It’s been such a long time since I played Planescape: Torment, I forgot what a glorious experience it was. I don’t think it’d be right to review the actual game itself for this review, after all, that game was made way back in 1999, and Beamdog isn’t so much remaking the game as much as giving it a well needed spitshine to bring it into the modern era. So let’s take a look at how that efforts fared instead?
Back in 2000 I worked for this videogame shop in Brisbane called “Games’R’Us”, one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had. During this time I was playing Planescape Torment, Baldurs Gate and Fallout 2 religiously in amidst the onslaught of games I’d receive discounts on, that would be given to us and would find their ways into our hands. These three games would form the ‘holy grail triumvirate’ of RPG’s for me, each filling a particular ‘need’ and never feeling old when I’d restart them due to the absolute variety they’d deliver. I’ve honestly missed playing games of this quality, and in more recent years have loved the onslaught of games from the old guard of Developers, who cut their teeth in old companies such as Black Isle, Interplay and Obsidian, giving us these now classics.
It’s just a shame though, that these days, the style of RPG I love seems to have gone by the wayside. Those old Black Isle rpg’s, the ones based primarily on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition rules from the 1990s, utilising the THAC0 system, just blew my mind. It’s not that I don’t like modern RPG’s, I still find myself indulging in modern classics, such as the Witcher trilogy and Bethesdas Elder Scrolls games, it’s just that these days, I find RPG’s of that quality are incredibly far and few between and lack a lot of the risks these older games took.
Where most games of the time period presented you with standard human characters, maybe a robot, the first time you loaded Planescape: Torment, and realised your first companion was a floating human skull named Morte that spent his introduction getting busy reading a novel off of your back? You knew you were in for some serious weirdness, and weirdness is putting it lightly. Seventeen years after its initial release, we finally have Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition, a remastering of the original classic, coming to us from those fantastic people at Beamdog Software who just insist on re-setting the bar time and time again to higher standards with every product they’re putting out in my opinion.
The interface has received an overhaul, which benefits the gameplay dramatically, what was once a slightly clunky interface for a magnificent game is now an almost buttery smooth interface of left and right clicks that feels responsive and tight. The game also natively incorporates widescreen now, thankfully, allowing you to zoom in and out to a large degree, and while previous players of Planescape Torment will say “Pffft we’ve had mods for years that allowed us to do this”, the fact is previous mods didn’t allow scaling of text, or the User Interface would suddenly go out of scale which ended up looking abysmal. Now however, everything scales perfectly and the game is better for it.
But you’ll have a ball, because the gameplay is intuitive, the menus are simple, the character creation is excellent and never confusing and the game itself fascinating. As with Baldurs Gate, Ice Wind Dale and others games of its sort, you can opt to pause combat when needed, cue up your orders, then engage time and watch all hell break loose. New functions for this enhanced edition, such as tab to highlight interactive elements, take it or leave
On the downside, however bear with me, the character sprites are still muddy when zoomed in but this is a price to pay in my opinion for revisiting greatness and striking a balance between keeping it ‘pure’ and updating the resolution to todays standards. I guess on one hand I would’ve liked to have seen some extremely fine looking detail on the sprites, some redrawn ones that looked up to 2017 standards, but I can’t help but think ‘That would not be Planescape Torment’. This game has a particular look, a particular feel and aesthetic to it. To suddenly turn that into a crisp, clear version of its former self might end up actually detracting from its actual identity strangely enough. Fans of Streetfighter 2 Turbo Edition may know what I’m talking about, as when that was released on the Xbox360 may moons ago with re-drawn sprites, the jarring nature of extremely hi-definition sprites was simply too much and the game received a critical drubbing. In this respect, while theoretically I might have liked higher res sprites, I can live without them and I’m perfectly fine with what I got, as the backgrounds, the animations, the characters, they may have been made 18 years ago, but by god they’re still goddamn beautiful. The variations in enemies designs are unlike any other RPG out there, the main characters are a sight to behold and there never was before and never has been since quite frankly, a party of characters used by a player, quite like there is in Planescape: Torment. The one downside though, for me was the videos which are still incredibly low resolution, I do admit I was hoping for these to be tidied up a bit. However, I will concede I do not know if the masters of these videos can possibly be? Given the time period they were created, this may not be possible, however they do in some cases look very, very dated because of the drastic upscaling they receive to modern resolutions.
Oh I love the sound in these games, the sound’s been improved but it’s all still there, it seems a bit clearer, like it’s undergone some polish, or maybe my speakers are just better these days, it’s hard to tell. But the heavy industrial sounds of Torment are just fantastic. When you played a game from Black Isle ‘back in the day’, (god I feel old now writing that!), you were assured of a few things, fantastic character development, excellent gameplay and outstanding atmosphere courtesy of graphics, text and especially the audio. It’s all still there and it’s all still superb.
I’ve put this special category here to get into the the special parts of the enhancements. What do I love? What do I like less? Honestly, I like all the enhancements. Beamdogs gone and done a wonderful thing with this game, updating only what needed to be updated, opting to only touch up the game in what I would term a ‘necessary manner’. The resolution now sets itself at your desktop standard, while Planescape Purists can of course opt to go ahead and play in the very old format turning off the new graphical standard, people like me who love Planescape in all its forms will likely just go ahead and love it all the more in its new style and offerings. Being able to zoom in on the action with your mouse wheel, I find excellent, or to scroll right out and view a whole setting in one window almost, to be a blessing in a game like this. There’s a quick looting option, which picks up everything in your vicinity and for those who need that little extra help if they’re finding the 1990’s RPG’s a little too challenging? You can hit tab and it’ll outline everything in the scene that can be interacted with rather than forcing you to use your noggin like we had to! You kids today, got it so easy I tells ya…
You may notice this isn’t a standard review. It’s kind of hard to review Planescape: Torment because quite frankly, it’s one of the best ever RPG’s to come out. It’s more an evaluation of the enhancements, are they worth it? Is the new product good? The answer is unequivocally yes. The old, first version of Planescape: Torment, personally hell, that was a 10 out of 10 in almost anyone’s books it was that goddamn good. Time has gone by, the enhancement by Beamdog made to it don’t ruin it, if anything, they’ve made it more accessible to new generations of RPG lovers. I firmly believe in this sense, that Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition maintains it’s score, remaining one of the few examples of perfection in the RPG genre, a brilliant shining gem that all should play, all should experience and those who miss out on it, are poorer for. I cannot endorse this game more, because quite frankly, when this game hit, this didn’t just ‘set the bar’, it didn’t just ‘set the standard’ for isometric RPG’s and three dimensional RPG’s that followed, it recreated it. Games are still utilising lessons learnt from Torment, still aping its dialogue style, because why the hell wouldn’t you? You learn from the masters, in this case Black Isle who at this point in time just could not be beat in creating immersive worlds to explore, in order to try to recreate perfection. In this case, Beamdog have gone ahead and reproduced perfection in no small way and added subtle, small touches of their own which in no way impact it negatively.
Excellent, refined gameplay.
Added zoom function.
Sound is excellent.
Graphical updates well done.
Old gameplay is still there and still as awesome as ever.
The Nameless One is still a compelling character!
Morte and all the crew are still brilliant.
It’ll transport you back to a time where RPG’s where absolutely brilliant and unforgiving, a time we barely get to visit these days.
Videos are a bit muddy due to age.