Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on Mar 25th 2013 at 11:23:08 PM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under pc gaming, mark morgan, fallout, torment, zork, interplay, activision

Mark Morgan is one of the more recent composers, he's been around for awhile now but most of the Japanese legends were already going strong by the late 80's or early 90's. Mark Morgan did not get his first video game project until 1995.

Dark Seed II was the first game released that had Morgan's signature dark musical tones. His style is known for creating an immersive, chilling, and crushing atmosphere within unique worlds. The Dark Seed games did have art design by H.R. Giger after all, seems like the perfect fit! This is quite his strong suit, but he is quite capable of more lighthearted and upbeat scores.

Zork: Nemesis was the next game that released with him at the helm of the music and was a major departure of the series' roots, but he got to stay around and do the music for the more lighthearted follow up Zork: Grand Inquisitor.

In between the two Zork games Mark began the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with Interplay, a well loved and respected developer and publisher that has long since lost its magic. But, Morgan entered when the company entered a new Golden Age, sadly one that could not save the company from itself.

BioWare's very first video game, Shattered Steel was the first project between Zorks, the game is basically a MechWarrior rip off. Depending on your experience with the games that is either awesome or kinda blah.

The second project between Zorks was the sequel to one of the best first person shooters of the mid 90's, Descent II. For those like me that have played Descent you know much the music rocks, and Descent II is no exception!

1997 was a busy year for Mark Morgan and included one of his biggest successes, and a game that completely failed. On top of Zork: Grand Inquisitor he did the music for NetStorm: Islands at War. NetStorm sold badly as it was completely overshadowed by Ensemble's classic RTS Age of Empires, and Activision's marketing budget was effectively zilch.

Now for the big success, that partnership with Interplay was about to pay off with one of the greatest RPGs of all time. Mark Morgan and Interplay released Fallout onto the world in 1997, and RPGs were never the same afterwards!

I will use any excuse ever to pull this video out.

Morgan and Black Isle Studios went together like corn meal and milk as the two came back for Fallout 2, a sequel which may just be better than the original!

Black Isle and Morgan continued their string of home runs with the incredibly unique, critically lauded, and the absolute definition of a cult classic, Planescape: Torment. This classic RPG came out in 1999 and completely failed on the sales charts.

The same year, 1999 saw Morgan and other longtime partner Activision part ways, as the last Activision published game he worked on, Civilization: Call to Power released. This was much more successful on the sales charts and was not instantly relegated to the bargain bin. He did not work on the sequel however.

The following year saw Morgan's last work for the ailing Interplay, the entire company would be mostly dead in less than 3 years after this. 2000's Giants: Citizen Kabuto would be Morgan's last work in the entire video game industry for almost a decade as he completely switched over to score television shows. For Giants Morgan got the chance to work alongside the current Elder Scrolls superstar Jeremy Soule, in a meeting that the Greek Titans couldn't replicate if they tried.

His list of TV credits during this period is quite short, One Tree Hill, Hawaii, Kojak, Killer Instinct, and Shark. Morgan worked on other shows throughout his composing career, and that shows how talented of a musician he really is!

In 2009 Morgan returned to the world of gaming, this time working for Electronic Arts to produce the original music for Need for Speed: Shift, his first racing game!

After a long time separated Morgan was finally reunited with long time employer Brian Fargo as he was brought on board as part of his famous Kickstarter campaigns, part of the stretch goals rather.

Upcoming games that will include Morgan's music include Wasteland 2, Torment: Tides of Numenera, and possible vaporware Prey 2.

Posted on Jul 25th 2011 at 06:15:35 PM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Torment, planescape great amazing play this now

Favorite Games: Part 1

Planescape: Torment

Now I've been a bit quiet on the blog front for awhile, mostly because my main series so far, 'Why Did I Play This?' has kind of dried up for the time being. It is not that I have not played bad games or remember playing bad games or games I believe are bad, more of a reason that I wish to review something that I freaking love! What better place to start than with the game that made me truly appreciate the power of the PC as an incredible gaming device?

