Review: Planescape Torment (Enhanced Edition)

If you’re a frequent reader to this site, you know I’m a Dungeons & Dragons fan. I love the Forgotten Realms, the world of Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Ravenloft, etc. But one campaign setting that has always held a special place in my heart is Planescape. Ever since I first cracked open the original Manual of the Planes all those years ago, the Outer Planes have captivated my imagination. In Dungeons & Dragons, the “Outer Planes” are best described as different dimensions. The Seven Heavens, The Nine Hells, The Abyss, Ysgard, etc – all of these mysterious places, both good and evil, make up what is known as the Outer Planes. While nearly infinite in their own way, they all share an astral connection. And right in the center of it is the wondrous city of Sigil. It is the crossroads of all other dimensions, a place to total neutrality. It is ruled by a mysterious being known as the Lady of Pain. She is a silent enforcer of order. So powerful is The Lady of Pain, that even gods cannot trespass on her territory.  It is here in the city of Sigil, that the classic RPG known as Planescape Torment takes place.

This was a title that I had not originally planned to include in my backlog of playthroughs. But with the surprise release of the Enhanced Edition, I added it my list. Planescape is a game that I enjoyed many years ago during its original release. But it never really caught on in the mainstream. Over the years, the game has built a bit of a cult following. I’m pleased that Beamdog studios has finally decided to give this title the same treatment that they gave Baldur’s Gate and other Infinity Engine games.

If you’ve played any of the other D&D Enhanced Editions, or even if you’ve read my reviews of Baldur’s Gate or Baldur’s Gate II, you already have a pretty good idea what to expect. Planescape Torment (Enhanced Edition) is simply a remaster of the original classic. It’s been updated for modern computers and includes a few quality of life improvements. But unlike Baldur’s Gate EE, there is no additional content or revisions to the game.

As mentioned above, Planescape Torment takes place in the city of Sigil, in Outlands of the Outer Planes. In this game, you play a strange, immortal character known as The Nameless One. The game begins as The Nameless One wakes up in a mortuary, unable to remember his name or anything about himself. It is there that he meets Morte, a disembodied floating skull. It doesn’t take long for him to figure out that he is immortal. Having recently died, his body was brought to the mortuary. Covered with scars and tattoos, Morte informs The Nameless One that written on his back is a cryptic message that contains clues to his identity. It is here that his quest begins to uncover the details of his past and the reason for his strange immortality. During the game, players will explore the city of Sigil, it’s mythology, and even venture into some of the outer planes in attempt to unravel this mystery.

Like Baldur’s Gate, this game uses the Infinity Engine, so if you’re familiar with other Infinity games, it won’t take you long to get acclimated to this title. It’s largely a point and click title. Also, like BG and BG2, this game is based off of AD&D 2nd edition rules. What makes this game different, aside from the planar setting, is that is it very much focused on the events surrounding the lead character. Yes, Planescape Torment uses D&D rules at it’s core, but it doesn’t really give you that full and open Dungeons & Dragons experience like Baldur’s Gate. Also, at least from my experience, I found Baldur’s Gate to be a little more heavy on combat, whereas the adventure in Planescape tends to revolve a bit on puzzle solving and diplomacy.

Throughout the game, you will team up with other characters. The relationship you decide to forge with your party members is a very important part of the story. Each character has their own strengths, weaknesses, and skills. As you progress through the story, The Nameless One will have multiple opportunities to change his character class. So it’s easy to adapt yourself to help compliment those in your party.

As you may have guessed, the storyline is a main focus in Planescape Torment. You will be able to explore the city of Sigil freely and interact with it’s residents. There’s quests and tasks around every corner. Engaging the NPCS and listening to their stories is crucial to your success.

Like many RPG games of it’s time, Planescape Torment is a mixture of both open world and “on rails”. Players are locked into certain areas in the beginning, but as you progress through the game you are able to revisit nearly every location. However, the choices you make on your adventure do have consequences. If you’re rude to the wrong person, or worse yet, if you kill an important NPC, it can severely impede your progress.

All in all, Planescape Torment is a classic title. I highly recommend it to nearly any RPG fan. As dated as it is, it actually manages to hold up very well. The Enhanced Edition has proven to be one of the best selling PC games of 2017, and for good reason.

Difficulty: Variable–  Planescape Torment features an Easy, Default and Hard difficultly settings. Having tested all three, I find them to be accurate and appropriate. Planescape, like Baldur’s Gate is an older game. Younger players may have a hard time understanding the pause/start combat strategy that is really required to master the game. But once you figure out the ins and outs, this title starts to click.

