There are few words that can describe the wonder that is Planescape: Torment. A few that come to mind: amazing, deep, glorious, immersive. This game is worth every accolade sent its way and more.
Released by Interplay in 1998, Planescape: Torment was developed by Black Isle Studios, the RPG masters who also worked on Icewind Dale, Fallout, and Baldur’s Gate. The game is set in the Planescape universe, part of the Dungeons & Dragons setting. You are in the City of Sigil, the center of the universe – a place where any creature from any place in the multiverse can visit, as long as they do not disrupt the eternal rule of the Lady of Pain. The game mechanics follow the 2nd Edition rules set, so no Feats or other munchkin bells & whistles.
The graphics are in 2D isolinear, a standard for RPGs of the late 1990’s. Though not as detailed when compared to today’s near photorealistic graphics, the characters and backgrounds are still quite detailed, and do not distract from enjoyable gameplay. The music sounds a bit other-worldly, which is par for the course for a game set in the Outer Planes of the D&D cosmos. Unlike some games, where the music is either repetitive or annoyingly out-of-place, the music in Planescape: Torment does what it’s supposed to do: add atmosphere to the gameplay and stay in the background. By the way, the sound effects and spoken dialogue are spectacular, too.
You begin the game waking up from a marble slab in the middle of the mortuary. You don’t know who you are. You don’t know anyone you meet. You’re covered with scars that seem too numerous to be received in just one lifetime, which is to be expected, as it seems you have a curious immortality: although you can die, you cannot stay dead. This isn’t a standard RPG; your goal isn’t to find a treasure or defeat an ultimate villain. All you need to do is to discover exactly who you are, and why is it that you suffer so. As you progress through the game, you will gain new insights to who you’ve been, the friends and enemies you’ve made, and the feats you’ve accomplished.
Since your memory is gone, you choose what class you want to level up in as you gain experience, and you are not limited to that class each time you reach the next experience plateau. More importantly, experience is rewarded for more than just combat. How you speak to NPCs can result in a bonanza of experience points, as can completing tasks. The choices you face in every encounter can adjust your alignment depending on what approach you take. In short, everything about Planescape: Torment is open-ended, the hallmark of an excellent RPG.
As you gain experience, you also gain ability points. Which attributes you put those points towards makes a difference in how the game progresses. New dialogue options might open up for you. Certain NPCs may treat you differently. Quests might have different parameters. Your choices impact how the game plays!
I cannot remember a game that I have enjoyed more than Planescape: Torment. In fact, it became my favorite game I ever played back when it was released, and no game since has been able to knock it from that position. The only weakness I can think of for this game is that eventually it ends. If Black Isle made another Planescape game I would buy it in a heartbeat. If you haven’t played Planescape: Torment, you’ve missed out on something BIG. Get yourself a copy. STAT!!