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by chris-williams

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Guide and Walkthrough by chris-williams

Version: 1.0d | Updated: 12/11/2021
FAQ of the Month Winner: April 2020 | Highest Rated Guide

Introduction

When we debate whether videogames can ever count as art, the game that everyone brings out as exhibit "A" is Black Isle's 1999 RPG, Planescape: Torment. And sometimes - very occasionally - everyone is right: Torment is the gaming world's very own Citizen Kane, the work of an auteur rather than a mere author, with writing, characterisation and pacing that make it stand out from its contemporaries and which give it timeless qualities that ensure a place in top 20 lists for as long as people appreciate the medium.

The original remit was to create a game in the AD&D Planescape setting, a campaign setting that gave you an entire multiverse to play in. As far as I'm aware, Torment is unique in this regard. Beyond that, the developers sought to create an atypical fantasy game in every respect: there is sorcery, to be sure, but no swords (actually, there's one, but you can't use it until you make it not-a-sword), no shields and no armour that your character can use. Dwarves and elves are noticeable by their absence; your companions include a disembodied skull, a delightfully characterised demoness and a mechanical creature from the plane of Mechanus. The exotic setting allows the art design to transcend the cod-medieval as well - it feels closer to Star Wars than Tolkien.

The art design is serviceable enough but what stands out in Torment is the depth and quality of the writing. The game asks you to consider the meaning of life for a man condemned to live in an eternal present. For this incarnation at least, the Nameless One is deliberately offered as a blank page on which you can write your own story: you can make him a saint or a monster, an honest dealer or a compulsive liar, a naïf, a clown or a wise man and all shades between. The peripheral cast of characters are complex and memorable, from your companions to the bit-players. And the environmental story telling is peerless: no other game I have played made me imagine the experience of an insect metamorphosing into a human. When you find yourself considering whether or not to join a faction because you care about their philosophy, then you are properly invested.

The Enhanced Edition

Besides acquiring an additional and ungainly colon, you may legitimately wonder in what ways Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition has been enhanced. Fundamentally, the improvements are resolution and streamlining. On consoles, a new control scheme has been provided that can at least be described as workable, it not elegant. Moreover, with oversight from the original designer, various fixes originally provided by third parties have been incorporated where they reflected the creators' original intentions such that this version is the definitive experience.

Fortunately, Torment was spared the "enhancements" that afflicted the reissues of Baldur's Gate. You won't find new edgelord companions given way too much screentime. Perhaps Beamdog felt that additions to an IP as prized as Torment would be like Shakespeare with additional dialogue.

That's the good part. The bad part is that the ports stink. PTEE isn't the crashiest game that I've played (that dishonour goes to Wasteland 2) but it's close. Nothing kills the moment like a segmentation fault sending you to the desktop. Presumably another result of corrupted memory, random letters will disappear from the game's text forcing a restart. I applied the patch but dealing with merchants is still likely to make your game crash or trigger that text corruption bug. Given that this is an RPG and that selling loot is a primary use case, this is poor. And since I can't imagine that the QA engineers didn't encounter these very obvious bugs, I have to assume that someone made a deliberate decision to release an unfinished product. Be aware that I also encountered save file corruption, so I would recommend that you regularly rotate your save files.

Does it hold up?

At the time of writing, Torment is a 21 year-old game. I was always a great fan of Infinity Engine games but even I have to admit that they play a little clunkily. Back in the day, I always felt that Baldur's Gate II was the better game as well, even if the writing and characterisation was only two thirds as good. And in 2020, games like Witcher 3 have redefined what we might expect from a CRPG. However, Torment still provides a uniquely memorable experience and I recommend it unreservedly.

Tips

Bugs and Oddities

All Infinity Engine games were very much designed for keyboard-and-mouse operation. The translation to a controller is, therefore, less than perfect. There are two control schemes selectable with the digital pad: tactical and drive. In drive mode, you move your party around with the left analogue stick. In tactical mode, you move the background and click on a spot to move your party there. For some reason, you cannot cast spells on yourself in drive mode. So if you find that nothing happens when you try to cast Friends, check what control mode you're in.

Consumable items stack - a single inventory or quick slot can hold up to 99 items of a given type. Although you have five "item" slots for usable items in your inventory, only one thing can be selected at a time and available for use from the L2 radial menu. You can, however, cycle through them using the triangle button. In a splendid case of something obvious not being at all obvious, it really isn't at all obvious how you assign an action to your Quick Slots. The way to do it is to highlight a Quick Slot using the left analog stick and then press the triangle button. You will then be able to select a Special Ability or a spell to have available for rapid use. There is a bug with the Quick Items, however. Imagine that the active slot contains 6 Clot Charms and you pick up a seventh. If you go into your inventory and try to move the seventh Clot Charm into the item slot with the other six, you can't; you need to make something else your "Quick Item" first.

Merchants are problematic in several ways. Dealing with them has a bad habit of making the game crash or causing some memory corruption issue that results in text disappearing from the game (and which forces you to restart anyway). They offer up to four services: buying and selling, healing, item identification and rest (very few merchants offer all four). There is an additional bug with the healing and resting menus in that you can't initially select anything. What you have to do is select another service (using the R2 button) and then come back to the service that you actually want.

Two of your companions are magic resistant. What this means is that magic cast on them has a chance of having no effect. This is not supposed to be a double-edged sword - it should only affect hostile magic. However, it has been programmed incorrectly and beneficial magic cast by you on your companions is liable to fail. For this reason, save before casting something on Fall-from-Grace and don't bother trying to cast anything on Vhailor - he has 100% magic resistance. This is actually worse than a double-edged sword since you are rarely attacked by magic. For this reason, avoid equipping anything that confers magic resistance on yourself.

