“They don’t make them like this anymore” is something that kept going through my head as I played through the Enhanced Editions of Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale. At one end, you have some amazing writing and ideas combined with a slower pace to enjoy them and soak in the world and lore. On the other hand, you have rough visuals and clunky mechanics that didn’t age well. Should you overlook the bad for the good to enjoy them in the present, or do these classics deserve to stay back in history?
The package combines two of the best CRPGs ever made, and I was able to experience some of the games of this era when they were new on the PC. Planescape: Torment is legendary, and I can see why. Set in a world where doorways and portals can lead you to all kinds of different dimensions with both good and terrible consequences, it starts with The Nameless One (that’s you) waking up on a cold slab after being dead. You have no memory of who you were, and, depending on which lifetime you see, not all the clues you find paint you in the best light.
That’s one of the best parts of the game, and why I think it’s the superior title in the package. You are given an ample amount of freedom to craft your path. The main story is linear, but the game lets you decide how to get there. Decisions are everywhere from whether to kill or talk your way out of a situation in many different quests.
Combat is usually a less interesting option. You can kill the person rambling on, or you can listen and gain more experience and maybe another quest. When you do fight, it’s more of a standard affair of dice rolls and RNG.
Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition and the included expansion pack are more of a classic tale of high adventure. You and your party venture out to uncover and stop a growing evil in a fantasy world. You’ll pass through towns and underground lairs killing monsters and finding loot. Both games are built on Dungeons and Dragons rules, but this one is more standard with seemingly less player choice than the other. It’s not a bad thing at all. Even though I think the story presentation is superior in Icewind Dale, the contrast between the two games is great and seems like a marvelous pairing.
They are very similar in some areas. Both allow you to level up and travel with companions, choose classes, and they allow you to guide the destiny of your main characters. You’ll be switching out equipment, resting to heal, reading your trusty journal for your next quest, and talking to everyone.
The dialogue can be hammed up a little here and there, but it’s well-written and there is a lot of it. This is not a game for someone who doesn’t like to read. Many of your interactions are short paragraphs, and you’ll have to rerun through conversation menus to glean every fact from someone.
The games work incredibly hard to build their worlds (or multiple worlds) in the game. I was talking to a character in Icewind Dale who was repeating a legend, and I was struck by how much mythos had to be contained in the game. Both game worlds feel dirty and old with all the baggage and scars that come along with existing for eons of time. It’s thrilling to continually wonder what amazing thing I’ll see or learn next, and, with so much content, full disclosure: I haven’t seen everything. There is still a lot for me to see and do in both games.
There is a caveat to all that awesome from long ago. The biggest problem with both games is that they are visually ugly. They are grainy and tough to discern with very muddy textures. It can be a struggle to understand which way to walk in some areas. The game’s AI gets it wrong occasionally too. Those visuals also make it more difficult to see if you are not closer to the TV.
These games have had some significant work to reformat them. The art style is still good, but the visuals are going to turn you off. You can zoom in and out to get a better view, and that helps to see what you are doing. At the same time, zooming in only makes it worse.
Another thing that comes from that era is clunky controls. Casting a spell will take multiple actions and menus. Rearranging your inventories and transferring items to other characters is a chore. I know the controls were originally designed for mouse and keyboard, and I think the developers did a great job shrinking that complexity down to a controller. It’s still very unwieldy.
Despite those strong criticisms, I still find myself enjoying the games. The sound feels like it was recorded years ago, but the music is still great. The writing is incredible, and it’s bursting with creativity. The worlds are rich with history and invite me to drink it all in slowly to savor each new layer. The options menu allows you to do everything from increase the text size or pause the game at certain points to customize it to your liking.
Each of these games is something special that we don’t see too often. There are new CRPGs that are still being influenced by them, and AAA modern mega polygon pushers may lack some of the soul and imagination. In a time of 4K splendor, they aren’t easy on the eyes, and the controls will be frustrating. If you can tolerate that, you’ll be rewarded with the understanding of why these games continue to endure and why you need to experience their magic for yourself.
Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition/Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
The Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale Enhanced Editions are relics of another age, and the visuals and control schemes reflect that age. However, the outstanding writing, world-building, and depth of content help you overlook these problems, so you can experience these gaming gems from the comfort of your couch.
- Fantastic writing
- Great lore and world-building
- Plethora of content
- Visually rough
- Clunky controls
- Some AI issues
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
Jason became terminally addicted to videogames after receiving the NES at an early age. This addiction grew to include PC gaming and was cemented with the launch of the PS2. From then on, he was afflicted with epic RPGs, tense shooters, and deep strategy games, never becoming skillful, but never able to quit. He continues to play games (poorly) and share his passion for them to anyone willing to listen.