Story: Lore and storyline are everything here. If you’re big on story, this is the game for you. Nearly every character you encounter will have a tale to tell. The same is true for almost every location in the game as well. Of all the old D&D CRPGs, Planescape Torment delivers what is arguably the most compelling storyline of them all.

Originality: At the time of it’s original release in 1999, the Planescape setting was a well established brand, but still somewhat of an oddity in D&D. But in my opinion, it is the key to the game’s success. While many players had seen and experienced fantasy RPGS, and by this time, even post-apocalyptic RPGS, there had never been one that explored the multiverse. Having the Enhanced Edition available to allow new players to experience this intricate world, is certainly a good thing. Despite it age, Planescape is still a breath of fresh air.

Soundtrack: Most of the music found in Planescape is ambient and mood setting. There are a few occasions where players are treated to actual tunes, and these are all very well done. As is the majority of the voice acting. For the most part, the story of the game is delivered via text. But there are a few scant portions that are voiced and all of them are well done.

Fun: If you’re a fan of CRPGS and/or Dungeons & Dragons, you’re going to have a blast with this game. However, many players many simply not have the patience for the old-school style found here. The Enhanced Edition does make this title a bit more approachable.

Graphics: At the time this game was released, the Infinity Engine was starting to get a bit long in the tooth. Today, even though a lot of work was put into modernizing the Enhanced Edition, it still looks quite dated. But most of the re-rendered textures are a considerable improvement over the original. The in-game cutscenes and character art remain unchanged from their original versions.

Playcontrol:  I’m not sure why, but Planescape Torment controls way better than other “enhanced” Infinity Engine games. The AI is responsive and accurate, unlike BG and BG2, the controls in this title just work. I did not experience any of the strange and weird issues that I encountered with Beamdog’s other D&D games.

Downloadable Content:  No – At the time of this writing, no DLC has been announced for Planescape Torment. Aside from potentially supporting the fan-favorite “Unfinished Business” mod, it’s unlikely we will see any.

Mature Content: Fantasy Violence, Mature Themes

Value:  This game currently sells for $20. Considering the amount of content packed and the overall quality of the game, it is well worth this.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Planescape Torment is a forgotten classic that, like it’s main character has been resurrected thanks to Beamdog Studios. It’s a must-have for any serious CRPG fan. It’s everything that great about D&D, in a setting that even more fantastic.

Available on: PC (Steam and GOG)

Dungeons & Dragons: Father and Son

One subject that I don’t discuss as frequently as I like is Dungeons & Dragons. I try to stay up to date regarding the latest supplemental material and core books, etc. But It’s been several years since I actually made a post about the current state of the game.

If you look back on this site, you’ll see my very first entry regarding Dungeons & Dragons is when I discussed the upcoming release of what is now known as Fifth Edition. Dungeons & Dragons has has a tumultuous history. But I think it is safe to say that D&D 5E has ended up being a smashing success. In my opinion, Wizards of the Coast (D&D’s parent company), has finally hit on the right formula. No longer are the bookstore shelves packed will useless, poor quality supplements. Instead, every single release is filled with quality, well tested material. Any “up in the air” play-options are instead posted online in a series of articles called “Unearthed Arcana”. Players are encouraged to download these game options for free and try them out. This allows 5E players to customize the style of the game they are playing, without weighing down the core rules with countless, redundant options.

Recently, my 13-year old son expressed a serious interest in the game. So, I began a search to find a new group of players that are family-friendly. I’m happy to say, I found what I was looking for! For the last month or so, my son and I have been spending our Saturday Nights at a local game shop playing D&D.  It was a bit of a proud moment when I gifted him with his very own copy of the Player’s Handbook… I still remember my father buying mine for me. So far, he has really enjoyed the game. Plus, getting out and meeting new people has also help foster some valuable social skills.

When I started playing again a few years back, I found myself participating in some official, sanctioned games. These days, I no longer concern myself with that. Currently, our DM is running the “Out of the Abyss” adventure, which is an actual official D&D story, but we’re not actually participating the “Adventurer’s League”.  It’s a much more relaxed and laid back atmosphere.

I plan to begin posting a little more regularly about my D&D adventures. I’ll also be covering some of the books that I previously decided against reviewing on the site. Aside from the PHB, DMG and MM, there’s really only been two other “source books” released – the rest have all been hardback adventures. So I had originally planned not to really spend my time on those. But, to keep things chugging along, I have changed my mind about that.  So, sometime within the next month I’ll start discussing some of these. Stay tuned!

Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Master’s Guide 5E

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Confession time! Even though I was thoroughly enjoying my weekly D&D game, I missed a week back in the fall due to family vacation and I have not played since. The thought of missing a week’s worth of content discouraged me a bit. I guess that’s the drawback to playing a sanctioned game; it goes on with or without you. Despite my lack of playing, I still maintain an interest and I’m still buying the new releases so that when I decide to play again, I’ll have a whole library at my disposal.

So that brings me to my latest acquisition, the 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. This book was actually released back in December, so I’m a little late with this post. But that’s given ample time to flip through and look over this product and I have to say, I’m very impressed. I’ve spent a lot of time with my nose in various DMGs over the years and I was delightfully surprised to see that the 5E DMG is packed with more content than I’ve seen yet. All the staples that a Dungeon Master would expect from a DMG is here: treasure tables, optional rules, game lore, etc. But while previous manuals have often provided barebones information on many topics, this book really expands on them.

For example, in the older 1e and 2e guides that I’m used to, the section describing Planes of Existence is usually relegated to a paragraph or two with a simple rudimentary diagram, this book gives the planes their own chapter. Which I personally found to be fantastic, as the Outer Planes are one of my favorite aspects of D&D.

So again, this new version of the Dungeon Master’s Guide is just another example of what Wizard’s of the Coast is doing right in the his new edition of the game. Now that the big three core books are out, I’m very curious to see what types of products they are going to offer us next (aside from playable adventures).

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Dungeon & Dragons: Monster Manual 5E

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A brief update here on D&D related things. I’m still attending and enjoying the D&D Encounters at my local games store. I’ve found that buying the “grab bag” boxes of miniatures can be quite addicting… So far I’ve managed to acquire a few neat pieces though.

Recently, I got my hands on the new version of the Monster Manual and I have to say, I’m very impressed with this book. Back in the 1e days, Monster Manuals were very thin and contained only black and white artwork. I enjoyed the old 1e books regardless. By the time the 2nd edition came out, the developer had the terrible idea to release loose-leaf pages of monsters. The plan was for players to create their own monster compendiums using a big white binder, but for me, the pages always got torn or fell out, etc. It was a big pain.

This book on the other hand, is very well put together and feature absolutely breathtaking artwork for each monster. I found the contents of the book itself to cover quite a bit of ground. I see things here that I remember seeing in the old Fiend Folio. I’m very excited to see what might lie in the future monster indexes. So far, I’ve been VERY impressed with this version of D&D.

Dungeons & Dragons: 5E Player’s Handbook and Adventuer’s League experiences

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Last Wednesday I played my first actual game of Dungeons & Dragons in almost twenty years. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had an interest in Dungeons & Dragons since I was around 11 years old. I played my first games with some family friends, a bunch of young AirForce guys. Through them, I learned the basics. We played a few AD&D 1E games, then switched over the brand new 2nd Edition. This occurred while I still living in Japan. Once I got back to the states, I still collected the books, but I had a very hard time finding a dedicated group. A lot of the kids my age didn’t share my maturity level and when I did manage to get a game together, it ended up being filled with people making dick jokes, or pseudo-sexually roleplaying. Not my cup of tea. By the time 3rd Edition came out, I did catch wind of some serious groups in my area, but my interest had shifted to other things.

Over the years, 3rd edition split into 3.5 and then 4th. 3.5 loyalists made their own game; Pathfinder, and it got very fragmented and confusing. But, once I learned a 5th edition was coming, my interest was sparked.

I decided that instead of falling into the trap of trying to get friends to play, I would seek out a group of serious gamers. I used Meetup.com to find an official group in my area, I RSVP’d and took the plunge.  Here’s how it went down:

 

After registering, I went and bought myself a copy of the Player’s Handbook and spent a good part of the afternoon reading over it, and making a character. For the most part the process was fairly straightforward. I did get confused at some points when it came to ability modifiers. I wasn’t sure how to record these accurately at first. Rolling stats was easy. Then came the racial modifiers. Ok. Done. Then came the class modifiers. Ok… Proficiencies were next. I was told to choose 4. Then, I find out that some are assigned to me automatically. Did I need to change my original choices if there was overlap? Where these additional? I found myself jumping between two or three chapters just trying to figure out what exactly I was supposed to record.

When it came to equipping my character, I was given a list of starting items. Then, ANOTHER list when choosing a character background. It was clear as mud at first. It wasn’t until I actually got to the game table and asked other players did things start to clear up.

I guess my biggest gripe is, there’s really no clear cut step 1, step2, step 3, etc, in the PHB. No one is going to read it cover to cover. It is a reference manual. Maybe the basic version of the game or the version in the starter set is a bit clearer, I don’t know. Regardless, that is my big gripe.

