Why People Love Planescape: Torment

Yesterday, a video game shattered yet another Kickstarter record: in its first 24 hours, Torment: Tides of Numenera raised $1.7 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 armor 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.

Image by ~mr-nick/DeviantArt