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Role Playing (Games)

A Retrospective on Planescape Torment 99

Despite the cult status of Planescape: Torment, it was one of the least successful entries in the Baldur's Gate family of games. At the Rock, Paper, Shotgun blog Keiron Gillen has a great look back at the game, with a specific emphasis on the connection between the game mechanics and the story, and the importance of Torment to games as a medium. "While we're a long way from the videogame equivalent of a Tolstoy or a Dostoevsky, for what it's worth, Planescape is as close as we've come, and worthy of real literary consideration. Of course, such dry analysis always turns people away from the Great dead Russians - when it should be remembered these are works full of life and joys and - yes - deep sadness. The same is true here. It's a philosophical buddy-hatey road movie based around the search for the self and the endlessly reiterated question "What can change the nature of a man?". And you find yourself lingering on that. Not just what can change the nature of your character - but what made you and what manner of man are you anyway."
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A Retrospective on Planescape Torment

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 27, 2007 @04:39AM (#20765407)
    The setting wasn't the same D&D universe as Baldur's Gate. The developer was Black Isle and not Bioware. PST used a modified version of the Infinity Engine, and that's the only thing they had in common.

    Arcanum and The Temple of Elemental Evil have more in common than the Baldur's Gate games and PST, and nobody would say they're in the same game family.

    PST is barely even a CRPG. It's more like a throwback to interactive fiction. It's mostly an adventure game.
  • The very best (Score:5, Insightful)

    by soccerisgod ( 585710 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @04:39AM (#20765409)

    I have to admit that I only played Planescape for the first time as recently as last year, but I was adicted instantly. I've never ever seen a game with such an incredible amount of dialog, nor have I ever seen this kind of quality dialog in any other game. It is deep, philosophical and you actually have meaningful choices that often have subtle nuances to them - for instance you may have the same sentence as a choice twice, but with one option lie and with the other actually mean what you say. There are not many stats, but what stats are there play a big role in dialog, and I can only think of a very few games that come even close in this regard. (mostly the Fallouts)

    But the artistic achievement of this game is not limited to dialog. The art in this game is superb. AFAIK no other (significant) game has tried to recreate the world of the Planescape universe, but if they had, I'm sure they would never come as close as PS:T. It's so beautiful it makes you wheep. And the score by Mark Morgan is just perfect and one of the best games scores in general that I know.

    If you haven't played this game yet, get it right now.

    PS: Since when is PS:T a game of the Baldurs Gate series? It may use the same engine, but that's where the similarities end...

  • Seminal? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by matthewsmalley ( 242855 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @07:58AM (#20766591)
    Torment was a great game (to repeat what most people are saying here), but was it seminal as the article suggests?

    The great tragedy with this game is that it wasn't followed up with a sequel, nor did Black Isle go on to make anything like it again (Icewind Dale was basically a snowy version of Baldur's Gate), nor was there a sizeable shift in the output of "western RPGs" to be more role / story based. To misquote wikipedia: it isn't "a work from which other works grow".

    IMO, since then we've had a gradual erosion of the place the story occupies in the makeup of an RPG (Dark Alliance, Oblivion, Dungeon Siege, Dark Messiah).

    Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed Oblivion, but it was built on technological advances and genuinely fun gameplay, not on the foundation of the story, without which even Torment would have sucked.

    I'd even go as far as to say Diablo was the seminal game which blended with traditional western RPGs to open the gates for our current run of best sellers...
  • Re:A great story (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @08:40AM (#20766997) Homepage Journal
    It's not an artificial distinction. It's actually very important. What differentiates a game from a novel? The fact that you (the living human behind a computer) gets to do stuff. It's that stuff that you do that needs to have a compelling story and development. There's a difference between doing cool stuff (like in PST), and reading a novel of a backstory and then shooting aliens (like in Halo).

    Or in other words, suppose you copied the backstory to Halo to Space Invaders. Evil covenant thingamabobs are invading Earth, and you have to kill them. You still couldn't say that Space Invaders had a great story.

Some people manage by the book, even though they don't know who wrote the book or even what book.