"What can change the nature of a man? If there is anything I have learned in my travels across the Planes, it is that many things may change the nature of a man. Whether regret, or love, or revenge or fear - whatever you *believe* can change the nature of a man, can. I've seen belief move cities, make men stave off death, and turn an evil hag's heart half-circle. This entire Fortress has been constructed from belief. Belief damned a woman, whose heart clung to the hope that another loved her when he did not. Once, it made a man seek immortality and achieve it. And it has made a posturing spirit think it is something more than a part of me."
-- The Nameless One
Whenever people talk about role-playing games, Planescape: Torment inevitably comes into the discussion as an example of how great RPGs used to be. Torment was largely overshadowed by the likes of Baldur's Gate and Fallout at the time of its release and was not much of a commercial success for developer Black Isle Studios, but it developed a cult following over the last 15 years and is now commonly regarded as the greatest RPG of all time. Its reputation has been so tenaciously uttered for so long that I suspect people just take it for granted without actually understanding why, and it's not uncommon to see someone name-drop Torment in online message boards as a way of validating their opinions and credibility. Over time, the shroud of Torment has grown from that of a cult icon to the holy grail of RPGs, taking on a mythological mystique entirely of its own.
It was about six or seven years ago that I played Torment for the first time. As a fan of old-school RPGs, I had to know what I'd been missing all these years, but my time with the game was cut short upon discovering that one of my discs was so badly scratched that my computer couldn't read the files, thus preventing me from progressing past a certain point. I liked what I had seen of the game, though, and have since considered it among the best RPGs I've ever played, even despite never finishing it. With its spiritual sequel Tides of Numenera on the horizon, I thought it was time to take another look at Planescape: Torment, to see what it is about this game that makes people speak its name with such passionate reverence, to figure out why, exactly, Torment is so often heralded as the best RPG of all time.
Torment is without a doubt a unique and finely-crafted game that absolutely deserves to be near the top of any "best ever" list. It's one of very few games that takes full advantage of video games' interactivity to bolster its storytelling in unique ways that you can't get from books or movies. It's one of very few games that uses the "main character has amnesia" trope in a crucial way that permeates the very essence of the story and gameplay. The nature of the story, the way it's told, and your role in uncovering it (both as the nameless protagonist and as a person playing the game) are unlike anything I've seen in perhaps any other game. The story is Torment's best feature, but there's a lot more than that under the hood that consistently propels it into the discussion of being the best RPG of all time.