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As we get ready to close out on a decade, we thought it would be fun to look at a game that is about to celebrate two decades of existence - Planescape: Torment. The roleplaying game from Black Isle Studios first released on December 12, 1999, and helped define the isometric RPG genre.

Planescape: Torment took the Infinity Engine - made popular by the original Baldur’s Gate - and tweaked it to deliver a story-driven game set in the Dungeons and Dragons’ universe of Planescape. During your journey as The Nameless One, you’ll meet other characters and try to solve the mystery of your immortal past. Being immortal sounds cool, but there’s a catch: each time you die you forget your past memories.

The game was met without much fanfare when it released, but many critics stated at the time that it was the best RPG to release that year. You can even find it on many “Top Games” lists thanks to its unique story and robust in-game worlds. Now, the game is considered a cult classic and if you are a fan of the genre, it is absolutely a must-play.

What helped set Planescape: Torment apart from other RPGs of the time
During its development, Black Isle Studios helped differentiate the title from other fantasy roleplaying games by removing many of the staples of RPGs of the time - there are no elves, goblins, or other typical “high fantasy” elements in this title. Instead, the game’s designer referred to the title as an “avant-garde" fantasy. It also removed the whole “save the world” element found in many titles and instead focused on you, the player, and your efforts to figure out just who you are as The Nameless One.

Much of the love for this title came from that unique approach to the genre. Whereas titles like Fallout (released in the same time frame) and the aforementioned Baldur’s Gate focused on being a savior, Planescape: Torment wanted to tell a story to the player and challenge the status quo of the genre as a whole. Chris Avellone, the lead designer of the title, tells Vice in an interview, “I think it was that the setting encouraged a philosophical/thoughtful approach to questing and exploration so that in itself may have given it an innate sense of maturity than simply hacking orcs with swords."

Planescape: Torment’s impact on the genre
This new way of looking at the genre inspired future RPGs to look at themselves and the stories they were trying to tell and we can still see that influence in various RPGs today - isometric or otherwise. Neverwinter Nights 2, and specifically the Mask of the Betrayer expansion, sees a heavy influence from the title. Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Tyranny, as well.

While Divinity: Original Sin 2 might have more fighting than Planescape: Torment, it still very much focuses on the stories and the characters and not just an overarching theme of good versus evil. If fantasy isn’t necessarily your cup of tea, then Disco Elysium is another great isometric choice that highlights characters and stories over pure action or grand adventure.

If sci-fi is more your style, then some of those philosophical and story elements of Planescape: Torment can be found even in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II.

There is a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment and it released somewhat recently
A sequel to Planescape: Torment began development around 2013 and was funded on Kickstarter after reaching its funding goals within an astounding 6 hours of launching the campaign. Torment: Tides of Numenera was eventually released in February of 2017. The story differs a bit from the original, but it features Chris Avellone as the lead designer (just like PST) and features many of the same influences as the original.

While Planescape: Torment may be considered a cult classic, it’s hard to not see just how influential it was on the genre and gamers in general. Not only did a spiritual successor reach its funding goal in almost record time, but we are still seeing story-driven isometric RPGs being released today that focus on the player, the story, and the world around them.

So, if you are looking for your next great RPG adventure and haven’t had the chance to experience Planescape: Torment, there’s no time like its 20th anniversary!

What do you think? Have you played the game? Did you feel it was as influential as we did? Any great memories from the game? Comment down below and share your stories with us!
high rated
Pangaea666: Couldn't agree more. The original games should of course be available for sale, but the thundercunts in beamdog didn't like that I suppose, and would prefer to sell their inferior product for twice the price without being compared to the original game, and lose sales to them.
With the recent slashing of discount percentages for BeamDog games (67% down to 30% in both this and Black Friday sales that were already lower than the 75-80% for the originals), BG 1-2:EE, ID:EE, and PT:EE have all ended up more like quadruple the price vs the pre-BeamDog originals:-

PT:Original = £9.99 - 75-80% = £1.99-£2.49
PT:Enhanced = £14.99 - 30% = £10.99

That works out to a 340-450% price increase. Likewise NWN:EE £15.49 - 0% discount during this sale makes it a whopping 678% price increase vs what NWN:Diamond regularly went for (£9.99 - 80% = £1.99) in multiple fall / winter sales...
RadonGOG: Original PST had the 5.0/5-rating it deserved. PSTEE right now hasn´t even reached 4.0.
See above for the main reason why...
a game that messed me up when I was still very bad in English... but I was able to translate those "brothel" stories using a dictionary - it was so AWESOME!
low rated
The "old fans" of the genre shouldn't complain about the originals being locked behind EE versions from Beamdog. If you are a true die hard fan, you should have bought those original (for 5$) on GOG many years ago. I personally have them all on GOG and 2 boxed versions from way back. Plus I didn't have any problem buying and playing the EE versions.

If you really are an EE-hater, you should have at least a better reason than the one mentioned above.
bioshark: If you are a true die hard fan, you should have bought those original (for 5$) on GOG many years ago.
True die hard classical fans should've met LV Beethoven in person. Everyone else is a loser wannabe.
This game has the best most interesting story I have ever played, no other RPG comes close to the epicness of this. Hands down the best Isometric RPG, and I enjoy BG and FO a lot too.

This is a must play, but you need to know this is not an action game first and foremost, the story is what makes this game really shine.
bioshark: The "old fans" of the genre shouldn't complain about the originals being locked behind EE versions from Beamdog. If you are a true die hard fan, you should have bought those original (for 5$) on GOG many years ago. I personally have them all on GOG and 2 boxed versions from way back. Plus I didn't have any problem buying and playing the EE versions.

