he got there. You can modify this character to soe extent, deciding whether he is a fighter, a thief or a mage so to speak. This will play a key role in how you play the game. What follows is a quest that takes you across the planes in search of your identity and leaves at all times wondering "what am I doing here?" The game has a very nice twist in that the main character is immmortal (odd for a game you know). This means you are free to die as often as you like and you will hop straight back up again in a safe place ready for more. The game features many interesting additions such as the ability to take additional characters with you to assist you with the game in various ways. These characters themselves can also be fighters, thieves and so on... What I liked about the game is its excellent story. The more you work your way through the game the more you reveal about yourself and your past. Discovering your past is a major part of finding your future and as you progress you will discover that you have lived countless lives. Each life with its own unique personality and each having a profound effect on the realm in which it existed. The game has everything, action, adventure, mystery, romance... you name it. I have only come across a game so complete once before and that was Baldurs Gate. If you liked BG, you will love this, the combat is very similar as with many other aspects of the games. Visually it is not terribly impressive in the character graphics but the spells more than make up for this. It is clear that a lot of work has gone into this and the quality bursts out everywhere. It would be easy for me to go on about this forever but I will simply say, Planescape Torment is a story, a story in which you have control of the lead. However its not just a story, its agreat story and defiitely one not to be missed by anyone that calls themselves an RPG fan. Happy Planewalking!
"One of these days you'll wake up dead" said my mum, exsaparated with me daydreaming instead of doing the chores. And you know what? She was right. In Torment, you play a corpse that's just woken up on a mortuary slab. You know nothing about the world you live in, what you are doing dead, and even what your name is. From then on you are 'The Nameless One'. If you hadn't guessed from the box, or the CD's or the slim manual, a talking skull called Morte soon makes you realise that your in a fantasy world. Unlike normal Tolkeinesque fantasy, it's a pretty Grimy place called Sigil, the centre of the Planes. You'll learn the rest as you go along. I had to. And the journey is fun. Sigil is part of the 'Planescape' setting for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (Ad&D). I'm not a role-player myself, but my friends who are love this setting, and I can see why. It's dark, power has it's price, heroes live in the gutter and the chances of a happy ending seem slim. Luckily Morte adds a little humour to the situation so you don't end up feeling to depressed about it all. Gameplay? To be honest, the reason I've not mentioned it is because it doesn't get in the way. The mechanics are simple enough, the graphics a little dark but well drawn and the underlying AD&D mechanics don't get in the way to much after reading the manual. Pointing and clicking with the mouse becomes second nature as you get immersed in the plot. The actually plot line seems to be pretty non-linear to me (having played it at a similar time to me), with your actions effecting how people relate to you later. The game world reveals itself slowly, with several twists, clever turns and one or two places where you can second guess the plot and feel clever for doing so. It's as close as I've played to a 'real' RPG on a computer. Hours and hours of gaming on 4 CDs. Now looking forward to finishing it and looking at Baldurs gate 1 and 2 and Icewind Dale, all based on the same game engine, but in different worlds.