The game I'm referring to is of course the one mentioned in the title. Planescape: Torment was developed by Black Isle Studios and published by the ailing Interplay, it was released in the holiday season of 1999 and was built off of Bioware's Infinity Engine; which is in my opinion the greatest engine ever made for top down, isometric RPGs. I can not give this game enough praise. If you are a fan of the D&D system and wish to visit one of its greatest campaign settings, which is sadly now dead, in the only video game to ever take place in it, there is no way that you will be disappointed with this game. If you love RPGs in general and wish to try a game that really shows off the strengths and weaknesses of the Western variation of the genre and its tabletop adaptations than this is also the greatest example one can find.

Surprisingly this game's biggest weakness is the combat itself, going full combat is a viable strategy sure and hacking and slashing will make the game easier. Having a stronger physically based character makes the game much easier to get through and makes the endgame a cakewalk. However the developers famous for the first 2 Fallouts, New Vegas, Icewind Dale, Dark Alliance, and infamous for Alpha Protocol, Star Wars: KOTOR 2, and Neverwinter Nights 2 had a different goal in mind for the avatar of Torment. Their goal was to break as many established RPG conventions as they could, and since this was the era of total dominance of the Japanese console juggernauts such as Squaresoft, tri-Ace, and Enix, it would be an interesting experiment to see how their ideas were implemented, and easy to see what they picked.

So what conventions and cliches did Black Isle pick to shatter for this game? Most console based RPGs starred some young boy who was just out of puberty and handled a sword (pause for audience to crack immature jokes and snickering), also most companions were put into cookie cutter archetypes and their personalities built up from there. In Torment only 2 swords exist in the entire game, and one belongs to one of your followers and cannot be unequipped! So that only leaves one sword for the player character to directly equip and control. Most of the weapons are instead things like knives, spears, clubs, axes, crossbows, fists, teeth, and magic; weapons that some will feel comfortable with but have usually taken a backseat for the massive 2,000 pound solid piece of steel. They also went with a unique armor system, characters have the ability to equip tattoos as their armor and stat booster instead of traditional pieces of armor for the most part. Which it is not a different mechanic and serves the same purpose this idea is interesting nonetheless.

What really makes Torment special though is the main character, his dilemma, past relationships with some companions, and budding relationships with the others he has never met before. The player gets to take on the roll of a mysterious, heavily scarred, blue skinned human known as the Nameless One (Michael T. Weiss). His tale is one which shows immortality as much more of a curse than it is mentioned in popular media, after all, who does not wish for the ability to live forever? TNO's alignment is determined by the player and his actions throughout the game.

The Nameless One can also change class on the fly just by talking to a party member who specializes in whatever you wish to change to, basic classes being figher, mage, and thief. Without a doubt TNO is the most versatile character in the game, but to truly experience the full effect and brilliance of the story the player will want a high charisma and intelligence diplomat build, making mage one of the best classes for him. The game is incredibly heavy on the dialogue, and you can literally talk your way through most fights, even the final boss (voiced by the great Tony Jay) with a high enough charisma! Because of this fact and the philosophical quandaries put forth by this game it makes a diplomat by far the best character class even if you will be weak in battle.

However there is one major flaw with the logic of one being seperated from their own mortality, as is shown in the opening cinematic above. The Nameless One CAN die, just not for long, he wakes up and gets up with a wiped memory everytime that happens. Torment begins with TNO waking up in a mortuary, meeting his first companion Morte, a disembodied skull with a streak of rampant sarcasm and a sharp tongue somehow, wandering around, seeing an incarnation of a previous love who is voiced by none other than everybody's favorite FemShep. This sets the basic outline for what will be the rest of the game, Who is the Nameless One? Where has he been? What has he done? Why can't he remember anything? Why is he covered in amazing tattoos?

While I do not wish to spoil too much of the story for those who have never played it I will go into some detail about the companions and what makes them so unique when being compared to the usual army of cliched RPG followers. I've already mentioned Morte (Rob Paulson), who is a rogue skull with plenty to say who was once a part of an incredibly macabre tower of skulls which functions much the same way as the Internet does today. It is a collection of the best and brightest minds' skulls of all history and is regarded as the center of all knowledge. During his mortal life he was a monk, and then decided that making whoopee was too fun to miss out on so he left the monastic order. Morte's alignment is chaotic good. He attacks by biting which is good for a laugh and is the subject of some whimsical dialogue in the game.

