10 - Scraping By

A prison for my soul, or a Deva.

[This was my reality for several hours.]

This is the absolute worst part of Planescape: Torment. Trying to free this Deva is pushing me to the edge of quitting, but I can’t because I’m almost done and I need to get this off my backlog. I’ve talked about it endlessly, but this game is not about combat and should never have had anything approaching it. I feel pretty strongly about it and consider it to be a major flaw in the game’s design. Whether this was Chris Avallone’s intent or not, I couldn’t say, but it’s leaving me with a really bad taste in my mouth. I have spent one or two hours fighting guards, fighting bugs, and fighting sanity to get through the prison gates to retrieve this sword. It doesn’t push the story forward. It is simply there to make you fight through the guards for whatever purpose I can’t fathom.

I will try to not dwell on this too much, but this part really reveals a lot to me about my past. I don’t remember this sequence at all in my memory of playing the game when I was younger. I didn’t have a problem with it at the time and it seems like it passed through my memory filter, which is pretty good, untouched and out to the aether where non-notable experiences are left to drift eternally. I have changed as a person. This should be obvious, but it’s a tough thing to swallow when you’re a young man growing older. I don’t have time to waste anymore. I have a wife, I have friends, I have a full time job, I have a dog, and all that crap that comes with life. I certainly still have time for games, absolutely and unequivocally, but I don’t have time to be wasted with needless padding and elements that add no tangible meaning to the game. I do attach a lot, I mean A LOT, of meaning with game concepts in PS:T regarding my life and past that I will talk about when I finish. I’m talking about story or gameplay, neither of which is improved by this.

Challenges and hard games are not a turn off for me. In fact, I really enjoy them. I’ve completed both Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls several times, I beat the Myst series up to Myst 4 (It’s SO HARD!) with no FAQs or guides, and I’ve beaten Nethack with almost every class  (Some of them offline). What is different is that these games are defined, at least partly, by their mechanics that are considered difficult. The DSouls games are all about combat that is well rounded, smooth, and rewarding. You will die a lot, but nothing that happens that can be blamed on anyone but yourself. Myst, as we all know, is entirely puzzles that are the means as well as the end. Nethack is a pretty brutal roguelike that is built on the tradition of learning new tricks each time you die and restarting to make it further until you win. It is always expected and the major goal of the game. The link between them all is these aspects fit the entire framing of the game design. Something tells me that fighting guards in a prison to get a piece of steel is not what was meant to define Planescape and it suffers for it. If you are telling a story, you do not want to frustrate the reader/viewer/player to the point of quitting. If this happens, you have failed as a writer.

[This makes me happier than winning the game.]

Anyway, I got the sword.

I hope you appreciate it.

[Take the damn thing!]

After returning the sword, the Deva (named Trias) said that my mortality is being held at a place called The Fortress of Regret. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know how to get there or where it is, but there is somebody who does. A character named Fhjull Forked Tongue owes him a favor and may know how to get there. After telling me this, the angel jumped through the ceiling and went on his way. Taking a hidden portal out of the prison (THANK GOD!), I ended up in The Outlands where Fhjull lives.

[Thanks for the tip, tough guy.]

[Welcome to the Outlands.]

[This sums up the Outlands experience. Notice all the dead NPC portraits.]

Want to know what was waiting for me? A small map of a desert with nothing on it but a giant skeleton and tons of monsters to chase me around immediately after arriving. More of this stuff? Luckily, I was able to run from the encounters without too much trouble. I escaped into the skull of the giant skeleton where Fhjull makes his home. Compelled to help me after having been blackmailed by Trias, he told me I should head to ANOTHER plane called Baator where a pillar of skulls may know the location of the Fortress of Regret. This place is a lower plane similar to hell and is where Fall-From-Grace came from. So, of course, that’s where we went.

[Thanks for the tip.]

Want to know what was waiting for me? A slightly bigger map with scorched rocks and a ton of monsters chasing me around immediately after arriving. See where this is going? It may LITERALLY be impossible to destroy everything for easy passage. Characters would get surrounded and killed while I made a mad dash for the skull pillar making resurrection and other measures necessary. This was very annoying, too. Finally, I made it to the pillar of skulls that I had seen while using the Dream Maker in the great forge.

