Old School RPGs are not forgiving… After the break…
A Few Minutes with Planescape Torment…
I don’t know why I torture myself… I should just “bite the bullet,” get a Steam account and unlock so many of the sweet, sweet games that lie therein.
Oh, right. I remember now. I have self-respect and don’t like having my meta-data mined. Oops.
PC Gamers have always been guilty before proven innocent in the eyes of software publishers but, at least in the old days, the copy protection was ON the disk, not ON the Internet. Back then, you could, at the very least, swap computer games with one another.
In an ever-dwindling pool of games to choose from, I decided to install “Planescape Torment” (PT) because, for some reason, it’s one of those ‘hipster’ old-school games that everyone claims to love and “they don’t make them like they used to.” Well, I’ve got a copy (because, you know, you can still do that with old computer games – Trade and sell them once you’re done with them, just like with console games and you know how badly the console market has tanked because of THAT activity) and so I decided to install it and give it some playing time lately.
Actually… First, I installed it. Then I installed the official patch. Then I installed what felt like 9,000 other third-party programs so that the game could be played on modern systems and with modern settings and with all of the little bells and whistles added onto it as nature had always intended it to be. But it’s on my computer now. For now.
Even though I grew up in the world of Ultima, years of modern “RPGs” can’t prepare you for the culture shock that is old-school isometric RPGs. This is the era of paper manuals so thick that you could destroy a small building with it if you dropped it out of a flying airplane. Of chunky sprites. Of writing everything down.
Planescape Torment is that class of RPG that just does not forgive you for glossing over it. You need to check every drawer, every cabinet, save before every dialog and then go through all of the dialog options searching for the “best” route and hoping that you made the right choice. At least we’re in the era before checkpoints; Can you just imagine playing a game like this with checkpoint-only saving? Talk about torment…
What games such as these lack in graphics they more than make up for in story. At the beginning of PT, you wake up from being on a slab in a netherworld between life and death. Clearly, your physique has seen better days but at least you aren’t as dissected as some of the other subjects on other slabs. Zombie servants shuffle around and, although their sprites are the same, their descriptions are not. I was struck by the juxtaposition that, on the one hand, you are extremely discouraged from “killing” the female zombies (Even in Purgatory, ladies, a bit of old-timey chivalry still exists) and yet some of the corpses on the dissecting slabs are most decidedly not male (Where are the politicians screaming bloody murder about this?) and also most decidedly not covered (Think of the CHILDREN!).
There’s a lot to absorb at the beginning of PT, being an entirely new world and all and I couldn’t help but feel as though I had stepped into that old cliche of the series Dune where you are just smacked down with 3,000 names, dates, people and places all at once and are expected to merely nod your head and go “yup” as though you’ve known it for your entire life. However, your old RPG senses kick in and you can get by with the old “rifle through everything, kill everything that you can and upgrade as much as possible and you’ll probably get by” trick.
One slightly kooky aspect of PT is that you get a floating, talking skull as your sidekick. Sidekicks tended to be a thing in adventure and RPGs back in the day. I don’t mind it and I understand that game developers used it as a crutch for a variety of gameplay reasons but I like solitary situations where I’m not dragging people along.
Overall, I’m not having a bad time with the game. I’ve just started it but pacing is always important because games such as these can burn you out somewhat quickly if you play too much of it in a short timespan. Hopefully, GemRB (an attempt to modernize the Infinity Engine that game is based upon; Think of it as a variant of what OpenMW will be for Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind) will be refined enough at some point to play PT without any major issues.
Until then, I have a door to find because, after all, in PT, you are in a world of doors…