09 - Sweet Sounds of the Planes

Alright, before moving on, I would like to just take a minute to talk about a part of Planescape: Torment that I have criminally omitted: the sound. The sound design in this game is one of the best I have heard in my 20 some odd years of playing video games. Now I’m not talking about the battle sounds or things like that, but the other more ambient stuff. I guess I need to start somewhere, so I’ll start with the music.

The music in PS:T really pleases me in a way that many games don't even understand. I like the soundtrack of a game or movie to walk the fine line of accentuating the personality and action of the piece without becoming overwhelming. This usually falls off either side of the barn, but it works for this one. Most of the tracks are quite ambient with lots of unexpected samples and melodies used. One of my favorites is the Mortuary theme which features eastern sounding wind instruments, substrata percussion, and mutterings of unidentifiable horrors lurking somewhere in the darkness. I’m not exaggerating at all, give it a listen.

[Love this track]

This rich composition continues throughout the game and really appeals to my sense of environment and theme as presented through music in the context of the game as well as my interest in ambient music itself.  (I love stuff by Pole, check it out) I could go all day into what I enjoy for music, but I’ll leave it at that. Check out the other themes that are linked to the video which were used as background music for a Let’s Play of the game done on the Something Awful forums.

As for ambient sound, you can’t do much better than this game. Lots of role playing games feature birds chattering, wind blowing, things like that. Planescape isn’t that kind of game, yet again. When you move the frame of the screen over a pub, you can hear the patrons talking and drinking, beers clanking on the table, and music being performed. Markets have shouts of merchants selling their wares, asking you to “Come have a look cutter, you’ve the looks of a man who needs blah blah blah”. Factories have people yelling encouragement and safety to each other, quiet places people shushing others, it’s an incredible atmosphere. I honestly haven’t heard many games with better sound work than this one. Awesome job guys.

Now, back to the game and a good surprise at the end. Or a bad one, maybe.

Curst, Legacy

At the end of the last entry, I had cleaned up the Clerk’s Ward and learned of a legacy I had left myself long ago. Returning to the lawyer, I picked up my legacy which he described as “ancient” indicating it had been some time since I had left it. Luckily, it wasn’t destroyed and I got to dig around a little bit. It mostly contained some charms, a spell, and a receipt for something at the forge. The plot starting to take a laser focus, I went to the forge to pick it up.

Another ancient piece of paper leads to another ancient legacy I had left myself.  It turns out to be a giant metal hoop. I was told by Ravel that it was in the forge and would lead to her… so let’s give it a shot. The game prompted me that “I had a feeling that if I went through this, it would be a long time until I return”. Kind of hamfisted way to go about it, but at least it’s fair and doesn’t screw you out of content if you weren’t done. So, of course, I went through to Ravel’s maze.

[Is that a portal in your pocket or...]

[You must gather your party before venturing forth. You just heard that in your head, didn't you?]

Ravel’s maze is where the Lady of Pain tossed her for attempting to destroy Sigil and existence. It had turned from a nondescript stone area into a living garden grown from seeds stuck in Ravel’s hair. This made for an interesting setup as this maze had appeared earlier in the dream sequences from the Dream Maker. I had been here before.  After talking to Ravel, I found out that many other things had occurred as well.

[A-Maze-ing. Am I right?]

Bullet pointed beats for the conversation because this was a long one and has major spoilers. Don’t read if you don’t want to know… but you already have followed this far. Go ahead:

  • I had sought out Ravel to request immortality without understanding the implications. This resulted in living countless lives with no consistent memory from one to the other and, thus, no meaning.

  • Ravel had fallen in love with me and awaited my uncountable number of returns as this scene had occurred over and over in the past. She sees me as a puzzle box that can help her solve the ultimate question: “What can change the nature of a man?” I answered Love, because it can make you change your entire life for a purpose. Put to the same fire, other answers such as anger, hate, or any number of the provided choices could do the same. Also, I’m a nice guy in the game, so it fits.
  • All of my companions are doomed to travel with me as they are tormented by their own demons. Annah loves me (We totally made out afterward. High five, bro.), Da'akon is an outcast, Ignus is a nutcase, Morte is still a mystery, and Fall From Grace is a traitor to her race.
  • Ravel had taken my immortality, but did not have it. She didn’t know who had it, but a Deva (Angel) living in the outlaw town of Curst may. My next destination is determined.
  • Ravel had understood how to leave the maze for ages, but simply didn’t want to. She taught me how to leave so that I could go and seek my immortal soul to finally die. Unfortunately, she didn’t want me to leave again and started a combat that almost wiped my whole party and was pretty exciting. I fought some living trees and the mad witch herself. We came out on top.

[We meet at last.]

[May I have my mortal soul back, please?]

[All my companions are joined in torment.]

[What do they mean to me?]

["What can change the nature of a man." Quoted by nerds everywhere.]

[Choose your destiny.]

We left through the portal provided which triggered a cut scene. Ravel was not dead, but conversing with an unknown nasty green guy who appears to be the baddy of the game. The tendrils all around and deep booming voice gave him a larger than life and pretty threatening appearance. He was telling Ravel that I must be stopped and he intended to do so. She mouthed off to him a little and she got dispatched with much less trouble then I went through. I guess this guy is pretty serious business.

We emerged from the portal outside Sigil in the aforementioned town of criminals known as Curst. After talking to the local barman, the entire town seems to be suspiciously awaiting my appearance. Five quest givers have five parts of a key to see the Deva, but I need to do their jobs first. This lead to a sequence of quests that, although not very exciting, were not terrible either. I divided some property between two heirs, rescued a damsel in distress, protected an old guy guarding the junkyard, solved political intrigue, and freed a demon. What is strange about these quests is that, although sort of interesting, there is literally nothing more than I could write than that about each storyline involved. I did notice that each solution had four or five varying solutions ranging from rational and nice to next level bananas crazy. I think this is a getting to the last minute test to determine what kind of character you will be at end game. Will you be a saint or an Ed Gein nutcase? You decide. So I did these in a nice guy way, because I’m always that person in games. I could go on to write about how this has been programmed into me to get the best rewards for being nice, but that’s for another time. I have the key in hand, and used the opened portal to travel under Curst to seek the Deva.

Under Curst is totally cursed. And I am cursing.

Alright, for this entry I am just going to mention a couple of things. The only point of interest under Curst is an old hobo living in sewers infested by demons who will let me rest. Keep this in mind: I cannot rest except by talking to this guy.  I cannot re-memorize spells or regain hit points unless I do this. Got it? OK. Second is that the sewers connect to a prison where I found the Deva I am seeking. He won’t help me until I remove his chains with his sword that has been put into evidence lockup by the prison guards I ran from like a little girl to get to the Deva in the first place. This is about the point where my blood pressure went up a few points, I started muttering curses, and even entertained putting the game away. No joke, it’s that bad. I’ll get into it next time.

[The Deva. Notice the soldiers lined up to slaughter me once we are done talking.]

Other stuff

I hope to get to the next entry soon and, I’m not going to lie, I may cheat to do it. I have beat my head on the stone wall of combat in this game for the last time, but I don’t want to abandon it or stop the blog. I did take a break for a few days to read, listen to music, see friends, and stuff like that. Now I feel recharged and hope to get back on the horse.  I look forward to pushing through this stuff and finding the golden ending. Check it out.

--Backlog Killer