In honor of the release of the Neverwinter Campaign Setting for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, it is Dungeons & Dragons week here at Diehard GameFAN. As part of this week, we will be opening up the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame to five nominees – all video games based on Dungeons & Dragons in some way. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.
Game: Planescape: Torment
Developer: Black Isle Studios
Release Date: 12/12/1999
Systems Released On: PC
Genre: Action RPG
…and here it is. The one Dungeons & Dragons video game that is spoken of with such reverence amongst video game fans that it is hard to believe it is a licensed title. In fact, this game dominated the 1999/2000 awards scene across the globe, is considered to be Interplay and Black Isle’s greatest creation ever (although Fallout is far more famous since it is still around) and shows up on nearly every “Top XXX Games of All Time” lists regardless of what site or magazine puts it out. When someone boldly proclaims this game to be the greatest RPG of all time or the greatest PC game of all time, those statements are generally met with acceptance or mild debate with titles like X-Com thrown out as possible contenders as well. By now everyone knows I’m talking about Planescape: Torment. Of you know…they could have just looked at the title of this piece.
Planescape: Torment is the very epitome of a cult classic in our industry. It is a game whose fame and sales came about because of word of mouth and the sheer quality of the game instead of name brand awareness. Hell, the D&D logo didn’t even appear on the cover – only a small TSR logo was there. Unless you were familiar with the tabletop campaign setting by the same name, you’d have no idea what Planescape originally started as. Otherwise, it was just a box with a weird dude’s face on it.
Planescape: Torment developed a reputation as the most story-driven RPG ever – something it still retains to this day. Every dialogue choice and action you made in the game had some effect on the rest of your experience. Your alignment is constantly shifting, the game completely turns the concept of character death on its head, and even the setting of the game itself is unheard for an RPG – as you play through multiple planes of existence. The story of both PS:T and of The Nameless One in particular is one of the most original and innovative plot lines to ever be encountered in a video game and yet it all starts with one of the most overused clichés in gaming: a protagonist with amnesia. It still boggles my mind how such a trite story hook could be used as the impetus for a game that would be one of the most unique ever made.
Go back and read the reviews of this game from 1999. There’s not a single negative one out there. Every professional review of the game slobbers on this thing as if it was the second coming of whatever deity you choose to worship. Even today, it’s almost impossible to find any true criticism of the game. It’s practically unheard of in this industry for a game to be this universally loved, especially a decade after its release. Yet, it’s also a game that is never cited as being overrated. In fact, the opposite tends to come up, which makes no sense to me as to how a game often called “Best. RPG. Ever.” Could be underrated, but whatever.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to think of a PC game with this much acclaim and praise. So it makes sense to finally put Planescape: Torment up for a Hall of Fame Nomination. Of course, the staff here at Diehard GameFAN isn’t very PC oriented save for a small minority of us so there was actually a chance PS:T wouldn’t gain entry, like so many other games before it. After all most PC games that have been nominated in the past, like Grim Fandango, hadn’t been played by enough staffers here to get a true nomination of four votes either way; merely a placeholder column instead. Would that happen with Planescape: Torment as well? See for yourself.
All in Favor:
Ashe Collins: While not my favorite D&D game, I do think this deserves the hall of fame, as my own tastes for the game’s setting don’t really show how fantastically done the game and world really are. What actually kept me playing this was the game’s story itself. While the amnesia thing has been done to death before, this was one of the first games I’d played where you WERE in fact, dead. There are a lot of staples here, including using the same game engine that Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale on the PC would use. Planescape set the bar for a number of RPGs before the new millennium and showed PC D&D fans what the next step was in the evolution of the PC RPG genre.
Gygxais Jebavy: Planescape: Torment< definitely earned its place in the Hall of Game by virtue of being a highly novel story that is well told with engaging characters that are outside of the realm of pure fantasy stereotypes. The different gameplay options that emerge as a reflection of your characters statistics and the multiple paths to play the game offer a lot of replayability as evidenced by the purportedly 100,000 page script.
Robert Capra: Planescape: Torment broke new ground for me in RPGs. The fact you could take your character in a multitude of directions, the interactions with other characters, joining factions, and just the setting alone; all of them blew my mind. Let’s also not forget that opening scene; waking up from the dead was a shock to everyone’s system. Arguably one of the greatest openers/plot devices ever used in a RPG. This game had such a huge impact on my friends and I that getting “mazed”Â is still a lingering threat in any tabletop game we play, regardless of setting. Don’t forget the game is still going strong. New mods allow you to play in HD Widescreen, as well as include old missions that were cut due to time and money constraints. The sheer impact of Planescape: Torment can’t be denied. HOF material if there ever was.
Alexander Lucard: Planescape: Torment is an amazing game. Is it my personal favorite PC RPG, though? Well, it’s up there with Fallout, but then what dedicated PC RPG fan in their 30s doesn’t seem to give that response, eh? Is it my favorite D&D video game? No, that’s probably Shadow Over Mystara or Dark Alliance 2, but Planescape: Torment is a close third. Planescape: Torment does, however, more than deserve its reputation as arguably the best PC RPG of all time. It was ahead of its time on so many levels and even today, most RPGs from either side of the Pacific pale in comparison.
There are so many great things about the game. The Nameless One is one of the most intriguing protagonists and gaming history and it’s the only time I’ve ever seen the amnesia angle done right. The cast and characters of the game were so original and out there, you couldn’t help but fall in love with them. Morte the floating skull played by Rob Paulsen? A Githzerai played by Assistant Director Skinner? A Tiefling played by Sheena Easton? The late great Charles Adler (Starscream/Cobra Commander) as Ignus the pyromaniac? Dan Castellaneta as a Modron? So on and so forth? This is the most eclectic and memorable cast of playable characters in the history of RPGs. Black Isle went all out in terms of breaking new ground and hiring top notch voice actors to play them all. I remember actually yelling “THE NAMELESS ONE!” the first time I heard Dormmamu speak in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Honesty, the cast and their combined story is unparalleled in gaming and you can definitely tell see/feel the divide between RPG gamers that have played Planescape: Torment…and those who haven’t. Seriously, this game should be required material for anyone looking to work in the gaming industry in some way. It’s that ahead of its time…and that beloved.
Another important aspect of PS:T is that it feels enough like a Dungeons & Dragons game that longtime fans of the series will feel right at home. At the same time it is so different from the typical fantasy game that it appeals even to people that hate Dungeons & Dragons. It’s such a unique setting and so intriguing that it’s hard for anyone to put the mouse down once they’ve booted up the game.
Planescape: Torment will always be remembered as one of the best PC RPGs of all time, but more importantly, as one of the very best VIDEO GAMES of all time. If you haven’t played it, hang your head in shame. Hell, you can buy it for only $9.99 over at GOG.com. Hell, they even tell you how to get the mods for the game, the novel based on the video game and the entire soundtrack. All for less than ten dollars. That’s pretty amazing.
Rest in peace Black Isle Studios. We’ll never have another game like Planescape: Torment but we’ll always hunger for things of this quality. Truly you were the greatest western development team of all time and your legacy will never die.
None. I don’t think there’s anyone that’s ever played Planescape: Torment who would deny the game its due. Hell, it’s enough to bring a long slumbering Kliq member back to the realm of video game journalism.
Results: 4 in Favor, 0 Opposed, 100 Approval = ACCEPTED
Conclusion: Well, the result here should be no surprise. Planescape: Torment is one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed video games ever. It won nearly every GOTY award out there in 1999, even by publications that focused more on console games than PC ones. With unanimous acclaim, Planescape: Torment enters the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame.