Sunday, September 5, 2010

"What can change the nature of a man?"

As should be well apparent by now, I am huge geek. Comics, video games, rpgs, the works, I love 'em all. RPGs are especially fun, as they blur the line between what the author writes and how it's enjoyed by the reader(s). If anyone's studied media theory, one could state that rpgs are the ultimate producerly text, with the text being intended to be reinvisioned by the reader.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that I've read quite a few rpg books in my time. Generally, I like setting material to read, as rules-related stuff can get rather dry. (In fact, I challenge all those folks who claim that D&D promotes Satanism or whatever to actually read the Dungeon Master's Guide. If there were any such messages, they'd be rendered so boring and mechanical as to make Satanism totally unpalatable in the real world.)

One of my favorite rpg settings will always be TSR's Planescape, for AD&D 2nd Edition. While Wizards of the Coast has revisited the Multiverse from time to time, I can sum up my thoughts on those visits with one picture....


2nd Edition had ALL the good stuff for Planescape. It was almost a total 180 from the Tolkein-esque fantasy that D&D had pioneered to that point.

But I'm not here to talk about the setting, per se. I'm here to talk about one of my favorite PC games, which just so happens to be adapted from the setting- Planescape: Torment.

Made by the creators of Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, and other classics, Torment was, in a word, BRILLIANT. Developed by Black Isle (whose workers went on to form other development firms like Bioware), the game is remarkably open-ended. There are countless different options for playing the game. The alignment system in particular makes play complex and nuanced. Unlike more recent games, like Fable or Infamous, where the moral choices are ridiculously black and white, Torment's choices require serious thought, as there are 9 different alignments possible.

Then there's the writing of the story. While being ridiculously faithful to the Planescape setting and concepts, the creators managed to add in various unique twists. The missions are a departure from traditional hack and slash games, the characters are imaginative and well-developed, and the dialogue shifts effortlessy from humor to drama and back.

It's remarkable how well this game holds up. It remains a fan favorite over a decade later, and is still fun to play. How good is it? One game site, in their list of 100 greatest video games, listed Torment higher than Final Fantasy 7.

Suck it, Cloud!

Since I mentioned the characters, let me talk about them. They're GREAT. True, those familiar with Bioware's later efforts can see the seeds of various formulas they use, but sometimes formulas work beautifully. You have Morte, the lecherous flying skull; Ignus, the constantly aflame pyromaniac; Nordom, the goofy robot-like creature; and many others. And then you have Annah.

Annah, voiced by Sheena Easton (rrrowwwr!), is hands down one of the best female video game characters of all time. She's spunky, funny, and competent. This combination has landed her on many a game site's Best Female Characters list. Plus, she's really hot.

"I'd like ta come over and roll in yer clover and kiss yer Blarney Stone!*"

I could talk more about it, but then I'd just be rehashing what everyone else has already said. Hands down, Torment gets replayed by me very often due to it's masterfully crafted storyline and imaginative design.

*I managed to cram in TWO MST3K references in a post about D&D. I'm very pleased with that.

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