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Bargain Bin: Planescape: Torment

By: Aidan Kearney

Cost: $9.99 and 20+ hours

What would you do if you couldn’t permanently die? No matter how hard you tried, nor how often,  you could not stay dead? In need of an RPG with an incredible amount of writing and unique characters such as a wise-cracking floating skull? Then Planescape: Torment is most definitely worth your time.

Released in 1999 by Black Isle Studios, developers of classic RPGs such as Baldur’s Gateand Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment is based off of a unique advanced Dungeons and Dragonscampaign of the same name, converting the table-top mechanics into gameplay that allows you to pause during the combat to strategize on the fly and an isometric camera view.

Coming from both personal experience and common criticism, the combat is less than great. Spells that deal heavy damage are few and far in between, as are healing items. The game also encourages leveling mental stats like intelligence and wisdom more than physical stats such as strength and health, which results in a rather vulnerable character. Fortunately, Planescape: Torment’s combat grievances can be alleviated by lowering the game’s difficulty slider and talking your way out of combat.

Thanks to Planescape: Torment’s heavy focus on dialogue and narrative puzzles, having even a relatively average amount of points in charisma, intelligence, and wisdom will allow you to persuade yourself out of many hostile combat situations. Some situations are unavoidable, but by pursuing the right dialogue trees and asking as many questions as possible to various NPCs, you’ll more often than not call someone’s bluff or dissuade them from hostility.

I should give fair warning; the walls of text in this game could wrap around the Great Wall of China.

Planescape: Torment’s most notable feature is the protagonist’s journal. The journal is carried by the protagonist, a heavily scarred undead being called “The Nameless One” with a severe case of amnesia. Because of his lack of memory, The Nameless One begins his journal as a way of keeping track of his memories and hopefully discovering what happened to him prior to waking up in a mortuary, the game’s first major area. The Nameless One will inform the player of whenever the journal updates by saying “Updated my journal.”

As time goes on, that quote will be playing in your head on repeat.

Every event within the game updates the journal with a summary of what happens. As the player delves deeper into the game’s bizarre and unpredictable world, the journal rivals the length of a novel.

The Nameless One embarks on the quest for his memory with a colorful cast of characters, who allhave a mysterious connection to the protagonist. The characters you meet include a snarky, taunting skull named Morte, providing much of the game’s exposition, a succubus, a man constantly surrounded by an inferno with an addiction to fire, and a religious samurai priest whom each have their own unique personalities and deep backstories which provide for a great read.

Despite being almost two decades old, Planescape: Torment’s strong writing, strange but alluring world, and environmentdesign make it well worth playing. Fans of old-school RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale will love this game.  It’s available only on PC and  often on sale at GOG.com