It's been awhile since we've seen a retrospective for Black Isle's finest masterpiece, so it's great to see Thunderbolt sharing their fond memories and providing an analysis of the RPG's strengths in this "Remembering... Planescape: Torment" piece. There's a lesson to be learned by modern-day developers, here:
...Planescape feels more endearing than most every big budget title made today. While almost every modern game feels so focus-tested they never leave players any doubt as to how to progress, and feature perfectly crafted difficulty curves to climb, they are also so slick, shallow, and risk-free as to risk losing all sense of emotional connection. By not challenging us to do anything other than sit and follow a straight line of breadcrumbs from opening tutorial to three-stage last boss, so many games have lost their sense of adventure, of risk, of discovery and accomplishment. And while Planescape is not, by any means, perfect, it is something more interesting than almost every game found today. In not doing all of our thinking for us, by not rushing ahead, by not laying its entire story out in front of us from the opening scenes, Planescape feels less like an interactive movie, as most games of today are trying to be, and instead creates the feeling of wading through a dense, dusty, 1,000 page fantasy novel. It meanders and sprawls and hints at two dozen paths before finally working its way back, brilliantly, to an answer that's been staring us in the face the entire time. Again, I find myself wondering: will any other game ever give me goose bumps when I simply read about it? Will I ever nod my head in agreement as a modern-day video game is lavished with praise and a slew of compliments, as I do with Torment and a few other select titles? Can the greatest, most thought-provoking video game experiences of my life already be behind me?
It can be musty and poorly paced, but at its core Planescape is something shocking: a truly wise game. Its maturity is not based on its sex or language or vaunted moral choices, but on the wisdom of knowing how painful it can be to know one's mistakes, and the terror, the necessity, of facing the consequences of our actions. It is a game that knows that the only way out of our problems is to pass through them, and the only way to make peace with the world is to make peace with ourselves. And most incredible of all, instead of simply telling us these things, it forces us to trudge through and disentangle them for ourselves over the course of its 40+ hours. By its ending, when all its pieces are in place and one practically feels the sensation of turning pages with the clicks of a mouse, Planescape presents what is easily one of the most moving closing passages of a game in memory. While it has multiple endings, its best is reached when the player avoids a final boss fight altogether; the game is, after all, about saving oneself, not saving the world. And when it closes, it does not try to market for a sequel, tease with a rushed finale or infuriate with a sudden stop. It ends, in a way no game seems capable of these days, with a resolution. It closes its back cover on itself, and it leaves us gaping.