4-One Retro Corner – Planescape Torment

Planescape TormentToday we look at a game that’s made its way into the PC gaming hall of fame as one of the greatest RPGs to ever grace our monitors. Developed by Black Isle studios and released in 1999, it is the wonderful Planescape Torment.

It’s no small secret that I am a huge fan of the infinity engine games of the 90s like the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale series. Planescape Torment is another infinity engine game I also cherish from that era, with absolutely masterful storytelling and fantastic dialogue. It can be argued that the Infinity engine games were the cause of Bioware’s success and what cemented their long standing association with RPGs. Although the game wasn’t a massive success commercially, it stands today as a cult classic and almost universally critically acclaimed.

You start the game as The Nameless One, waking up in a mortuary with no memories of who you are or how you came to be there. You are greeted by a talking skull named Morte who helps you read the tattoos that cover your body. You come to the conclusion that you are immortal and set out on your adventure with nothing but a scalpel. As with all RPGs you are given quests, but here’s where Torment rises above the others. How you complete those quests is up to you. You can use your cunning, your charisma, your stealthiness or simply fight to get the job done. You have a massive amount of freedom to play the game how you want to play. In fact, you can complete the game only having to fight a few times. You can ask whoever you like for help ,whether they decide to help you or hinder you is another story.

Planescape Torment

You start the game as a fighter, but can choose to be a thief or wizard eventually. You can a. lso recruit party members, with up to 5 allowed in your main party. These will treat you differently depending on your actions in the game. As with any Dungeons and Dragons game you have an alignment, although you start out as true neutral. If you lie a lot you’ll become more chaotic, keeping your word will make you more honest, blackmailing and being nasty will change your alignment to evil and helping people will make you good. This will affect how the story plays out. As you progress you’ll learn some things about your former incarnations. You didn’t always act the same, you may have been evil, or a do gooder. You also come across some things you’ve left behind and meet people who recognise you as said evil bastard or do gooder. This can lead to you getting side tracked if you’re anything like me.

The soundtrack and sound in general is superb. I always found the game to be very immersive, not just because of the characters, the story and the dialogue, but also because of being able to listen to the environments I was in. A crowded bar sounded like a crowded bar, you can hear people calling out in markets and so on. The music also fits the atmosphere and environments perfectly.

Finding a video of gameplay to show you at this stage would not be helpful, as the game is heavily story driven, and elements like combat aren’t that important on the grand scale of things. As I said before, you can avoid a lot of combat if you wish. For a look at what the game is like you could look at this video shared by PC Gamer around the same time as the Kickstarter for Torment: Tides of Numenera was gaining momentum.

If you have yet to play Planescape Torment, you can do so by treating yourself to a copy on GOG.com, and keep your eyes out for its spiritual successor, Torment: Tides of Numenera.

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