Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition
A CRPG Great Goes Mobile
The PC gaming scene of the late 90’s and early 2000’s was witness to a golden age of the Computer Role Playing Games (CRPGs) genre. Many utilising a pre-developed Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) thematic world. Chances are if you are reading this you’ve at least heard of D&D. Its worlds have been video game idea/setting fodder since the 1970’s. The most common D&D world is probably Forgotten Realms. BioWare used Forgotten Realms as their setting for the Baldur’s Gate series as well as Neverwinter Nights. Black Isle Studios released two CRPGs during this period as well. Their Icewind Dale Series utilised the Forgotten Realms setting but their 1999 release Planescape: Torment used the less common setting of Planescape. Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition is the product of Beamdog, who have taken the original, combining the classic game, Planescape: Torment with modern features, fixes, and a whole lot more.
So, full disclosure. Throughout my teens I was a D&D playing regular. My friends and I would have all night gaming sessions regularly on Friday nights. As a group, we mostly played in the Forgotten Realms setting (Damn you, Dave, and your love of Drow!) and Ravenloft. However, there was a very fun and memorable campaign we played in Planescape. I remember thinking of Planescape as the crossroads of the D&D multiverse. A place where Dave could play his stupid Drow and I could play the much maligned but earnest Gully Dwarf Potato (Oh, Potato! What times we had together!). The game Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition unfolds in the Outland city of Sigil. Players start the game by waking up in a Death Cult’s mortuary with nothing but a talking skull to keep you company. Having lost your memory, you set out to first escape the mortuary and then to find a man named Pharod who hopefully can tell you what the bleep is going on! There is a total of seven recruit-able characters but you are only able to field five party members at a time. Each character seems fleshed out with their own ambitions and dramas that add spice to the story.
Now, Black Isle Studios used BioWare’s Infinity Engine to create the original game. However, I would say Planescape: Torment plays very different from Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights. Baldur’s Gate for me had more of a strategic feel to it. Neverwinter Nights I played more like an action RPG such as Diablo. Others experiences may have differed. I can only speak to my playing style for those games.
I missed out on the original PC release of Planescape: Torment. So, I was very excited to see that Beamdog’s Overhaul Games division port it onto mobile platforms. I played the game on both my iPhone SE and iPad. As one would imagine, the playing experience was much better on the iPad but in case you were wondering it is possible on a small phone’s screen. I remembered my friends raving about Planescape: Torment’s story but I couldn’t remember much else. After playing for a few minutes, I think the reason I didn’t hear much else about the game is because the actual gameplay isn’t that special.
Now, let me caveat that by saying the story is the reason to play this game and so lack luster gameplay shouldn’t stop you from playing. Games can hook you through varied means. Two of the most effective is gameplay and story. Games like Mario Kart rely on drawing players in through gameplay. The story to Mario Kart is virtually non-existent but that doesn’t matter because the gameplay is so good. The opposite holds true for Planescape: Torment. The story is so good that I don’t really care about the bland gameplay. In truth, I started viewing Planescape: Torment as almost a great interactive book. I started playing exclusively on my iPad at night before I would go to sleep (warning, this can lead to some late nights as the story draws you in). The game’s writers imbued the game with a lot of wit (especially, Morte the flying, talking skull). The gameplay isn’t a hindrance to the game. It simply isn’t the focus of the game. Combat, a staple of most RPGs takes a back seat to dialogue. Most conflicts can be resolved through talking (what a novel idea) versus brain bashing. Don’t get me wrong you can still run around murdering to your little black heart’s content. It just isn’t the only way to get things done.
BioWare gets a lot of attention for the morality systems in their games. However, I find their morality guide to be pretty simple (help the orphan or murder him). Very few times, do I find myself having ponder over a decision. Black Isle Studios’s writers have done such a good job in Planescape: Torment. Several times, I’ve had to stop playing the game and really weigh my options before making a choice. I love that! I already know I will be playing the game again, to see what the results of different decisions would be.
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Many thanks to Beamdog for their support and supplying a promo code for iOS allowing ANDi Games to review this title.