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COMPUTING

Planescape: Torment takes you to the dark side

January 12, 2000
Web posted at: 11:25 a.m. EST (1625 GMT)

by Jay Turner

From...
Games.net
Action Shots

(IDG) -- If there's a dark side to AD&D, it's Planescape: Torment. Black Isle Studios has taken the Baldur's Gate engine, spiced it up and turned it into a dark, twisted, and compelling search for identity and death in Sigil, the City of Doors.

You are The Nameless One, and you can't die. Actually, you can die (and you will do so repeatedly), but it takes an act of god to completely destroy you. Each time you die, you simply wake up somewhere else, with all your items, money and experience points intact.

At the start of the game, you awaken on a slab in the Mortuary, naked as the day you were born and accompanied by Morte, a talking skull with more wisecracks than Yakko from the Animaniacs. Morte reads you a note left in the form of a tattoo on your back, telling you whom you need to find and what you need to do, and that's it.
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You're well on your way to one of the wildest, strangest, sickest adventures AD&D will allow.

Thanks to the Planescape license, Torment is free to explore the various planes of the AD&D "multiverse," where belief shapes the world at least as much as a sword or hammer. This opens up an incredible amount of possibilities for adventure, especially compared to the static high-fantasy of Baldur's Gate.

Quests are less Fed-Ex deliveries and more internal dialogue as The Nameless One tries to figure out who he was and what he's done in his, oh, thousands of previous incarnations. On top of that, The Nameless One is so old that he's been level 25 in three of the four basic AD&D classes (You can't be a priest, but you've got fighter, mage and thief down pat), and you can train in any of the classes and switch among them almost at will. You definitely won't get killed for lack of shootin' back.

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Playing Planescape is definitely NOT torment, as the game shares Baldur's Gate's easy point-n-click interface. Made even easier than in BG is Torment's pop-up control menu, which pops up wherever you right-click onscreen, allowing Black Isle to say "bye-bye" to the onscreen menu bars and "hellooooo, nurse!" to a more detailed, larger game view. Talking and attacking are both carried out with a left-click on a target, but with only seconds at the helm you'll easily be able to attack the bad guys and talk to everyone else.

There's no multiplayer mode in Torment, but you won't miss it, since the story wraps around so tightly that other players would just get in the way.

Likewise, Torment's graphics and sound are paradise. Gorgeous, hand-drawn backgrounds look sumptuous, even if they're overcome with dark, moody, colors. Creatures and characters alike look and move very well, and the Final Fantasy-like spell effects have to be seen to be believed. Torment drags you in with an excellent musical score, and the characters talk with the talent of real professional voice actors during crucial bits of dialog.

If you're a fan of Black Isle RPGs (like the absolutely wonderful Fallout series), you'll kick yourself if you don't try this one. In the case of Planescape, the greatest torment is not to play.

Tips

  • Keep in mind that you cannot die in any permanent manner. Always make The Nameless One be the first to die in combat, as your companions will be with you when you awaken. Also, your death is necessary to solve a number of puzzles and quests in the game.

  • Once you have trained as a fighter, a thief, and a mage, and once you have Dak'kon and Annah in your party, you can basically switch on the fly among the three classes by talking to your party members. Keep them around, because staying flexible will help keep you alive.

  • Talk to everyone you can talk to, do every quest you can find, and kill everything with a red circle. The best path to massive XPs is to have a high Intelligence and/or Wisdom, but there are ways for fighters to grind their way to massive experience totals.


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