08 - Getting to the Planes

Let me back up a little from my last post and make some things more clear. I'm not going to undo what I said because it's still how I feel, but there are some things to clear up. I do like the game. I think Torment is the purest "Role Playing" experience you can get with the amount of dialogue choices and malleability your character has. (I haven't played Mass Effect, but I hear it's like this, too.) What I do have a problem with is that I don't have much time as I have said before. I have about one hour to play each day, so when something feels like wasting time, it's really exaggerated. Plus, when I was talking about being a 'game', I meant moving more toward the traditional D&D style role playing with stats and combat. It feels like it doesn't belong in a game so focused on dialogue and pure role playing.

Gary Butterfield, one of the hosts of Watch out for Fireballs, raised a good point that I was going to touch on in this post: Maybe there were some other fingers in the design pie. It feels like a concession that some of these elements were added. Maybe if Chris Avellone had his pure vision, it would have been completely full of dialogue and more of an interactive fiction feel. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall in the conference room to see if they pulled a Deus Ex: Human Revolution hijack and said something like "Infinity Engine AND D&D License with no combat?! We need to fix this, even if it's an afterthought." I definitely picked up that kind of vibe.

Anyway, I've made some more progress, and gone through some pretty cool scenarios. I will say that I have been missing a lot of side quests because of my limited play time and I do regret it a little bit, but I honestly may not have time for this kind of thing anymore, which is sad. I encourage you to do it all if you are playing because the writing is evocative and visceral in some cases. Highly recommended if you have 40-50 hours to do this kind of thing.

Finally, I mentioned Gary Butterfield so I would be remiss if I didn't mention the podcast he does with Kole Ross again: Watch Out For Fireballs. It's like a book of the month club (but bi-weekly) and is really critical and interesting. Check out the last episode where they ripped apart what I thought was a classic but never played, Abe's Odyssey . Next episode is one of my all time favorite games, Silent Hill 2, followed by Planescape: Torment. Leave them some comments and questions since most of them come from the Something Awful forums and they do some prizes. A widening of the listener base is important. Spread the love!


During the interim between blog posts, I returned to the Burning Man Pub with the Decanter of Endless water to free Ignus from his prison. I did snap him out of his reverie, but he is still covered in flames. Adding to my own mage skills, this gives me two solid fighters (Morte and Da'akon), a thief (Annah), and two mages (Myself and Ignus). I still have room for one more you will find out about... now.

[Sucks to be this guy.]

Returning to the Clerk's Ward from The Hive, I entered the last major building of interest: The Brothel of Slating Intellectual Lusts. This was one of the most interesting parts in the game and shows the subversion of genres and tropes. As you can probably tell by the title, this brothel is meant to satisfy mental cravings, not carnal ones. It is run by a succubus named Fall-From-Grace who is not only celibate, but also benevolent. She agreed to travel with me if I talk to all ten students in the brothel and learn some new lessons. I really like this character because succubi are generally token enemies that simply exist to seduce men and enact violence afterwards. I've killed tons in Nethack (after exploiting them for extra levels) and never thought of a situation like this. One thing I am not clear on, however, is if I have traveled with this character before as it seems the others knew me previously. We'll have to see.

The brothel is laid out like a wheel with many rooms along the periphery. Each one of these belongs to a prostitute instructed to discuss and contemplate certain aspects of life for the customer. These include discussing dreams for meaning (Especially those of erotic nature), collecting and sharing a myriad of stories, and even an S&M type of situation where the prostitute will berate the customer to provoke increasingly creative and devious insults. Needless to say, Morte put her in her place and actually elicited a "Good on you" type of comment.

I spoke with nine prostitutes/students and quickly figured out I was the tenth to get Fall-From-Grace to travel with me. Just what I needed, priestess with healing spells!

[Devil with a blue dress.]

I felt like this scene was what the designers were wanting from the game in its purest form. Simply talking to different NPCs, role playing with a myriad of responses, and solving simple quests as excuses to travel. The creativity and level of writing really stands out here with opportunities to discuss metaphysical ideas or choose to arbitrarily lie, vow, or otherwise simply for character development. A couple of prostitutes were missing items and I had to figure out who stole them. Turns out it was some pervy wizard transfigured into a piece of furniture to spy on the girls who had them. Pretty hilarious and interesting stuff.

[This guy is crazy... or a genius.]

Dreams and Sensations

I completed the Dream Builder at the great forge, but this process was kind of annoying. I returned with a bottle of my skin and blood to find out that I also needed a birdcage to trap the dreams. He was kind enough to inform me that it can be found in the Seige Tower of the Lower Ward, but the problem is everybody can't figure out how to get in. It warped in years ago and has no entrance or reason for being there, although it does look like it was involved in countless battles in the lower planes connected to the ward. After asking around the ward EXTENSIVELY, I found a guy named Laszlo in the market who was thinking about how to get in. Turns out the portal is activated by NOT wanting to get in. So we did.

Inside we found an iron golem eternally constructing weapons of destruction out of iron. I convinced it to make me a birdcage and also to construct  a blade to kill me. It won't work unless I'm in a plane separated from the prime... so it's a no-go for now.

[Right to suicide messages in my game?]

I brought back the cage and was instructed to get a pillow from a coffin to ensure deep sleep. I got it from a warehouse after the coffin maker lectured me on how to construct a pine box. After returning it, the machine was done and I stepped in. What I found was a nightmarish memory in which Ravel was testing my immortality by having living plants tear me apart (The Ruins?) and fighting against the legions of Hell. Needless to say I survived and got some experience.

[This looks rough.]

Not sure what to do next, I returned to the sensates to see if I was missing something...

Finally found that journal.

Returning to the festhall, further investigation led to finding out I had lodged there before. Returning to my room I found a ton of charms and spells in the closet along with a strange, heavily trapped dodecahedron puzzle box. After solving it, the box revealed a collection of writings in an unknown tongue presumably scribed by myself in an earlier life. But how can we read it?

Luckily the local linguist was around and was kind enough to explain his murdered father knew this language. Not only that, but his ashes were on the mantle. Using some skills learned in the still terrible catacombs portion, I spoke to the dead daddy who taught me how to read the script and also awoke some new memories in my head. I was the one who murdered him so nobody else could read the journal. Harsh. I apologized for it and everything was cool, but I decided not to tell his son. Just in case.

Reading through the journal was an exercise in madness. Lots of the journal entries covered things I had already discovered in the scribblings of a mental patient. This life was obviously unstable.

[Index of craziness.]

[I guess I hit that three death clause.]

[Paydirt. This should tell me something.]

I found out there was a legacy left to myself from... myself. Maybe I should check this out... As for the portal to Ravel's maze, I went back to the brothel and found that one of the prostitutes was her daughter. After helping her deal with this revelation, I attained some of her blood and need to head to the great forge to open the portal. After getting the legacy, that is. Wish me luck!

Other stuff.

I am already in the process of writing the next entry, so things are moving along. After finishing Torment, I may take a break for a week or so to relax and maybe play some relaxing and less demanding things like Minecraft or Nethack or just spend it reading. Incidentally, I finished the book The Ruins and can't recommend it. It was a fast read with interesting points, but it would have made a much better short story or novella. I started reading Clive Barker's Books of Blood which is already more imaginative and interesting. Pretty bloody stuff, though. The title of the story I just read, Midnight Meat Train, may tip you off to that.
Look out for my next entry when we should be close on Ravel's tail and getting to the end of this game.

--Backlog Killer