Earlier tonight I was cleaning my room and came across this book which I used to record my gaming stats and progression and to do lists and what not.I hadn’t used it in quite some time for things other than crushing weed and it lied there gathering dust.So curiosity got a hold on me and decided to go over it to laugh at the naive and immature stuff I have written over the times.It was the usual stuff,how many games have I completed and checklists and whatnot.But this one page caught my attention.It and the following 5 or 6 pages were dedicated to a particular 1999 CRPG and of course one of my all time favorite PlaneScape:Torment.I had written entire pages about how I felt when playing and I recorded some quotes and stuff like that.I had forgotten how much obsessed I was with it and how I literally spent hours a day contemplating the philosophical questions the RPG raised in my young mind and how it opened a whole new chapter in my gaming career.So here is my retrospective on the seminal work that literally changed my life forever.

PlaneScape:Torment  is a Computer Role Playing Game developed by Black Isle Studios,the studio responsible for Fallout 2 and later on the Icewind Dale series of RPGs.Torment was helmed by RPG veterans Chris Avellone and Colin McComb.It was an unconventional game for it’s time as it took the successful formula of Bioware’s Baldur’s Gate which was critically acclaimed for successfully  blending 2nd edition tabletop Dungeons and Dragons settings and applying it in a VRPG.Much like the PnP, it focused on character stats and dice roll combats and dungeon crawling.Safe enough to say that Baldur’s Gate bought the feel of epic adventures in a fantasy land much like Darklands and Ultima before them by providing a story which backed the gameplay.Now on the other hand we have Torment,a game built on the same engine and mechanics as of Baldur’s Gate but with focus entirely on the story,narrative and characters with less emphasis on combat and loot.This was such a curious decision as the video game industry was moving on to brand new things such as real time 3D engines and open ended gameplay as with the likes of System Shock,Thief and Deus Ex and cinematic experiences such as Metal Gear Solid and of course psyche driven games like Silent Hill.Meanwhile Torment focused not on flashy graphics,not on hour long cutscenes and certainly not on catering to a mass market.It had a low resolution and buggy Infinity engine(as of today’s standard),an updated version of the one used in Baldur’s gate.It only had a handful of pre-rendered cinematics and most weren’t longer than 10 seconds moreover it focused mostly on texts to express  the story and to introduce characters.Baldur’s Gate did the same but what made Torment stand out was the sheer amount of text.It is said that Torment comprises over than 800,000 lines of text from start to finish.I don’t know about you but that is a lot for an average gamer even to the fans of story driven games such as Betrayal at Krondor.This unconventional choice of gameplay combined with a terrible marketing campaign(apparently a box art featuring a close up of a horribly scarred man in dreadlocks staring at you is not an effective selling piece)led to Torment being labelled as commercial failure and even though it was praised by critics for the story and characters and even won a few awards,it went unnoticed by the large percentage of gamers worldwide.
In the next part,I’ll disclose how Torment went on to achieve the cult classic status it enjoys today and why it is perhaps the best story ever told in a video game.

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4 thoughts on “RETROSPECTIVE:PlaneScape:Torment- PART I

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