Product Type: Interplay PC games
Newest Review: ... 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 sa... more
Plane Scape Torment (PC)
Member Name: Danscomp
Plane Scape Torment (PC)
Advantages: Unique setting. Wonderful characterisation and story.
Disadvantages: If your idea of a CRPG is Diablo, look elsewhere.
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.
Summary: Unforgettable. Peerless. 6 stars!