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Almost two decades after its initial release in 1999, I’ve finally played through this vaunted RPG, and it’s most definitely left a mark.

Planescape: Torment (Enhanced Edition) is the one game I would invite a video game detractor to play. It plays like a very well-written (I can’t emphasize this point enough!) graphic novel in which the player chooses his or her path. The themes of identity, companionship and mortality are thick here, hanging over every thread of the narrative like a heavy late-spring fog and lending the experience a richness and scope you won’t dare see in most other games. It was risky back in 1999 and it’s risky now. Players who don’t like reading walls of text will be turned away very quickly and that’s a damned shame. Under all those words is a wonderful existential narrative just waiting to be explored.

You play as the Nameless One, a scarred — both physically and emotionally — individual who wakes up on a stone slab in the middle of a mortuary in a strange world. He can’t remember who he is, how he died, or why the heck he is seemingly alive after receiving enough wounds to vanquish an elephant. He has tattooed reminders on his body (Christopher Nolan probably played this game before he wrote Memento) to help him on his journey and his only friend is a disembodied lecherous skull named Morte. Oh, and there’s also the ghost of a dead woman who claims to be your great love, beckoning you to join her in death… at long last. As you progress through the game world you realize that many of the town’s inhabitants have met you before under different names and identities and it’s up to you to figure out who you really are and why you cannot die. To say more would do a disservice to the writing and the way in which the story unfolds. For my money, however, when it all came together, I was emotionally stunned. It had the same effect on me as a great book with clever twists and turns.

The Good:

  • Excellent emotional narrative; the writing is above and beyond most games.
  • Amazing value for $20.
  • Fun and varied cast of companions feel like real people.
  • You could teach a philosophy class on the themes within this game.
  • Encourages critical thinking in multiple instances.

The Bad:

  • It ended.
  • I finished it.
  • Experienced a few crashes to desktop.

For the love of all that you hold dear, if you call yourself a gamer and haven’t played through this diamond, drop everything and play this right now. It’s old, sure, but it has aged incredibly well and looks great on modern machines with the enhanced edition, which also adds some cool modern notes such as quick looting, smoothed textures, widescreen display as well as other quality of life features.

On top of that, if you love reading and/or RPGs, this is a must buy. Seriously. It’s as good as you’ve heard.

Random thought: If you’re a fan of Patrick Rothfuss and his Kingkiller Chronicle books, you’ll probably notice a whole bunch of stuff “borrowed” straight out of this game. I sure did but I will leave all that up to you to decide. I was, quite frankly, a bit shocked when all the names, themes, situations, and character archetypes reminded me of something in his books. Some of them are not subtle at all (looking at you Cinder, Candrian, The War of Two Skies, the power of true names, and a magical woman who dared not let you leave her secret lair). Oh, and Dak’kon… hi, Tempi.

But I digress.

Planescape: Torment is worth your time and money. You won’t soon forget it.

 

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