One of my all time favourite games is one that nobody bought, less played, yet for some reason everyone seems to love it. BGE Syndrome is what I call it, after the better known (yet equally neglected), Beyond Good & Evil. The game I love so dearly was released before that, in a wonderful pocket of time for PC gaming that saw a swell in RPGs: they were more accessible; better looking, with sweeping soundtracks; and didn't feature random encounters, oestrogen-riddled emotionally-inept characters with great hair, or long-winded dialogues about how random everything was, but that their hair was still great.
Planescape: Torment is just about the finest example of how story telling, character development, and player interaction should mix. Because the characters are
the story. What starts of as a simple (hah!) amnesiac story deepens into a philosophical and spiritual conflict. The main protagonist in this maze is the Nameless One, and that's the only thing he'll ever be called.
There are spoilers below, but I doubt you'll want to play a near-10 year old PC game, in a whopping 640x480 resolution. Though it really is worth it.
Images from MobyGames.
We first find the Nameless One laying on a mortuary slab. Shredded with scars, tattooed and appearing very much dead, he awakens with no memory and no possessions. He isn't the lump of clay to be shaped most characters are, just waiting for some event to convince them they're really a prince, a god incarnate, or that something forces him from his home, or he finds a magic sword. Nothing like that.
I've never felt more involved in an adventure as much as I had with the Nameless One. But it's not just because he's a fascinating character, he isn't: He has no past, or future. It's the game world the brings it to life, the characters we fall in love with, or hate, and ultimately our submission in finding out what happened and who we are. The Nameless One is the most transparent character I've played, without baggage, and expectations.
I've been hateful, shocked, curious, fascinated, fallen in love, and terrified to loose it all. All through The Nameless One. "What can change the nature of a man?" Ravel, the witch, asks. Throughout the game l asked myself that same question, adapting to the kid of person I needed or wanted to be; whether or not I wanted to play out the same life as the last. It's not so much the Nameless One that is the character I adore, but the game world as a whole. It really is a powerful experience, as exciting as a great film, and a stirring as the best novel. Play it, and ask yourself, what would change your nature?