Allow me to let you in on a little secret. I’m a geek – and not a little one. Like a “Holy shit! How did he ever get touched by a woman without paying?” uber geek. I play every form of game. Card games, ccgs, board games, video games, and my absolute favorite kind of game – roleplaying games. Started with Dungeons and Dragons (with my uncle’s 24th level half elven Cleric/Magic-User/Ranger Gil Galad) and from there played everything from the old Marvel Superheroes system (which I still love) to Rifts (fun setting but that system…) to World of Darkness to LARPs. Just to be as nerdy as possible I collect rpgs the way some people collect comics.
I know. I could feel myself re-virginizing as I typed that.
Now why did I tell you all that besides my seemingly incessant need to bare my most humiliating secrets to strangers? As the lead in for me talking about my single favorite crpg of all time – Planescape: Torment. And I know that I said I wanted to promote lesser known works with this blog but I feel like this game gets overlooked so often. Not critically so much but by the playerbase for crpgs. I still meet people who have never played it or even heard of it. So with the recent release of the Enhanced Edition (available on Steam for a very fair 19.99) I decided to revisit this beautiful gem of a game and hopefully convince someone new to pick it up.
All conversation about Torment must begin with talking about the setting. Sigil, the CIty of Doors. A city inside a wheel above the mountain at the center of the various planes (worlds and dimensions) of the universe. Here demons rub shoulders with angels while intelligent animated statues hold conversations with an elf with a tavern over a mug of Stygian ale. In the markets of the city you can buy Arcadian wines next to Abyssal blades while a man down the street sells you memories of heaven snatched from the experiences of a virtuous soul. All under the auspices of the silent but dangerous Lady of Pain. In Sigil belief can change reality. Sway the populace towards evil and their whole neighborhood could slide into the demon realms. Convince a man he doesn’t exist and he doesn’t. Convince enough people that another man exists and he does.
There is so much to the setting. So many little details that bring it to life and so many themes tying everything to one another. And the games run with all of it. It is full of quests and one off encounters and strange characters that play with these themes. Philosophy and belief an mental illness are all touched upon with deft fingers. A thousand side stories with enough fodder for an entire game of their own all tied to one over arcing question – “What can change the nature of a man?”
And this brings me to what sets this game apart and – in my opinion – above all other CRPGs. Your choices well and truly matter. You can shape the character of the game with your actions and words. Mental faculties matters so much more than any physical stat as they open up new dialogue choices, items, companions, and quests. With the right choices you can talk down the Big Bad. That element right there is the key. The game actually lives up to it’s genre. You can roleplay in it. In fact to truly experience the game you have to roleplay. Who cares if you can swing an axe when you can pull the blinds on the Dusties with a few words and quick thinking? A story that reacts to you and deepens when you put effort into it.
That is a beautiful thing for a game to pull off. So go out and get it if you haven’t played it before. Pick it up again if you already own it. Maybe dust off that Planescape Boxset and play out your own adventures in the City of Doors. Your day will be the better for it.