It is possible to drop or sell quest items. You can do this with two items that are necessary to complete the game: the Unfolding Portal and the Bloody Handkerchief. In fact, you can make them permanently gone if you drop them in the Modron Maze and then reset it. Clearly this is poor design, but forewarned in forearmed: don't lose quest items.

AD&D Rules

The 2nd edition AD&D had a couple of strange rules which might be confusing after the twenty or more years since the game's release.

The first is AC or Armor Class which is a measure of how easy or difficult it is for an opponent to hit you in combat. The weird thing is, it starts at 10 and goes down so that more negative is better. Therefore, a bonus to AC makes it go down rather than up. The reason behind this numbering system is that a character's armour class is a modifier to the opponent's to hit roll, which brings us onto...

THAC0 or to hit armor class 0. This is a measure of the probability of hitting an opponent with a twenty-sided die. You start the game with a THAC0 of 18. This means that you have a 3 in 20 chance of striking an opponent before armour modifiers are taken into account. If the opponent had AC -2, you would only have a 1 in 20 chance (because 20 - 2 = 18). On the other hand, if an opponent had AC 3, you would have a 1 in 4 chance of success (because 15 + 3 = 18).

The same d20 roll that is used for attack rolls is used for saving throws. If you are attacked by magic, you have a chance to shrug off the effects or take reduced damage, depending on the magic. To succeed, you must roll greater than or equal to your saving throw. For example, you start the game with a saving throw of 16 vs. spells. This means that you have a 1-in-4 chance of avoiding harmful effects from magic (or at least reducing the damage). Your saving throw goes down as you gain levels. There are actually different saving throw values for different attack types (you can check out the tables in the character classes section if you're interested), but I don't believe you're attacked by anything other than magic - I have no recollection of seeing poison attacks, for example, and you certainly don't get attacked by breath weapons.

If you've not played a Dungeons and Dragons game before, magic works in a way that is different to most other RPGs. You don't have anything like a mana pool from which you draw magical energy. Instead, you have a finite number of spells of varying degrees of power that you can cast. When you have cast a spell, it is gone until you rest. Mages have a further restriction: they can only learn spells they know. You acquire new spells by buying or finding scrolls and writing them into a spellbook.

In combat, pay attention to the attack speed of your weapons. This is a number between 1 and 10 and lower is better. It determines the order of attacks. If you use magic, the casting time is equivalent to weapon speed for the purposes of when you manage to cast it. For simplicity, the game has basically made spell level and casting time the same. Since you won't be able to get off a high level spell before opponents get the chance to attack you, you will want to cast magic from a safe distance. If you are hit by an enemy, your casting will be interrupted and you will waste your spell.

Weapon speed is unrelated to your attack rate. This is purely a function of your Fighter level and your weapon skill. You start off with one attack per combat round (combat is turn based under the hood). If you raise your weapon proficiency to two points or your Fighter level to 7, you will gain an extra half attack per round (i.e. a single attack in one round and two in the next). Level 2 proficiency and 7 Fighter levels will grant you two attacks per round. The highest attack rate you can obtain is 7/2 which requires level 5 weapon proficiency and 13 Fighter levels.

Trophies

The trophy list for Planescape: Torment is clearly designed for three playthroughs which is a bit of a pain. I love the game but wouldn't want to play it three times in quick succession to unlock the Platinum trophy.

The main reason for the game requiring multiple playthrough are the trophies related to one of your companions, Dak'kon. You have to get him to Fighter level 10 with low, neutral and high morale. Just so you know: he'll get there in the penultimate area of the game if you play the game normally. The secret to avoiding a third playthrough is to keep him neutral and make him miserable in a temporary save. In the third part of the game, you can level up very quickly if there's just two of you in the party. This way, you can get two of the trophies out of the way in an hour or so.

Therefore, my recommended trophy strategy is:

Every other trophy should come naturally, although you will of course, actually have to take the trouble to recruit all companions and suchlike. Unity of Rings is missable if you're not careful: you have to keep at least one Black-Barbed Seed from Ravel's Maze. The walkthrough does point this out.

The really tricky one is keeping True Neutral alignment for the entire game. Don't you just love Bronze trophies that take the entire game to unlock? Fortunately, the game is written with sufficient finesse that you don't have to alternate between petting puppies and strangling them to stay neutral on the good-evil alignment. You can actually adopt a fairly robust moral code but threatening bad guys and demanding compensation from people able to pay can give you just enough evil points to get by. As for chaos and law, there are more opportunities to earn Chaos points than the other way round. The secret is to be generally straight with others, but take a few liberties along the way: are you really obliged to be truthful with the leader of a pack of ghouls or honestly subscribe to the philosophy of a death cult? There's lawful and there's lawful stupid. Don't be the latter. Lying about your name to people who have no business knowing is actually quite a good way of preventing yourself drifting into Lawful territory and has the benefit of unlocking the All Too Real trophy along the way.

Copright and Acknowledgements

Copyright 2020 Christopher Williams

This guide may not be reproduced without my express permission for anything other than personal use. Use of this guide on any site where permission to use has not been sought and given is a violation of copyright and forbidden. Permission to use is extended to www.gamefaqs.com.

Walkthroughs and strategies are my own original work and taken from my own playthrough. I made use of the Planescape Wiki:
https://torment.fandom.com/wiki/Planescape:_Torment

Corrections and clarifications are welcomed. Please contact me at c.c.williams at hotmail dot com.