The next follower who is recruited by TNO is a githzerai named Dak'kon (Mitch Pileggi). He is the companion that has the sword, which is known as a karach (chaos-matter) and is the last known one to exist, and in capable hands could destroy the multiverse. So now you see while he is incredibly reluctant to part with it. He fills more of a traditional archetype, resembling the samurai and their bushido as he pretty much just jumps into TNO's party due to past promises. His history goes back far with TNO and going too deeply into it would spoil pivotal plot points so I will just tell you to play to find out! His alignment rests logically at lawful neutral.

There are two more characters which can be recruited easily in the beginning of the game, Ignus (Charles Adler), and Fall-From-Grace (Jennifer Hale again). I'll start with Ignus, who is EASILY the strangest character in any game I've played. True to his name Ignus is inflicted with a curse which makes him a living conduit of the Fire Elemental Plane, and as such is constantly engulfed in flames. He is the best offensive mage in the game but is incredibly squishy as his flames do not allow for any armor or tattoos to be equipped on him. Because of his curse he is mentally unstable and suffers from constant insanity. His alignment is chaotic-neutral.

If Ignus is the most bizarre character in the game then Fall-From-Grace comes in at a close second. Think about this for a minute. Celibate succubus, owner of a brothel, donning chastity gear, and is a Priest healing class. What? In true Black Isle/Bioware fashion she can ironically be romanced by the player who makes all the right dialogue choices. True to the name of the game she was once a slave to a master of her race's mortal enemies the baatezu, giant satanic demons basically. Using her cunning though she managed to win her freedom and is now in charge of her own brothel, all the while refusing to offer any special services to her loyal customers! Tease...

Moving onto probably my favorite follower in the game, Annah-of-the-Shadows (Sheena Easton). She is the resident thief of the game and gives Morte a good run for his money when it comes to wise cracking! She is a tiefling (half human-half demon hybrid for those needing the education) and as such has been constantly ostracized through her life so far. Her sharp tongue and rough talking is an incredibly interesting design choice, she uses a type of language called Hive-slang don't worry its English, yet many of those slang words are based on working class British slang of the 18th Century. I do not know though what regional slang they chose, that would be the job for a good linguist. She is built to be the easier, default romance option for TNO, and if you're into chicks with tails you can't go wrong with her! She is chaotic neutral and wields punch daggers.

The last 2 companions are entirely optional, and my first play of the game I missed one of them even! I did get Nordom (Dan Castellaneta) but missed Vhailor (Keith David). I know I know. I missed freaking Goliath but recuited Homer Simpson? How dare I! Of course both are interesting characters, as Nordom is referred to as a backwards Modron, a malfunctioning unit seperated from the Modron hive mind. Ironically Modrons are robots, and spell the word 'Modron' backwards and we get another example of the Alucard fallacy. Nordom is chaotic neutral and uses a crossbow as his primary weapon.

Vhailor is a Mercykiller, an enchanted suit of armor that is meant to uphold order and justice. Strangely enough his weapon is cursed, so he can also be referred to as a malfunctioning unit even though most of his dialogue involves purging the guilty to protect the innocent. That and his mind seems to be intact for the most part. Because of his stance and the way he carries himself, the fact that he is a bastion of the Golden Age superhero makes him an amazingly well done character. In fact if you pull up dialogue about TNO's past he'll turn on the party! And believe me he's such a powerful fighter that you DO NOT want that as Vhailor can singlehandedly down the final boss if you go the combat route. Vhailor is lawful neutral and wields a massive axe.

I'm stopping here as revealing much more will unleash massive plot points.

In conclusion this game is an incredible feat of storytelling. This is one of the most well written, introspective, philosophical, tight narratives in the history of storytelling in my opinion. My first time playing the game about 7 years ago I was completely blown away by everything in the game. Every dialogue option can serve a purpose and slightly alter TNO's alignment and relationship with the character being talked to. Torment is originally Windows 95/98 compatible but for those wanting to play through my argument for why Bioware is NOT the king of storytelling (they do good work, but Black Isle/Obsidian do it better in my opinion) then you can pick it up DRM free and with full XP, Vista, and 7 compatibility on gog.com for the best $10 you could ever spend as a gamer.

Now go out and find just exactly What can change the nature of a man?

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