If you really are an EE-hater, you should have at least a better reason than the one mentioned above.
Or even been annoyed at the release sale and waited until it ended to at least pay full price, because GOG sets a fixed price rather than "pay $x or more". I was that one.
low rated
avatar What do you think? Have you played the game? Did you feel it was as influential as we did? Any great memories from the game? Comment down below and share your stories with us!
Planescape is over-rated at this point, infinity engine RPG's have been surpassed a long time ago. There lack of combat and being mostly visual novels with really bad auto combat for the reflex challenged is why Pillars struggled sales wise, there was no fallback when pillars world turned out to be boring and the infinity engine inspired combat largely sucked balls.

I'd easily take Eye of the beholder 2, Lands of lore 1 and Legends of Grimrock 1 over infinity engine garbage. Mass effect 1 and 2 are easily better RPG's from a story standpoint then Planescape 1 in terms of execution and presentation.

While planescape is memorable, the pacing of the game is slow and the combat is ass. The dialogue tree based nature of Infinity engine inspired western RPG's needs to die. The mass effect style conversation system is the right direction.

Now this doesn't mean mass effect didn't have any problems, but I've always hated biowares janky autocombat jank. Most RPG's on the PC' and MMO's combat systems have always sucked to cater to casuals because RPG players tend to be the most reflex challenged.
Leroux: Anyway, where do I get my cheque from the PR department? (Or will it be denied to me now, because I didn't embrace Tides of Numenera enough to create further sales?) ;)
You certainly have our deepest respect for writing such an awesome throwback post - it was a pleasure to read it, thanks! :)
<-- nuff said
Planescaper: <-- nuff said
Aren't you supposed to introduce yourself as Adahn?
First of all, awesome read, Leroux :-)

Leroux: ...And that makes me wonder a bit whether the creators of Tides of Numenera actually understood why PS:T worked so well.
They didn't.

From the article quotes above by Cavalary:

It meanders and sprawls and hints at two dozen paths before finally working its way back, brilliantly, to an answer that’s been staring us in the face the entire time.
But... it's not the answer...I might add.

I think, what makes this game, it's story, so compelling is that circles, or spirals, around itself. Usually fantasy stories, and games even more so, know only one direction: forward. PS:T always comes back to themes and topics you already visited. But always with newly gained knowledge and a new perspective. "Don't trust the skull!", "What can change the nature of a man?"...

Of course this is helped by the focus on the past, and the convenient amnesia trope, but it's brilliantly executed. Several times the story comes full circle, but like gaining wisdom in real life, you always have a sense of deeper understanding, of enlightenment. And finally... closure. And it's not actually just one circle, it's one big one, and countless smaller ones orbiting the former. The game even references this on itself with the iconic (Un-)broken Circle of Zerthimon (which is actually 8 circles, which you can 'cyclic' (when you leveled up wisdom) try to solve. Exploring, examining, discovering the world, your companions and ultimately the Nameless One's past in this fashion is incredibly satisfying, amplified by the interactive nature of the medium, and by the fact that it's you (identifying with your avatar) trying to figure it all out.

The writers of Tides either did not understand these aspects, or weren't able to reproduce them. From the start it's a more traditional, linear hunt for The Changing God and a way to defeat The Sorrow. It's certainly an interesting world (Numenera is a very cool setting) and some ideas like the Meres are pretty brilliant. But they didn't manage to make it really compelling. In many aspects it ultimately lacks depth - the world building for instance, and the companions. Sure, you can learn a lot, read a lot, but most of it feels like fluff and does not ultimately lead to a deeper understanding of the world and your place in it, of your own relation to everything and everybody.
Whereas PS:T was like solving a complex puzzle, every small step like finding another piece of it, T:ToN gives you series of situations to solve, but only to progress to the next. Most of those situations are good, and there are many solutions, but the game lacks "the bigger picture", the interconnectedness of everything - which is ironic, because the namesake Tides are essentially that - the interconnectedness of everything.

What they got right, is the writing within the situations. And I don't know how many variations they wrote... dialogue can be influences by so many things, like (of course) the Tides, your skills, companions, past deeds... must have been a piece of work to write and put together, I take my hat off to the team.
But on the other hand they were clearly hampered by the self-imposed challenge to deal with the one weakness of PS:T - if you want to know and understand (and get the "real" ending) you're practically nailed to play mage and level INT and WIS. T:ToN tries to offer a satisfying experience no matter what and how you play. This leads to a certain arbitrariness and shallowness they couldn't quite work around.
Post edited December 13, 2019 by toxicTom
Maxvorstadt: Hm, now I want to try Planescape, but it`s not sold here on GoG anymore. That`s sad.
emter_pl: The original game is still available as a bonus goodie for the Enhanced Edition.
so to get the original you either have to pay for the shitty enhanced edition or sail the high seas ?
Post edited December 13, 2019 by robertgg
I know there's hardly any chance of getting more insight into this, you either won't get any clear answers or somewhat contradicting ones, depending on which side you ask, but I've always wondered how GOG is able to include the original versions of Beamdog's EEs as a bonus exclusively, but not sell them as separate items. Is it that GOG's still licensed to sell the original games, while Beamdog for some reason did not acquire the rights to them but dictated the term that GOG should not sell them separately from their EE?
my second favorite game of all time.

need to play this again soon.
I admit it's a great game, but $19.99 for an "Enhanced" version of a 20 year old game? I don't think so. $5.99 maybe...