By now, it probably goes without saying that I think Planescape Torment is possibly one of the rarest of RPG gems that’s ever been forged. It wasn’t initially well-received, but since has been lifted up as a paragon of RPG development. It’s breathtakingly massive and not a game to play if you hate to read. Wordy, descriptive, clever, funny, heartbreaking, soul-searching, and just about as anti-cliche as you’ll ever find.
Yes, the graphics are pretty basic from a 2013 standpoint, although the art design is just exceptional. Yes, the combat and stat development is pretty basic and boring. But really those are the only two criticisms I can levy against this title, and they seem petty compared to all of its strengths.
This is a game that revels in world-building. It’s a game that’s as far from the Forgotten Realms of D&D as you can get and still be a fantasy D&D title. Sigil and the other planes are ugly, scarred, alien, and mysterious. It’s a world full of secrets and passageways and bizarre concepts that take familiar tropes and turn them on their head.
This is a game that makes you *think.* Your character’s amnesia is far, far more interesting than how it’s usually portrayed in RPGs, and slowly discovering your (rather extensive) past makes your present choices carry more weight. When you can live forever and be anyone, who will you be? When you carry all of these sins that you — the player — didn’t commit but you must atone for (or ignore), is that fair? What can change the nature of a man?
About a decade or so was certainly long enough to erase most of my memories when it came to the specifics of this game’s plot. I did know how it ended, but the journey was more interesting to me and certainly just as enjoyable the second time around. I didn’t get around to all of the side quests and areas (I still have never gotten Nordom), and I’m sure that I played less than perfectly at times. But it was just a thrilling journey and I’m fine with it.
So let’s talk about the ending. Considering the rest of the game, it’s really pretty abrupt and kind of a cakewalk in terms of gameplay. It’s also very much in the vein of the rest of Planescape Torment in that it takes your expectations and shreds them. I think that being separated from my party and then watching them die — and being helpless to do anything about it — was pretty brutal. Moreso because they all knew this was a good possibility and came with you anyway. After they died, I didn’t want to win in the conventional sense. I wanted an ending to the whole sorry affair.
So this puts you in a weird mindset when you do confront the Transcendent One (your mortality). You have been wanting an end to this immortal life, this Groundhog Day, for a long time now. You’re going on this grand quest to die, not to save the world or anything. And winning — either merging with the TO, killing him, or killing yourself — isn’t winning. It’s moving on into either death or the Blood War. It’s just about as bittersweet of an ending as they come, and yet it wasn’t that depressing or enraging. The entire game led you up to that moment and made you want to die because of the good it would do: bring peace to your companions, stop the deaths of innocents who died instead of you, and keep your more insane/angry incarnations from doing damage.
And then it was over. I felt so weird at this point. I started this playthrough in late May, so it’s taken a little less than two months of lunchtime sessions to get through it. Not that bad, all things considered. The MMO player in me is frustrated that all of the work I put into that character won’t continue, and I can only wish that Sigil was an online game world to explore (because man is that never going to happen — you think Eberron was a hard sell to the D&D faithful?).
So where do I go from here? I have a huge library of classic games now thanks to GOG.com sales, and I’m eager to explore them. I won’t spoil it right now, but I’m not going to be doing huge extensive playthroughs like I did with PT.
Anyway, if you read this whole series, thanks. And if you haven’t played this game, please do. There seriously isn’t anything else like it out there.