71 – Planescape Torment

And from the frustration file: So I spent the majority of the day just firehosing Torment, cause I had the day off, and why not? And close to my normal bedtime, I notice that I’m actually about to enter the endgame. Okay, fine, I’ll stay up late, beat this sucker, and go to bed accomplished(?). I finished up my last few sidequests, including retrieving a certain item that, according to Ben Chandler, unlocks a really really cool segment in the endgame.

Now, the last half of the game is *extremely* combat heavy–to its detriment, I might say, but I’ll save that for another post–but the final dungeon is ridiculous. Your party members are taken away from you and you have to make your way through a large room pulling switches and avoiding enemies that, while no particular challenge with a party, can really easily surround your single character. Fortunately, you’re immortal, remember: If these things catch and kill you, the worst thing that happens is you appear in the next screen with full health ready to try again.

And for the first three of four switches, that’s exactly what I did–maybe I died a few more times than necessary, but whatever. Right before the fourth switch, however, the stars aligned and a group of enemies surrounded the entrance to the room; since you basically portal in, there’s no way of retreat or escape. The enemies beat me up, and then a nice little message letting me know that I’m incapacitated pops up, and an actual game over screen appears. My last non autosave was about an hour and a half previous; while I could probably run through that bit fairly quickly, I don’t necessarily want to have to.

Fortunately, I have all of those editors from the crowbar incident the other day. I’ll spare the details–suffice it to say it involved directory switching and renaming files and just all this bullshit–but the easiest solution turned out to be maxing out all my stats, letting my character easily defeat the enemies blocking the way. Okay, so far so good. Go through some more story bits, meet a character who says, hey, remember that item Ben told you to hang onto, well take it out now because here’s what it does–and I look in my pockets and son of a bitch, I gave the fucking thing to one of the other characters who is now God knows where.

My last save file is now about two hours before that point, and I don’t fucking care. The thing that the item turned out to be, it is pretty cool, and I do want to see it, and I guess I’m just gonna have to bite the bullet and redo the endgame. Looks like I won’t be beating the game till the morning or maybe even tomorrow night. But hey, that’s still pretty fuckin’ quick, right? I rule.

70 – Planescape Torment

One faction, the Sensates, believe that the only “real” things in the universe are those that can be directly experienced with the senses. Their goal is, essentially, experiencing as much as possible so one can understand the truth of the Multiverse.

One old Sensate laments this to you: He wishes to still continue to experience new things, but his age is so advanced that he can’t physically travel to the more exotic locations. He tasks you with finding a way for him to lose his memory–that way very basic, every day sensations will be new to him.

So you do, and what follows is the text of a note he wrote to himself to get his bearings: “Congratulations…you’ve begun again,” it says, and he goes off, amiably, to figure out what’s going on and follow the instructions he wrote.

What strikes me about this quest is that the guy now finds himself in the same situation as our protagonist–an amnesiac trying to learn as much as possible about the world. And yet, where your journey is one of angst and melancholy and horror, his appears to be a joyous second chance.

There’s that Nietzche thing–I apologize for referencing Nietzsche!–which talks about a shadowy figure at the foot of your bed telling you that you’re going to relive all of the events of your life, that they’re going to repeat again and again for ever and ever, and an ambiguity over whether this is a blessing from an angel or a curse from a devil. For our sensate, the opportunity to live life over is a consummation devoutly to be wished. For you, every step of your journey is fairly horrific. Everything you find out about your past shows you to be one of the biggest assholes on the Planes. Reliving your past through your rediscovery of it is turning out to be a fairly terrible curse indeed.

61 – Planescape Torment club?, Zest update, Gothic II

So I’ve never played Planescape Torment because I’m obviously a terrible person. I didn’t play a lot of CRPGs growing up–missed Ultima entirely, played and hated Might and Magic II, didn’t play Fallout till college, have never gotten past chapter 1 in Baldur’s Gate. Weird, because I can tell you pretty much everything about every JRPG released in the states till about two years ago. Torment is one of those big holes in my gaming life: I’ve played through a chunk of it, but it’s such a big Thing in some ways that I’m nervous to approach it.

Well, I’ve reinstalled the game and I’m going to be playing it in the next couple of months, and based on some preliminary talk on Twitter, it seems like there’s a lot of people who’d be interested in some kind of Book Club thing. Now, I don’t know quite what form this should take. I don’t want to do the “okay let’s all play this much of the game this week and all discuss it”, particularly because it seems like one of those sprawling RPGs that isn’t conducive to that sort of thing. Maybe it would be enough to just encourage a ton of people to play and write about this game on their own blogs and we can link each other. Perhaps Joel Goodwin of Electron Dance could be convinced to give up some real estate in his forum for discussion.

Either way, if you’re interested–let’s say July-ish?–let me know, and if you’ve got an idea about how this thing could work, please, I’m all ears!

–In Zest news, the basic flow of the game has been outlined. The flow of the game is going to consist of  about a half dozen “time blocks”, each of which essentially has a different “deck” associated with it. The player’s stats influence a degree of randomness–we’ve actually been throwing out the tern “narrative roguelike” to describe the basic feel. My current goal is to come up with a couple dozen basic cards in all the separate categories; once that’s done, I’m handing it off to Lectronice and PaperBlurt who will respectively finish programming the card system and come up with some preliminary CSS. I’m shooting for a hundred cards int he final version–like TWEEZER, I want it to be a game that encourages many very short play sessions. We’re targeting an early July release–that’s part of the reason I’d like to do Planescape around them–so watch this space.

–Again, for a game with comparatively few verbs and stats, there’s a lot to learn in Gothic II. I keep learning new tricks for playing it–where I need to stand in order to pull certain enemies, the timing on how to chain certain attacks, what stats I need to increase to effectively kill things–and there’s plenty more. I still haven’t begun to figure out whether there’s a more efficient way to buy and sell things.

At this point I’ve done a broad survey of the bulk of the island–there’s a lot of stuff I certainly haven’t found, and I’ve only really seen the surface of most of it, but I’ve been, at some point, on every corner of the map, even if there’s only about a quarter of the game I’m able to navigate without trouble. What keeps striking me is I’m just on the first *chapter*.  There’s a lot to see and do in this game, and not all of it consists of doing quests–again, it’s the kind of game that’s rewarding just to poke around in.

–My save–which I’m going to get to as soon as I finish typing this post and will play until it’s time to go to work, I love this fucking game–has me in the middle of an area I have never been to in the middle of the night. Night is scary–or, rather, it’s more threatening than the rest of the game is, and the rest of the game is pretty threatening. While I wouldn’t say Gothic ever becomes a horror game, the sense of vulnerability never quite goes away. The game is like Dark Souls–I’m sorry, I’m sorry!–in that even beginning-of-game enemies can kill you at any point if you’re being too cocky. ANd while Dark Souls has much better creature design, there’s something hilarious about how my Gothic II character ran, panicked, from two chickens–who never fucking give up pursuing and who run fast–and accidentally pulled aggro from two boars, only to run headfirst into a lizard who killed him instantly. Props to the sound department, too: Each enemy has its own cry, and usually–there are a ton of trees–you end up hearing them long before you see them, and so it’s one of those games where the second you hear an animal howling at you, you either relax, though not completely, and maneuver into a position where you can be at the advantage, or you realize there’s two of them and you can’t take on two of them, or it’s something you’ve never heard before and you just run the fuck away.