Planescape: Torment Captures the Ideal Dungeons & Dragons Experience

Planescape: Torment is the classic PC RPG developed by Black Isle and written by Chris Avellone. What sets Planescape apart from its peers is its unique setting and writing quality. As the title implies the game has an overall melancholy mood, but its lightened with doses of humor throughout.

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The game opens with you, the Nameless One, lying on a mortuary slab with no memories and totally unable to die. A talking, floating skull named Morte approaches you and offers to help you figure yourself out. Eventually you two make it out of the mortuary and into the city of Sigil, a neutral ground where all the planes of existence meet. Here you can meet a chaste succubus, creatures that communicate through puzzles, a rate hive-mind, a pregnant alleyway, and much more. You also occasionally venture to some other planes of existence.

 

Unfortunately, the combat system is kind of a mess. It uses a modified D&D 2nd edition rule-set, which is complicated and requires some studying to fully understand. The combat runs in real time, but you can pause to issue orders to your party. Fortunately, most combat encounters are pretty easy and can be won without micromanagement. Worst case scenario, Nameless One revives and you keep trying. Most fights can just be ran away from. Most of your experience points come from quests and dialogue, so don’t feel like you need to fight.

The plot and writing more than makes up for the mediocre combat system. Planescape: Torment’s core is an exploration of the question “What can change the nature of a man?” In your journey you will learn a lot about your character’s past. There are many different versions of yourself out there, and each had a different reason for their actions. You also will meet other character experiencing their own “torment”, as well as reasons to change their nature.

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Planescape Torment tells a great story. And not just a great story “for games”, its one I’d place alongside some of my favorite novels. What really puts it over the top is that its story is best told as a game. Torment doesn’t want to present a singular answer to its core question. It presents many different angles on that idea, lets the player explore them at their own place, and come to their own conclusions.

I love this game. It’s setting gives me exactly what I want from fantasy, lots of weirdness and possibility. Despite what I said earlier about the combat, the gameplay was fantastic for me. I love exploring the world, talking to NPCS, and generally avoiding combat. This is also how I play tabletop D&D. Most other video games based on table top RPGS have a very heavy focus on combat, which isn’t what I like about Tabletop RPGs. So far, Planescape Torment is the only video game to capture what I love about tabletop RPGs.

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