My early thoughts on Planescape: Torment
Planescape Torment is one of the big 3 PC released RPGS that I keep hearing nothing but good things about. In fact, it’s one of the big 3, with the Baldur’s Gate series right beside it. To be honest, I always kept meaning to play any of them, as I did not when they came out. I wasn’t really playing PC games in the 90’s, so I missed them. So, on a whim I bought Torment on GOG to see what the fuss was about. I picked it mostly because I really dig the Planescape setting, and for reasons I will explain later, I didn’t want to play Bladur’s Gate 2 again.
I should note at this point that I’m not through the game, so this is not a review. These are just my thoughts after a few hours, and I do intend to keep playing. The story, to put it simply, is you play The Nameless One, a man who woke up in the Morgue on Sigil, with no memory of who you are. The only clue you have to finding your past is the name Pharod and a letter to yourself written on your back. This is read to you by Morte, your flying skull buddy. Oh, and you can’t die. Death refuses to take you.
Torment defiantly sets itself apart as being one of the more unique RPG’s out there, in many different ways. First off, it’s more story-driven then most. In almost all other RPG’s, combat is a big focus, usually being the only form of action these games have. Here, combat is definitely on the backburner compared to any RPG I’ve ever played. Normally, I find both a solid story and solid combat are required to make a RPG great, so a RPG that is so limited when it comes to half that equation is really starting things off poorly. But here, I have no problem with it. It’s not entirely due to the fact that it’s AD&D,( which is a factor in a way), but rather that the story and the mystery behind it is so interesting and unique that you beg the game to tell you more, but the game is very patient, and every time the game gives you a little tidbit on the back-story of The Nameless One, your ever more interested. I can’t think of a RPG with a more unique premise, both in story and combat.
The fact you cannot die plays rather heavy into the game. Ok, I know you can die, in one very specific way, but in order to do that, you have to mess with the god figure of Sigil, the Lady of Pain.
(yeah.. no. I don’t want to.)
But death, or lack thereof, play a large factor in the game both in combat and for the plot. In combat senses, it means you can’t die, which may make the combat seem easy. It’s not, but I’ll get to that. Death acts more like a checkpoint, which can still serve to frustrate and annoy you, so really, you still don’t want to die. For plot reasons, not being able to die is a really solid mystery to build on. Everyone knows the two things for sure in life are death and taxes. While I’m still too early in the game to really get any clues as to why TNO is immortal, or what any deaths I have impact how the game plays out, I can say for sure that I’m interested, if not just to see what exactly the cost is for this immortality. It never comes for free.
So I really dig the game’s plot. It’s the highlight here without question. But I mentioned on Twitter recently that I’m very torn on this game. Why? Two things really bug me, and both are related to age. Let’s start with the elephant in the room, AD&D. This really holds the game back in a very big way, even if combat is not on the forefront.
I started playing D&D at the tail end of 3rd edition, right before 3.5, so when I play a game like Neverwinter Nights; I understand the system in place without complicated explanation. D&D does have a learning curve, and while newer versions o the game, such as 4th edition and onward, are doing a lot to bring in the casual player or even the MMO fan, but AD&D is old school, and to someone not used to it, backwards. Rules are different, numbers can be reversed (it’s better to have a low AC than a high one, for example) weapon rolls are different; the whole lot of the game is very different mechanically. I think this is tougher on someone like me who learned other editions first, but man does it suck to learn this system. And Torment does not explain anything of the system to you. It never tries. I know combat is secondary to this game, but while the game explains how to do certain things, the fact it never tells you how the system works underneath it is problematic. I get that at the time of this games release, AD&D is the system players played with, so they would know it, but oh god, that’s a huge knock against it. It takes either advance knowledge or furious internet searching to understand how to hit more often or do more damage, or how to lower your AC. If combat had a bigger role, this would make it unplayable in my opinion, not without much research and study ahead of time, and that’s not why we play games. The other issue related to age is the visuals. This game could use a HD port bad. Models are decently detailed, but the camera is zoomed too far in, so we never get to enjoy the design of the world around you. I hope the areas get more varied as well, as quite frankly, I’m already bored of the grey’s and grime that make up Sigil.
The interesting thing about it is that despite these issues’s bugging me, I don’t want to stop playing. This was enough to get me to stop playing Baldur’s Gate 2 last time I tried to play it, and I know it should here. So what keeps me going? The story and the characters are the only thing so far. The characters are all well written so far, but I’m still early in the game, so that may not hold up forever, but right now, I like the rather quirky and oddball team I have acquired. I want to know more about TNO, and the story as it stands is rich enough to make me want to see the ending. I don’t know how I will feel then, but I intend to see this one through to the end. If you’re like me, and want to check this one out, get it from GOG.com. It’s a steal for $10. Now, after this is posted, I dive back into the world of Torment.