Planescape: Torment - Retroview

Save Yourself the Pain

By: Red Raven

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 3
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 4
   Originality 7
   Plot 3
   Localization N/A
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Very Easy
   Time to Complete

60+ hours


Title Screen

   I think it wise to first state the obvious: this is no console RPG. Created by the same people behind Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment is essentially the same engine wrapped up in a shiny new coat and a completely different setting. What this means is that for most of the RPGamers out there, this format is a foreign one, and one to be avoided. Indeed, there never has been a successfully marriage of the computer and console plots to date. Torment is sadly no exception.

   What is worse however, is the fact that Torment has failed both parties it was trying to please; the exploration and battles were sub-par at best, and plot was short and lacked substance. It was a shame really, because this title had potential. The player controls an immortal being, which wakes up on a mortuary slab with no clue about his identity and a bad hangover. The immortality is true enough: there is (with rare exception) no possibility that the player will face a 'game over' screen, ever. What had even further potential was the fact that the main city that the player occupied was Sigil, the City of Doors. This city supposedly contained a gateway to every plane in existence; an obvious indication that the player had freedom to roam around and do whatever he wanted. This is not the case.

The adventure begins...
The adventure begins... 

   What Torment lacks in locations, it does make up in NPCs. In fact, the battle system of the game is vastly inferior in relation to the amount of time one spends talking with the various townsfolk and other important plot characters instead. This fact will alienate fans of Baldur's Gate, as BG was mostly centered around combat and exploring. This is fine, as the combat engine is not that exciting to begin with; there is no strategy, and really, no interaction involved. Simply click the cursor in some general location, and the characters will do the rest.

   Again, the visuals of Torment parallel the capabilities of Baldur's Gate: the characters are well animated sprites while the background are a series of still-CG imagines. Spell, weapon, and death effects are all pretty minimal, with the exception of certain high-level mage spells, which come complete with their own FMV sequence. However, the player would have to spend an exorbitant amount of time leveling up in this game to do so; a problem compounded by the fact that the greatest source of experience is attained by doing the numerous side quests, instead of combat.

What it feels like to play this game.
What it feels like to play this game. 

   The side quests themselves prove to be the greatest source of dissatisfaction, in that not only are most required for one reason or another, but they are tedious and time-consuming as well. One can expect to spend roughly 80% of his or her game time in such activities. The majority of them are conducted by the semi-intelligent dialogue system, in which the player has a number of phrases he or she can choose to say, based on the character's intelligence. This conversing between characters seems to be the game designer's idea of plot; a course of action that is always to be frown upon, as that excuse only "works" with strategy games. This area needs some big improvement.

   The music was lacking in a sense as well, in so far as that it was unnoticeable most of the time while playing. Each area has its own tune supposedly, and there do happen to be some excellent pieces near the end of the game, but most of the time is spent listening to the environment and the other ambient sounds of that location (birds, dogs, people, ect). A welcome prospect some of the time, but during certain scenes, I wished for a more..."motivating" musical piece, to say the least.

   Do I recommend this game? I do not. As stated above, it is a failed union between two genres that simply refuse to be combined. All of the factors that make the PC RPG popular and entertaining simply are not present, and the coveted plot from console RPGs is more "hot air" then anything else. In addition, the entire game takes completely too long to complete. This attempt was indeed noble, but if anyone ever is entertaining the notion that they could solve the differences between the computer and the console, then a more unique approach will be needed. This one simply did not work.

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