Planescape Torment: A morbid beginning

dust1It turns out that you folks really, really want me to talk about Planescape Torment, and I am more than happy to oblige.  As I said in my poll last week, I have a number of titles in my GOG.com library (and plenty more on my wishlist) that I’ve wanted to play through and document on this here blog, so it’s good for you guys to kick my butt and get me started on it.  I’m not 100% sure if I’ll be playing each game to completion (although that would be ideal), as it really depends on how long it’ll take.  Tackling a 60-hour RPG very casually could take a few months.  So we’ll see.

Let’s get started with this game, though!  Planescape Torment is one of my favorite computer RPGs of all time. I’ve only played it through all the way once (back in 2002 or so), but it was absolutely captivating.  It opened my eyes to the fact that there were D&D settings that weren’t Forgotten Realms or Dark Sun, and although I haven’t seen any Planescape stuff since, this remains my favorite campaign.  It’s a bizarre fantasy setting that’s full of twists on standard tropes, a grungy run-down world, secrets and portals, and, y’know, floating talking skull heads.

One of the things that I loved about PT is that you could play it much like an adventure game with very little combat (I think that if you play your cards right, you only *have* to fight twice in the entire game).  With that in mind and with the resolve to not rely on walkthroughs for this series, I rolled up my Nameless One with as high wisdom and intelligence as possible so as to open as many memories, dialogue options, and adventure options.

The story starts with your character — a scarred, twisted hulk of a man — waking up in a mortuary with no recollection of who he is save for a cryptic tattoo on his body.  I’m instantly joined by Morte, the aforementioned floating skull, who becomes my first companion.  This unusual opening coupled with the odd dialogue (Planescape has a lot of localized slang that you have to get used to) draws me right into the setting.  There’s some voiced dialogue by NPCs, although it’s not fully voiced (I think the guy who does Homer Simpson’s voice does one of your companions later on).

I love Morte.  You wouldn’t think a floating skull could be that interesting, but he’s always got something funny to say and an interesting perspective on the situation.  For example, I start out in a room full of dead bodies and shambling zombies (who aren’t the enemy, but just workers).  Morte begs me not to slice up the female zombies, since he thinks he might have a shot with them.  How would that work, skull?  Actually… I don’t want to know.

Even with so much death around, the mortuary is pretty peaceful.  It helps that you’re not being attacked unless you attack first.  Pretty soon I bumped into Dhall, a “Dustman” who is more fascinated than angry with me.  There are great descriptions of the people and objects in the text window, and the whole setup reminds me of a nice hybrid of Baldur’s Gate and Fallout.  Sometimes getting those little text snippets can be really immersive, because it asks your imagination to join in.

Between Dhall and Morte, I’m given the rough basics of what’s going on.  Apparently I’m an immortal guy who can’t die forever, but loses his memories each time I’m put down.  Morte’s been my companion for a while, Dhall has encountered me fairly often, and the tattoo on my back tells me to read a journal (which I’ve lost) and find a guy named Pharod.  A little later I find out that my final purpose might well be to get rid of my immortality, although how to do that might be a problem.  That’s a good start.

Escaping the mortuary is the primary goal, but there’s a lot to be discovered if you’re patient and explore carefully.  Many of the zombies have secrets (“many things have secrets” is the game’s motto, I swear), and there are a few advantages that can be gained if you take the time to do a couple side quests.  Before I left, I got stitched up by a Tiefling, took apart a number of skeletons for runes, talked with a ghost who claimed to be my long-lost lover (not having memories, I had to take her word at that), and evaded a number of Dustmen who wanted to kill me all over again.  The place is just three levels, although I remember it taking a long time to escape when I first played it.  This time around it was about 45 minutes or so, and I got a level out of it.

I’m playing the game on the default settings, which means an absurdly low resolution.  I know that there are mods to allow more standard resolution, so I’m going to have to look into those.  I’m a little tired of only seeing 1% of the map at any given time.

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One thought on “Planescape Torment: A morbid beginning

  1. Yes, I believe that GOG’s forum has a link to the necessary mods. It’s a multi-step process, but when you’re done, you have a significantly more expansive view.

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