Friday, 4 September 2015

Planescape Torment

Planescape Torment is the kind of computer RPG that any fan of media and art, digital or otherwise, should experience.

A personal, genuinely complex RPG whose brilliance outshines its bugs and foibles.


I just finished the game. Wow. It was an excellent game with the most authentic role-playing I have seen. Role-playing, story and dialogue are the most important parts of an RPG game for me, and this game has it in abundance. The story line deals with issues regarding acceptance of oneself, fate, free-will and morality.

There are choices that influence alignment, many ability checks in conversation, and very enjoyable conversations. This game had full companion banter and conversation, and had done it better than any other game to date. Companions interject in conversations, talk to each other, and you can also talk to them. Each companion has extensive dialogue trees, and by learning more about them and conversing with them skillfully, you unlock new dialogue trees, experience and abilities. I was astonished to how well this was implemented several times, one notable example being when I talked to a companion about Morte, revealing more information about him. Confronting Morte with this new information earned me new dialogue options. Every attribute has an impact on gameplay, even a fighter can use intelligence, wisdom and charisma. This allows you to roleplay any kind of Nameless One.

There are flaws, though. The system was designed for dialogue, and thus is unwieldy in combat. But combat is inevitable in some areas that feature mobs of enemies that you cannot talk to, therefore you are forced to deal with the weird combat system. Although the cities are superb, some dungeons are badly designed, mostly consisting of getting swarmed by large numbers of enemies of the same type, although the boss fights are better. They should have gone all the way with the role-playing focus and reduced the combat to a bare minimum, or made more effort with the combat design.

It would be nice if the game had more customization, but being focused on a set character, that is inevitable. It seems like some options are a bit overpowered. Although this doesn't matter too much in a game that focuses on character growth, not being able to access the most awesome equipment if one is not lawful good is a bit of a bummer, and some character building choices are clearly superior to others.

There were a lot of bugs in the game, a huge amount. Even with the official patch, items would disappear for no reason, quests would be closed off because of faulty scripts, and there were major graphical bugs involving spell use which took a while to learn how to fix. There was also massive slowdown in some areas, with signs of lag and memory leakage. This tended to spring up after playing for a long time, in some cases whenever I scrolled the screen it would take two seconds of freezing for the game to respond. The game works perfectly fast when this bug does not rear its ugly head, and my computer is relatively new, so it definitely should have no problems with the game. The developers said the patch fixed the lag issue, but it did not completely fix it. I realize there is a community patch which is said to be very, very, good, but I always play a game pure my first time and there should not be this many bugs.

I realized that, even though dialogue, story and role-playing are the most important things in an RPG, they are not enough. Convenient interface, smooth gameplay and level design does have a huge impact, since it is a game being played and not a book being read. Planescape's torments flaws are minor compared to its brilliance, the journey left me revitalized as a fantasy-fan and avid reader and lover or stories. 'Wow' is the best word to describe my feelings after seeing the credits roll. It does not dethrone BG2 for me as the no.1 RPG, but is a very, very close second.


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