[Pharod makes a come back.]

This huge pylon is made up of the skulls of criminals, liars, and thieves all meant to spend eternity in agony and hunger. A great little scene takes place here where it is revealed that Morte was pulled from this pile of skulls by The Nameless One in a previous life ages ago. They want Morte back and will give you answers if you surrender him, but I figured this is a pretty jerky thing to do and would be evil which wouldn’t fit my character.

[Morte discloses his origin.]

[Explaining his apprehension.]

[This has happened a few times, I guess.]

Instead, I sacrificed myself by casting my body to be eaten a few times to find out where the portal to the Fortress of Regret is and how to get out of Baator. It didn’t know where the portal was, but it said I had passed by it many times. That’s strange, I didn’t see anything. Who knows where it is? “The liar Trias knows.” Some angel that Deva is. I sacrificed myself again to learn how to escape from the plane (For a loss of HP each time I went into the pile to be eaten). Returning to the Outlands, I talked to Fhjull who taught me how to get back to Curst so I could confront Trias and get my mortality back.

[The key to the portal is regret.]

Now Curst really IS cursed!

(Sorry for the lack of screenshots. I was pretty tweaked at this point.)

I returned to the city to find it in ruins. Trias had come back for revenge and to condemn the city for its actions. I would be angry, too, but this is pretty bad. All hell has broken loose and is powering the deva’s strength. To defeat the angel, you need to do good deeds to weaken him until he is vulnerable. Now, technically you can immediately fight him, but he is tough. I did a few good deeds including freeing a woman from thugs, convincing looters to leave a warehouse alone, and dissuading anarchists from causing more trouble. After doing this I attempted to get into the building where the Deva was. And I do mean ‘attempt’.

Yet again, I was met with a staunch wall of combat. I could run from battle in Baator and in the Outlands, but Curst is so crowded and full of monsters I was constantly being harassed and dying. Then, when entering the building to fight Trias, I was met with EVEN MORE combat. I tried to run past the monsters in here, but the hallways were so crowded I was forced into combat yet again. I won’t beat the dead horse more than I have to, but let’s just say lots of profanity was uttered and another long break was taken.

After finally making it up to the Deva, I was not surprised to find that, just like everything else in the last quarter of this game, there was no way to talk your way out of conflict. I was forced to fight Trias to the death. I died three times before finally beating him because he ran out of spells to cast, I guess.  After which, he asked me to spare his life if he tells me where the Fortress of Regret is. I said I would, since I’m a good guy (see sucker), and he told me. The answer was pretty shocking and cool. After I knew, I was able to convince the Deva that he was wrong in his actions and sent him back to the higher planes shamed about what he had done which is some consolation.

[Finally ready for the end.]

Now it’s time to go back to the Mortuary in Sigil. The portal has been there all along, I just didn’t know how to activate it.

Other stuff.

I have actually finished Planescape and am typing up the entries for the finale and my feelings about the game as a whole. Be on the lookout for those. I have also run some tests and found that the Sherlock Holmes adventure, Nemesis, will not be my next game. I got severely motion sick just during the intro because of the way the game is drawn and was also unable to take screenshots. I don’t know what it is, but all the characters look stretched abnormally long and the perspective makes me sick, which is strange because I still have no problems playing first person perspective games. So, sorry about that, gang.

I also would like to thank Kole Ross and Gary Butterfield for mentioning the blog on their great podcast called Watch Out for Fireballs. If you came here through them, I hope you stick around and comment on anything you think is interesting. If you haven’t heard their show, check out their last 2 hour show on Silent Hill 2, one of my favorite games. They’ve changed the schedule, so Klonoa is next followed by Planescape: Torment, but all of their episodes are awesome and worth a listen.

After the next two entries, I will take a break for a week or two to play some other things (see: Silent Hill HD Collection), but I will be back. So hang on, and let’s see if we can get through all these games.

--Backlog Killer