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Planescape: Torment (Windows)

89
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.2
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Jeanne (75627)
Written on  :  Feb 23, 2003
Rating  :  4.57 Stars4.57 Stars4.57 Stars4.57 Stars4.57 Stars

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Summary

A game that gives new meaning to the phrase "Die Hard"

The Good

My friends warned me that Torment was "different" and that I might not like the "dark theme". But, on the other hand, other Moby reviewers tout that it is one of the best PC Role-Playing games ever made. So, instead of diving into other games sitting on my shelf, I decided to back up a few years and try Torment and form my own opinions.

And, I'm SO glad I did. I'm writing this review within minutes of finishing it ... and ... I not only liked this game, I Loved It !.

So, what's so different about Torment, you ask? Here's a run-down:
  1. Your Character. He's not a handsome bloke. In fact, he's ugly as sin, with scars, cuts and bruises all over his body. It's obvious he's been around the block a few times. You cannot change the race or sex for the "Nameless One" or those of your party members.
  2. Your Profession is chosen early in the game, but not on the Character Generation screen like in other RPGs. Meet the right people, perform a few tasks for them, and they will teach you the skills to become a Fighter, Thief or Mage etc. And you can change your profession within the game if you wish.
  3. Your Party evolves as you meet and talk to people. Members can join you when asked and will leave when told to. Each one has a distinct personality, attitude, fighting style, and movement. In certain situations, they will interrupt you to make a comment of warning or offer information - even talk among themselves, all of which makes them "feel" more real. You can talk to them to get their opinions, and those opinions are "true to character".
  4. The Story. You're not trying to save a damsel in distress, nor are you attempting to save the world from some evil maniac. As you learn more about your past, you find out that your primary goal is to die!! The whole story is based upon immortality and reincarnation (or in this case the proper word may be "regeneration"). No matter how many times you "die", you come back again.
  5. Conversations have choices. If you lie or bluff, that choice will effect what happens now or in future parts of the game. You can also ask questions repeatedly in case you didn't quite get the answer the first go-round. Experience is gained not only by fighting, but by conversing and questing. In many situations you can even choose not to fight, but to talk your way out of it instead.
  6. Items include strange tattoos with magic properties, weird charms made out of rodents and insects, unusually named spells and weapons, some made out of body parts. Heal yourself with blood droplets of varied strengths, spells, bandages or embalming fluid!


The graphics are beautifully rendered in realistic colors and are smooth and clean. I never got stuck in the scenery with no way out, and did not notice any pixelation whatsoever. I would have enjoyed seeing a "head shot" portrait of people while talking to them, but at least I could look at pictures of them in the Journal area.

Dungeon/Location Maps are similar to other RPGs, but here you are able to add in your own notes. I don't remember that feature being available in Icewind Dale which came out a year later.

When you enter a crowded area (room or marketplace), you hear people talking and laughing amongst themselves. This provides the illusion of the hustle and bustle of everyday life and adds atmosphere. There are 33 original songs in the game, mostly played in the background, so if you have that option turned down you may not even hear them. I got bored with the "battle" music fairly quickly, however.

Finally, it has a wonderful ending! (There are 3 and I was lucky enough to have high enough stats to get the "best" one.) All your questions are answered.

As a side note, my version of Torment was already patched (v.1.1) and came on only 2 CDs (1 install disc and 1 play disc) instead of the 4 mentioned by other reviewers.

The Bad

Even though I thought the game was great, there are still a few things that should be mentioned in this section.

If you play for hours on end, like I did, you may find that the game slows to a crawl. A restart of the game (or my computer) seemed to help the sluggish inventory screens, loss of character highlighting and dumps back to my desktop that I experienced. Of course, this could very well have been a quirk of my video card. (Getting an "unofficial" patch to turn off the battle music helped.)

Combat segments were painfully slow later in the game, and magical spells (although visually stunning) seemed to tax the engine.

Action selection seemed intuitive enough, but it look me some time to master it. I tended to keep the AI "on" all the time, so the characters jumped right in and started attacking before I was ready sometimes (usually when I wasn't expecting a fight). Basically I learned to select everyone and then unselect any people I didn't want to fight in hand-to-hand combat (to move them out of the way for casting spells and such).

When you want to talk to an NPC, only the Nameless One can do it, and he moves to a spot right next to them. Because you are "up close and personal", the Nameless One will get the first blow should any fight ensue. If a group of enemies moves in, they do it very quickly and it is difficult then to get him out of the way (to cast a spell for instance).

I agree that there were too few voices. You sometimes hear the first phrase, but nothing more during a talk session. You cannot skip through long conversations or cut scenes (most irritating if you are replaying a segment and have already done it before).

The Bottom Line

Unlike other games in the genre that offer seemingly unending, immense worlds that take months to travel through, the game map in Torment is smaller and, in my opinion, much more playable and manageable. But never fear - there are still miles of terrain to cover and people aplenty. This game can be as long as you wish, depending upon how many sub-quests you choose to complete.

What this game lacks in size of the world, it makes up for in story. Be prepared to read and read, and read some more. But, like a great novel that you can't put down, the story will engross you and haunt your dreams.

Don't let the "dark theme" dissuade you. Planescape: Torment is a "must play" for every RPG lover, and a game that others have tried to emulate thereafter.