Upon arriving at the game store, I went to the gameroom in the back. There were five tables and they were already filling up. Four games of 5E D&D and 1 Pathfinder game. Everyone was friendly and handshakes went around as you might expect. Shortly after taking a seat, I was handed a DCI enrollment card. This is apparently to officially register me in the DCI rankings for Wizards of the Coast. My membership number allows me to participate in official convention games as well as track my progress in the new “Adventurer’s League”. Upon registering on the website later that day, I didn’t really see any way to keep up with this, however.

The game ran for two hours. I didn’t really expect much to get done honestly, but we did actually play for a while. For the record, I rolled a Tiefling Rogue. I’ve always enjoyed playing “thief” type characters, and the Tiefling race was new to me. This was something we didn’t have in the old days. The game we started was the Tyranny of Dragons. This is official storyline/module that is running between now and March of 2015. For more information on this, click here: Tyranny of Dragons

The official game-world in fifth edition is Forgotten Realms. This felt comfortable to me from my days playing 1e and 2e. Not a lot of backstory was provided, I get the feeling that the Dungeon Master was a bit of a rookie… I heard a lot more detail coming from some of the other tables. But, I’m not going to complain. At this point, I’m certainly no pro. I’ve been out of the game for a long long time, and I had PLENTY of questions. Everyone was nice enough to take the time to answer them, so again, no complaints. I was given a print out with a description of several factions. I was told I could choose a faction to align my character with if I wished. I picked one and then was given a very nice folder to keep. Inside were some official character sheets, a description of the faction and some sort of registrations codes. One was to redeem an item in the D&D Neverwinter MMO, the other… I’m still not sure what it’s for yet. Still, it was a nice unexpected freebie.

The gist of our night was this: rumors of a town being ransacked by bands of Kobolds. Call to arms for all abled adventurers, etc etc. Upon arriving, we do indeed find a town in peril. Smoke is billowing from the ruined city and a dragon is circling the skies overhead. Our party made it’s way into the city and joined up with a group of characters that were being attacked by roaming bands of Kobolds. Battles ensued. Then another, and another and another…. the rest of the night was basically battles as we made our way through the town towards the keep. Despite what seems to be slow progress, I had a lot of fun. It was a blast.

There was a lot more combat right out of the gate than I expected. The DM seemed unclear on certain things when asked, but overall it went very well. At this point, I’m still in the learning stage so I’m not taking things too seriously. I plan to attend this week and I will again post my assessment of this week’s game as well.

Dungeons & Dragons: Character Creation

Tonight for the first time in nearly twenty years, I’m going to play Dungeons & Dragons. As I’ve mentioned here before, the 5th edition of D&D was recently released. A free version of the rules were published online for anyone to use, and a low-budget starter set was also released as well. This week, the first core rulebook appeared on store shelves.

I decided a while back that I really wanted to get back into this hobby and the release of the 5th edition was the perfect opportunity to do so. Recently, I joined a local group on Meetup.com and the first officially sanctioned game is tonight. This morning, I went to my local hobby store and picked up a copy of the Player’s Handbook. I plan to fully review this book in the coming weeks once I’ve had a chance to really sink my teeth into it.

As for tonight’s game, I’ll also post my thoughts on the experience. This is first time I’ve ever sat down to play a game like this with total strangers, so I’m not really sure what to expect. We shall see how it goes.

Now, I have to sit down and actually prepare a character for tonight’s event. A quick glance at the book shows a lot of changes from what I’m used to. Back in the old days of 1e and 2e, things seemed quite simple. From what I’ve seen so far, there are some rather exotic options (half-dragons, half-demons). Also the classes seem to include areas of specialty that you can choose. This is also something I’ll need to wrap my head around.

My working knowledge of D&D pretty much ends with the first and second edition. I’ve heard bits and pieces of 3E and 4E,  and I have a very rough concept of how the D20 system worked. The word on the street is that this current version is truly the best of the old and new. So, with an open mind and no real expectations I’m about to roll the dice and see what happens. Stay tuned in the coming days for updates.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is here

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Updates have been slow lately because I’ve been grinding away at some pretty big games. So in the meantime, I’ll take a quick break from the video games to talk about the new D&D. That’s right, it’s finally here: Dungeons & Dragons 5E!

Initially, when I discussed D&D I expressed some concern over pricing. It’s true the that new core rulebooks will carry a hefty pricetag, but thankfully Wizards did something I never expected. They have announced that the basic version of the game will be available for FREE.

