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Resurrection: Planescape: Torment

planescape3It’s an atmospheric but shaky opening to what blooms into an enormous and intriguing game.  Planescape takes its time to do absolutely everything, and the hour-or-two you spend inside this zombie-infested hellhole maybe pushes the clock a bit too far.  On the frequent occasions I consider but decide against re-installing, it’s usually the size of this opening block that puts me off.  It works as a largely linear tutorial in the ways of the world, one that extends a good few hours into the game – but at least your freedom is less restricted on the outside.  I wish there were a way to skip it.  I wish I didn’t always delete my bloody save files.

It’s a few minutes before you finally escape the mortuary that Planescape truly begins to shine.  A spectral figure stands before you.  Speaking to her, you learn she is a love interest from one of your past lives.  This conversation with Deionarra is the first of many spectacular, moving, thought-provoking encounters you have with countless NPCs across the game world, and sets the tone for Planescape as a whole.  It is the point, an hour or two in, where it begins to really hit its stride.

//An open book
Planescape loves to talk.  It is a game that awards you with more experience points for having a quick chinwag with an NPC than it does for an epic fight sequence.  Its conversations are lengthy and detailed, the narration complex and involving.  There’s very little voice acting, which means unfathomable walls of text.  They’re written in a manner that makes some James Joyce seem accessible.  It’s sometimes difficult to stomach.

Yet therein lays the beauty of the writing.  Decoded, it was some of the finest of any videogame in the world, and remains such a decade on.  Its brand of corrupted Victorian cockney slang, merged with the elegance of the best high-fantasy literature, makes it an outlandishly unique thing to read through.  And although it asks a lot of the reader, the reward it pays is remarkable: it tells a story unlike no other game, in a way that no other game has dared to even try mimicking.

planescape4Characters are deep and plentiful.  Morte isn’t the only companion you can find throughout your journey, though it’s worth noting that you can play the whole game as a duo should you want to, and should you steer clear of most of the later fights.  (Quick note: it is theoretically possible to complete Planescape having killed only a couple of enemies. I have no idea how this is done, as my game always seems to descend into a bloodbath within half an hour, no matter what I do.  I’d love for someone to tell me how.)  Palling up with comrades and engaging in lengthy discussion reveals the most fabulous of backgrounds, a touching humanity dripping from every NPC you’re likely to meet.  This might be a fantastic world, but with such characters it’s one that feels natural and authentic, rather than one created to support a table-top game and its computerised counterpart.

//An open invitation
Still, Planescape’s re-release today is an odd one.  I find myself tempted to buy it, even though I own a copy of the original, because I’ve lost Disc 4 so can now never complete the bally thing.  But at the significant price of £17, I do wonder how many people will stump up the cash.  It’s a game that those who cared about will have purchased long ago, and those who don’t might struggle to persevere with in the modern gaming climate.

That’s a shame, because it isn’t that Planescape has had its day.  It never had its day.  Its poor sales, along with those of a range of other games, contributed to the eventual closure of Interplay.  But like The Nameless One, the publishing house has risen from the ashes, and you can’t fault the guys there for wanting to give their classic products a second chance on the market.

I hope people buy it.  I hope people go nuts for it.  I can’t see it happening at all, but it would make a pretty bold statement about what people love about games.  In a sea of next-gen glossiness, it would be incredible for a game devoted almost solely to intricate, mature storytelling to be the one for people to get giddy about.

No.  I don’t think it’ll happen at all.  But I’d love for everyone to prove me wrong

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9 Comments

    Planescape proves that (certain) video games can be considered art.

  • This is a sure buy for me.
    I can’t forget the wonderful time I spent on this game. I played it when it came out almost non-stop and I was so sad when I finished it.

  • This is my favorite game of all time.
    I had it back in the days, but I lost it. I’ve thought about buying it again but now it’s kind of a collectors thing (much like Planescape’s books) and goes for high prices everywhere I look.

    I’ll definitely buy a hard copy of this. Now I only need a shop that ships to Brasil…

  • Incredible game, very depressing and sad but a complete and utter masterpiece. I do agree about the initial hour or so inside the mortuary, I put off playing the game for years because the start just didnt grip me. I then came back and played again and loved the whole thing. The story, characters and dialogue are unmatched in any game and in this day and age we wont be seeing any game come close.

  • just played my old copy again a month or two ago. still one of the best rpgs of all time.

  • Bit late to the fray but here you go.

    If you have the original retail version of Planescape and want to run it on modern hardware at high resolution (I’m currently running it at 1280×1024 using the method below) follow the instruction at the below link.

    http://thunderpeel2001.blogspot.com/search/label/game%20fixes

  • I am fed up with the fake excuse of ‘having to spend 10’s of hours’ playing a game. This is an invite every time for $60 12 hour games that you finish in a weekend and a total gaming rip-off.

    What isn’t said, a such obvious thing not to say, is that most games that take ’10’s of hours’ to complete have an option called ’save anywhere anytime’!

    Having that statement about ’10’s of hours needed’ right at the start turned me off from reading the rest; as despite PS:T being the opposite, it shows this reviewer to be a cop out to the mainstream.

  • UK_John: Um, I fear you may have misunderstood what I was saying. My complaint wasn’t that the game is too long. I was saying – and it’s something I’ve yet to meet anyone who disagrees with, even the most passionate Planescape fans – that its opening is considerably less interesting than the game ends up being, and to get to the really fantastic stuff you’ve got get through a very substantial section beforehand. It’s not a /bad/ section, by any means – my point was that I’ve played that opening so many times that I’m not so compelled any more to chug through that to get to the rest.

    With regards to the “Save anywhere” thing, I have no idea what relevance that has to anything.

  • Well, there has to be a reason that 10+ years ago a sub 30 hour game was seen as short and not good value and was usually marked down for it in reviews, and now 12 hour games like Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge quite often will get a quote in the review somewhere about ‘length of gameplay being par for the course’! Who decided that 12 hour games for my $60 was ‘par for the course’? Who asked me if I wanted to go from big boxes to DVD cases? Who is asking gamers if we prefer PDF manuals to printed manuals, which seems to becoming the norm?

    The industry just foists upon us and the gaming media refuse to confront them.

    Due to all the above, you’re ’10’s of hours’ struck a chord.

    Mainstream PC gaming is coming to an end. There are hardly any stores (in the UK) that carry PC titles, and those that still do have displays 1/4 of what they had 2-3 years ago. 99% of PC games are console conversions, and if it wasn’t for Eastern Europe, we would have PC only games any more. Because consoles don’t have a keyboard and no developer is going to release a 4 DVD PC only game (to have a Planescape with all speech), there is zero chance of another Planescape or anything like it.

    So with a dumbed down multiformat, produce for the lowest denominator gaming, and the demand from reviewers all the time for hand-holding, smaller, shorter games, I don’t hold out hope for gaming in general and PC gaming in particular.

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