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Games: A New Torment Game?

1
Posted January 15, 2013 by Ciarán O'Brien in Games
Planescape Torment

Brian Fargo is boss of a studio called inXile, currently working on Wasteland 2, which has proven VERY popular on Kickstarter. It’s not surprising – he used to be boss of Interplay, which developed and/or published titles like Fallout, Baldur’s Gate and the Freespace series. Black Isle was one of their in-house studios, and anyone who knows anything about RPGs will know that Black Isle was one of the best, and many of its members went on to become part of Bioware, Obsidian and inXile. So it’s safe to say that Brian Fargo and his employees know RPGs and storytelling. Now Mr Fargo is talking about a sequel to one of their past titles, one of the most important games of all time. And you owe it to yourself to be very, VERY excited about it.

Now I’ve previously gushed enthusiastically about the excellent RPG series of Baldur’s Gate, and justifiably so, as the games were awesome. But great as they are, they were only my all-time favourite RPG until another Interplay classic came along – Planescape: Torment.

I was expecting good things when I first popped PS:T into my drive. It was, after all, an Interplay/Black Isles game, using a

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slightly shinier version of the Baldur’s Gate Infinity Engine. To say that I was not disappointed would be an understatement on a par with Lieutenant John Chard saying, as he peered out of Rorke’s Drift, ‘I say, that’s rather a lot of Zulus out there.’

Morte: Lovable scamp. Also, he's a floating skull that insults people to death.

You wake up on a mortuary slab with no memory (or name; you’re referred to as ‘Nameless One’ throughout the game), and are immediately approached by a floating skull who is sarcastic, witty, can help you escape and has a thing for the ladies, alive or dead. You quickly find out that when you die, you just… wake up again. You’re effectively immortal. You escape the mortuary into the city of Sigil, Crossroads of the Planes, where you can travel to anywhere in the multiverse if you know where the gateways are. Thus begins a quest to regain your memory, find out why you’re immortal, and perhaps even fix it. Before you’re done, you’ll end up visiting not only the highs and lows of Sigil, but you’ll have traversed multiple dimensions, conversed with angels and demons, and recruited some very strange travelling companions, such as the aforementioned talking skull Morte and a succubus committed to a life of chastity. As you can imagine, the dialogue between party members is frequently very funny indeed.

Planescape: Torment had everything an RPG needs. It had vivid, unique characters. It had a wealth of fascinating backstory. It had exquisite pacing, turning to exploration or dialogue before you got bored of fighting and vice versa. It had an incredible world full of wonderful sights, sounds and people. It had heartbreakingly lovely music. And it had more choice in dialogue and quest resolution than you could shake an enchanted stick+1 at.

But above all, it had a story. A very unique story. The journey of The Nameless One through the Planes, the things he learns about his past and deathless condition, these things weave together into a very personal tragedy. The quest WILL end up saving the world, but that’s only a side-effect. The real meat of the story is all about you and your companions. There is a strong recurring theme of regret, and the desire for redemption. Every companion has their own torment gnawing away at their soul, and they end up bound to you by these things. There is a cryptic riddle heard often through the game that begins to make much more sense near the end of the game: ‘What can change the nature of a man?’ PS:T is a very philosophical experience, dealing with the nature of identity and humanity with the ease and flair with which Deus Ex: Human Revolution dealt with the themes of transhumanism and corruption. It’s very cleverly done: each ending you can get is identical except for the music, but it is the journey itself which colours your perceptions to it, so on a very emotional level the ‘evil’ ending is very different to the ‘good’ ending, even though it’s the same video. The identical endings hammer home the final point the game has been making, often very subtly, all along. PS:T is a glorious masterpiece of storytelling and roleplaying, and a must-play for every RPG enthusiast. THIS is how RPGs are done.

The Pillar of Skulls in the depths of Hell. Nothing here is friendly. Good thing you're immortal.

So this sequel Brian Fargo is talking about, you should be eager to get your hands on it. He’s got a talented team (most notably Adam Heine and Dana Knutson, the original PS:T script writer and conceptual artist respectively) working on it. So they know exactly what it was that made Planescape: Torment special. The interesting thing to note is that they seem to be adopting the same approach to sequels as Far Cry – the next game will have nothing to do with the Planescape AD&D setting, instead favouring the recently Kickstarted Monte Cook’s Numenera setting. What they intend to do is make a new game using the same themes as PS:T, set against the exotic, fresh backdrop of Numenera. It aims to include the big ideas, close examination of the human condition, host of interesting people and fascinating places that owe nothing to the clichés of traditional RPG settings, and the amazing depth of choice (and resulting consequences) that PS:T players loved. A very different game, but familiar all the same.

Keep an eye out on Kickstarter for this. If it recaptures a fraction of what made the original great, it will pretty much put every RPG of the last decade to shame.


About the Author

Ciarán O'Brien

Ciarán has been gaming since the days of the Amiga 500, all the way up to the latest tabletop RPGs and wargames. A friendly, gentle soul who wouldn't harm a fly right up until the point where you touch his whiskey.

  • http://twitter.com/Sarklor Ciaran O’Brien

    Worth mentioning that the Kickstarter for Torment: Tides of Numenera went live today, and reached its goal in six hours. Six hours! That’s gotta be a record, and it should be an indicator of how the original Torment game captivated people, and the depth of talent in the team about to make the “sequel”, that so many are willing to fund it so quickly.

    You should totally slip a few bob their way.

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