What is it about?
Planescape: Torment is a game set in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Planescape campaign universe, and it’s a AD&D rules-based RPG. You play the Unnamed One, who is cursed with eternal life but forgets his past, and you are on a journey of self discovery. That’s the simple description. It’s also about existentialism, surrealism, and the stuff which made Kafka and Dali famous.
Why should I play it now?
Planescape: Torment has the finest writing in video games and one of the craziest stories ever told, which features a lecherous talking skull. The game boasts an astounding script long enough to fill quite a few games’ worth nowadays. When Roger Ebert says that video games are not art, he obviously never played Planescape: Torment. Christopher Nolan would have to notch down the story of this game a bit if he wanted ideas for a sequel to Inception. The words bring the worlds of Planescape to life with astonishing detail, and the worlds are filled with colourful characters. The game focuses more on dialogue and it’s possible to resolve most of the situations through dialogue than combat.
How does it hold up today?
Pretty well. The game featured hand drawn backgrounds and an isometric view, which will hold up forever and ever. It is in the same class as Fallout, Baldur’s Gate II and Icewind Dale II – lots of small characters and buildings and details. The main draw is the writing, and that holds up easily. The game follows a modified version of the D&D rules – it’s actually slightly more difficult than BGII or IWDII in the game mechanics part. Don’t go in expecting Dragon Age II. This game wants you to think.
Is it similar to anything else out there?
Dragon Age: Origins from the recent past. It belongs firmly with Baldur’s Gate II, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale II, and Fallout in terms of looks and gameplay. As for the storyline and writing, it is better than the Monkey Island series, Final Fantasy Tactics, Dreamfall or the Myst series. The game script has over 800,000 words in it; there are books which are smaller.
What do I need to play this?
A simple PC. This game was released in 1999 and ran at 640×480. It will run easily on systems today.
‘When I played through…’
The words! Oh, the words! They set Sigil alight and brought it to life. There was so much detail in the words that I could visualise what the planes must have been with ease. The protagonist catches you by surprise; he is by far the ugliest character you will see, and yet you will empathize with him by the end. Finally, Morte deserves a special mention. His dialogues are absolutely hilarious. There usually is no reason to have a talking skull in your party, but he is so well worth the ride.
Is there anything else I should be aware of (i.e. mods, crazy glitches, contribution to pop culture, Internet meme, etc)?
Planescape: Torment is pop culture. It never sold well, but received lots of critical acclaim. It also features a star cast – Michael T Weiss, Mitch Pileggi, Dan Castellaneta, Sheena Easton, and more. The game shipped with bugs, but there are fan patches available. There is also a freely available book, which puts together the entire game as a novel. If you own a widescreen monitor, be sure to install the widescreen mod and incredible UI mod. There are some essential mods listed on GOG.com, which actually improve the shipped game, including one which unlocks quests which were shipped with the game but not unlocked.
Where do I get it?
GOG.com is your best bet. It’s one of their big sellers, and at $10, it’s a steal. If you do manage to find a physical copy, grab it and put it in your bank locker. They are rare.
If you find Planescape: Torment interesting and would like to play it yourself, let us know on the forums here. We’re giving one IVG member a free copy of the game courtesy GOG.com.
Let us know what you think of the new Back Catalogue retrospective feature, or tell us which classic games you’d like to see featured in the future in the comments section below or in the corresponding discussion thread at the IVG community forums.