Product Type: Interplay PC games
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A classic RPG
Plane Scape Torment (PC)
Member Name: Stalin
Plane Scape Torment (PC)
Date: 26/11/00, updated on 26/11/00 (29 review reads)
Advantages: Huge, epic story, believable world, great dialogue, good combat, detailed graphics
Disadvantages: Complicated, too many boring quests, jerky animation
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.