magisterrex Retro Game of the Week: Planescape: Torment (1998)

There are few words that can describe the wonder that is Planescape: Torment.  A few that come to mind: amazing, deep, glorious, immersive.  This game is worth every accolade sent its way and more.

Planescape: Torment 1998 RPG Classic

Planescape: Torment 1998 RPG Classic

Released by Interplay in 1998, Planescape: Torment was developed by Black Isle Studios, the RPG masters who also worked on Icewind Dale, Fallout, and Baldur’s Gate.  The game is set in the Planescape universe, part of the Dungeons & Dragons setting.  You are in the City of Sigil, the center of the universe – a place where any creature from any place in the multiverse can visit, as long as they do not disrupt the eternal rule of the Lady of Pain.  The game mechanics follow the 2nd Edition rules set, so no Feats or other munchkin bells & whistles.

The graphics are in 2D isolinear, a standard for RPGs of the late 1990’s.  Though not as detailed when compared to today’s near photorealistic graphics, the characters and backgrounds are still quite detailed, and do not distract from enjoyable gameplay.  The music sounds a bit other-worldly, which is par for the course for a game set in the Outer Planes of the D&D cosmos.  Unlike some games, where the music is either repetitive or annoyingly out-of-place,  the music in Planescape: Torment does what it’s supposed to do: add atmosphere to the gameplay and stay in the background.  By the way, the sound effects and spoken dialogue are spectacular, too.

Waking up in the Mortuary!

Waking up in the Mortuary!

You begin the game waking up from a marble slab in the middle of the mortuary.  You don’t know who you are.  You don’t know anyone you meet.  You’re covered with scars that seem too numerous to be received in just one lifetime, which is to be expected, as it seems you have a curious immortality: although you can die, you cannot stay dead.   This isn’t a standard RPG; your goal isn’t to find a treasure or defeat an ultimate villain.  All you need to do is to discover exactly who you are, and why is it that you suffer so.  As you progress through the game, you will gain new insights to who you’ve been, the friends and enemies you’ve made, and the feats you’ve accomplished.

Character generation in Planescape: Torment

Character generation in Planescape: Torment

Since your memory is gone, you choose what class you want to level up in as you gain experience, and you are not limited to that class each time you reach the next experience plateau.  More importantly, experience is rewarded for more than just combat.  How you speak to NPCs can result in a bonanza of experience points, as can completing tasks.  The choices you face in every encounter can adjust your alignment depending on what approach you take.  In short, everything about Planescape: Torment is open-ended, the hallmark of an excellent RPG.

As you gain experience, you also gain ability points.  Which attributes you put those points towards makes a difference in how the game progresses.  New dialogue options might open up for you.  Certain NPCs may treat you differently.  Quests might have different parameters.  Your choices impact how the game plays!

Chatting with the locals in Avernus.

Chatting with the locals in Avernus.

I cannot remember a game that I have enjoyed more than Planescape: Torment.  In fact, it became my favorite game I ever played back when it was released, and no game since has been able to knock it from that position.  The only weakness I can think of for this game is that eventually it ends.  If Black Isle made another Planescape game I would buy it in a heartbeat.  If you haven’t played Planescape: Torment, you’ve missed out on something BIG.  Get yourself a copy. STAT!!


7 Responses

  1. […] Planescape: Torment (Interplay Productions, 1999).  Not really anything horrific in this game, but the fact that you play what is essentially a hero (or villain) who keeps waking up in the Mortuary whenever he dies, and that the undead are found throughout the game, it at least deserves a mention.  Besides, it is quite possibly the best RPG ever made, and gives me an excuse to point to another blog entry on it: magisterrex Retro Game of the Week: Planescape: Torment […]

  2. […] More on the classic retro game (really!) Planescape: Torment can be found here: Retro Game of the Week – Planescape: Torment […]

  3. Well, according to user reviews on the UK site, it is Planescape Torment! 🙂

  4. Well, all I can say is at £14.95 plus £2.95 shipping coming to $17.90, which is about $28.00, $30.99 with free shipping on is pretty close, although not the DVD version who’s to say the UK version is with pdf manual and U.S. version with printed manual? Which would certainly make up for the $2 price difference!

    Alternatively, you’re looking at around $30 to get it shipped from the UK (if they allow it!), so that’s an option.

    I would say that Bethesda have a big hand as to why Interplay is only re-releasing the Black isle titles in the UK, because it’s not only PS:T that’s been re-released, it’s Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Night’s etc!

    • Regardless of the price on, it’s not on the American or Canadian amazon platforms. Unless the original development team is involved in a sequel, I’d be very wary of buying it. The original game is such a classic that I’d hate to have my gaming memories sullied by a translation to today’s action-RPG standard (or worse yet, Guitar Hero: Planescape).

  5. Now re-released on DVD (as opposed to 4 CD’s!) by Interplay – get it on Amazon for under $20 – and maybe if enough buy – there WILL be a Planescape 2!!!

    • I took a look at both and .com and didn’t find Planescape: Torment for that price, nor did I see a DVD version. It looks like it’s a UK-only release. Does Interplay even exist anymore, and if so, is it solvent enough to publish games? Sounds more like a SLASH Corporation-style re-release.

      But I’ve been wrong before…

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