Why People Love Planescape: Torment

Yesterday, a video game shattered yet another Kickstarter record: in its first 24 hours, Torment: Tides of Numenera raised $US1.7 million, becoming the fastest Kickstarter to earn a million dollars.

Tides of Numenera is a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, a role-playing game that came out for the PC back in 1999, and it's received blessings from a chunk of the old Planescape team, including designer Chris Avellone. Maybe that's why it's made so much money.

People love Planescape. People really love Planescape — to the point where they'll dish out a whopping amount of cash just to see a new game that carries on its legacy.

You might be asking: why do people love this game so much? Here are a few reasons:

It's not fantasy... or sci-fi

It's something in between. It's set in D&D's Planescape lore, which is sort of the RPG equivalent of Internet: you can access an endless number of worlds, but some of them are sketchy and full of pedophiles. Although the isometric look feels a bit obsolete today, it's still easy to appreciate Planescape: Torment's fascinating world, which sometimes looks like it was built in a junkyard and other times looks like it came straight out of Lovecraft.

Planescape: Torment's world is sort of like a cross between Cirque Du Soleil and the Necronomicon. It's unforgettable.

The characters are all flawed and memorable

Party members in Planescape: Torment fight. They squabble. They get on your nerves. They say things that you might not agree with.

There's the ghostly suit of armour with a twisted sense of justice who only joins your team if you lie to him about who your main character really is. There's the insane wizard who spent his life setting so many things on fire that as punishment, a bunch of other wizards set him on fire. There's the succubus healer who runs a brothel — but not the kind you're thinking of.

Planescape: Torment only gives you a few playable characters, but they're all interesting. They all stick with you. When you piss them off — and you will, while playing Planescape, piss people off — you'll feel remorseful about it. Or maybe you won't. Maybe you'll get angry at their disloyalty. Maybe you'll want to kill Vhailor, and maybe you'll want to shove Morte back into the tower of skulls from whence he came. That's all part of the fun.

Your choices actually matter

In Planescape: Torment, a lie can bring a person to life. You can talk your way out of boss fights. You can even convince the final boss to kill himself.

When people talk about Planescape, they generally talk about how good the writing is, but they're not just talking about prose and flow. They're talking about how your decisions carry weight. How every bit of dialogue almost feels like a puzzle to solve, a tree full of complicated choices whose branches all lead to different possibilities.

There's a question asked frequently in Planescape: Torment. "What can change the nature of a man?" It's one of the driving themes behind the game. But the real question you'll be asking as you play is: how can you change the nature of man?

Maybe it's just the little things

In Planescape: Torment...

• You can die. You'll come back to life. This is an integral part of the game. • You can join a cult that worships death, or a cult that believes that everybody is a god. Or you can just become an anarchist. • You can visit a pregnant alley, then prevent it from getting an abortion. This makes even less sense than it sounds. • You can piss off the deity-like Lady of Pain and find yourself trapped in a maze for all of eternity. • You can kill the incarnation of your character's mortality.

Although Planescape hasn't aged super well — and you need a high-resolution mod if you plan to play it today — it's a special sort of game, and it's had a significant impact on a lot of people. No wonder so many people want to throw money at the sequel.

Picture: ~mr-nick/DeviantArt


    This game was, and continues to be, my defining gaming experience. It's the only game that has ever made me tear up (Nordom's parting words), and the semi-hidden name discovering sequence is probably the most well written thing in any video game ever. For all it's clunky combat and first year philosophising, this is still the greatest game ever made.

    I bought it on impulse, and even back then the graphics were a bit underwhelming... but the ambition of the multiverse and the depth of the story were awe inspiring, and the feelings that grew for your companions remain. Can't wait for Numenera.

    No game has *ever* affected me as much as Torment. It's hard to express just how much it means to me, which is funny, because I'm a mouthy SOB who never has any trouble expressing himself. Numenera can't come soon enough.

    I want to back this because I've backed wasteland and these guys seem good on their promise, but I don't remember ever playing Planescape, it looks like a diablo clone - is that the case?

      Just... no. Diablo and Torment are about as far from each other on the RPG scale as it's possible to get - one personifying the aRPG genre and the other personifying the cRPG. Don't be misled by the superficial similarities in the isometric perspective.

        To explain further, Diablo is about combat, Planescape is about everything but combat. To get the most out of the game you need to strip your Strength and Dex and increase Wisdom - there are grunts in certain places, but almost every enemy of consequence can be 'beaten' through conversation.

    I must have been one of the few who bought it when it came out - because I thought it was kinda the sequel to Baldur's Gate. Didn't get right into it at first, was probably too young, but a few years later in my mid teens I returned to it and it became one of the greatest games I'd ever played.

    I'm still hoping that Trent Oster's team (who've just successfully released the enhanced / HD version of BG) will get a chance to do HD Torment. At first I wasn't impressed with BG:EE but only because the first things I saw were the new intro and the new portraits - probably the lowest points - they need a new artist (or the original one). But overall they've really done an amazing job and all other aspects are incredible - and they're showing real dedication to releasing patches and improvements.

    How about some spoiler warnings, you muppet. I guarantee there'll be plenty who've never played Torment who'll be digging it up now that Tides of Numenara has been so huge.

      I am sadly in this category of people.
      Around the time of release, I was a massive fan of Fallout and Fallout 2, so I gave Torment a go too. Being so young, I didn't have the patience for it at all and always regretted it whenever people bring up the game. I am now a backer of the 'sequel' and have purchased the original from GOG. A play through is in order this weekend! Very excited. I have the mods all ready to go just waiting to get the hell out of work..

    Always remember the bit about convincing a guy he didn't exist, best part of a game ever.

    "You can kill the incarnation of your character’s mortality."

    I mean really that bit completely blew my mind when I played it.

    Anyway I loved Torment but I really hope the next one is as much a game as it is a book; I'd like some more engaging combat and magic mechanics

    Planescape:Torment is still the most creative and engaging CRPG I have ever played.

    Incidentally, for people who can't wait for Tides of Numenara to get their Planescape fix, there is a Planescape themed persistent world still active using NWN2 as a base. It's called Sigil: City of Doors. I don't know if I am allowed to post links, but it's easy to find on Google.

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