That’s right, all you have to do to mozy on down to www.wizards.com/dnd to download a free PDF version of the basic D&D rules. This covers character creation, magic rules, combat rules, and a little bit more. It’s certainly enough to teach the very basic mechanics and get a character prepared.

In just a few days, an inexpensive Starter Box Set will also be available for purchase in most book stores. For $20.00 you will get a printed and slightly expanded version of the rules, a set of game dice and a few other trinkets and tokens. This package is meant for new players or anyone who wants to get their hands dirty a bit before the full rule books are released in the coming months. However, to be clear, Wizards is stating that the free PDF is all a PLAYER will need to actually enjoy the game.

So what am I taking away from all this? Well, I think the move of making a free version of the game is a good idea. But I get the feeling that Wizards is trying to steer people into the direction of playing their “live hobby store events” instead of focusing on the classic “play at home” players. What I mean by this is simply this: Wizards of the Coast wants you to download the PDF, create a character and then take your character to your nearest authorized retailer where you will then join other players in an officially sponsored event. Participation gets you a certificate and the whole nine yards. If I understand thing correctly, your character can be used at ANY officially sponsored event regardless of location. Now I guess that’s cool. But I’m not used to playing D&D that way.

Of course, people can still play their own campaigns at home. And they most certainly will. But I worry that allure of playing an “official” campaign combined with the potential roadblocks of finding an open seat, and locating a shop to play in may also turn some players off. Thus, making the ranks of D&D players dwindle rather than swell.

Personally for me, the nearest WotC sponsored game is over 40 miles away. That makes it difficult.

Ok enough ranting. I’m impressed by what I’ve seen with the 5E rules. It is most certainly a new and fresh take on the game mechanics. Yet, it manages to have a touch of that old school 1E feel that I love. I have high hopes for this edition.

I will certainly be buying the starter set. Once I do, I’m going to start keeping my eyes peeled for a game. Be it some local people or one of these official events. I WANT TO PLAY.

Nerd Passion: Dungeons & Dragons

So far, this site has focused mainly on video games. That’s not too bad. Almost everyone plays video games to some extent. We’ve also touched on subjects just a little bit less mainstream; comics, Star Wars, etc. But again, who doesn’t like Superman or Darth Vader? These are household names. So today, I’m going to talk about one of my passions that is 100%, unfiltered NERD MATERIAL. That is: Dungeons & Dragons.

I love D&D. But sadly, I have not played it in many years. For those of you who are not familiar with the game. Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop role playing game. It’s played with books, paper, dice, and these days, miniatures. Perhaps, you’ve seen the movie E.T., remember the scene where Elliot and his brother are sitting around the table talking about elves and magic missiles? That was D&D.

I was first introduced to D&D when I was about 11 years old. I remember seeing some of the rulebooks in the bookstore and I was very intrigued. This was around the time that the original version of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was transitioning to its second edition. At this time in my life I lived on the island of Okinawa in Japan, so when I expressed an interest in playing, my parents had some of their young AirForce friends come over for dinner and they stuck around to teach me how to play.

Over the years, I experienced a number of fantastic adventures. I played First Edition and Second Edition. I bought and collected all the material I could get my hands on, and even read several of the novels. (Dragonlance was a favorite of mine). However, like many other things in my life, my interest in the hobby started to fade as I got older. By the time the Third Edition of D&D was released, I was no longer playing.

But, my interest in the game never completely faded. In reality, between school, work, and other hobbies I could never find the time to pick it back up. I also became a bit disgruntled by the rapid release cycle. In just a few short years the third edition of D&D became 3.5, and than 4. I couldn’t afford to keep up if I wanted to.

These days, I have a bit more time on my hands and I find my interest in the hobby rekindled. The hardest thing about playing these days is not finding the time, but finding people to play with. Tabletop RPGs have recently taken a backseat to computer games. Today, the “D&D Nerds” play MMO games like World of Warcraft. No one seems enjoy that nostalgic sound of dice rolling across a dining room table. I miss that! After doing a bit of research, it seems the best way to find other players is by hanging out in local hobby shops or stopping by for official “hosted games”. Not my first choice, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I feel like this problem may have more to do with my location than with the overall interest in the game itself. I live in the middle of nowhere. The nearest hobby shop is 30 miles away. So, yeah.

Despite these hurdles, I’m starting to feel that D&D itch again. After doing a bit of research, I’ve learned that the 5th edition of D&D is on the horizon. The new version of the game is expected to launch this summer. It is my intention to get in on the ground floor with this “D&D Next”, as they are calling it.

Naturally, I plan to detail my experiences here. So if that’s your cup of tea, keep an eye out in the coming months.