Getting lost a lot
So, I made it out of the Mortuary. First I talked to a dead woman I once loved. There was some prophecy, some explanation of backstory; all good stuff. She told me I can die over and over, which seems like sort of a meta-mechanic for a game. It builds the system of dying and reloading into the story. Pretty cool.
To get out of the Mortuary I killed a guy. I was in disguise, asking him to how to get out, and he leaned in and sniffed me. I sort of panicked and clicked the “snap his neck” option. So we fought. I killed him and he dropped a key. I feel pretty bad about that one.
I’m in the Hive now. This game does not hold your hand. There are no quest markers, arrows, or exclamation points over heads. I have to remember stuff. The Hive is sprawling and overwhelming. But it’s also kind of a cool feeling; the game isn’t structured for my convenience.
I think this is part of a trend I’m seeing in the game’s design: instead of me—the human player—being the structuring subject of the game, it’s the world/character that structure things. I’m not sure how to explain this.
Some games seem like they’re primarily about facilitating a smooth performance for play: they offer clear directions, and try to reduce confusion. The diegesis is not just there to be played in, but there for the player(I mean, I guess all diegetic elements in the game are there for the player.) Maybe a better way to say this is that the game doesn’t compromise its world or narrative to suit the comfort of the player.
I’ll try again: some games feel developed while playing them. This isn’t always a bad thing, but when there are HUD arrows pointing me where to go, or markers on a map in places I’ve never been, there’s a certain sort of disconnect. On the other hand,Planescape isn’t afraid to make me feel lost. The world is big. People really don’t know what to say to a stranger like me, and if they did they probably wouldn’t without some incentive. This kind of sucks. I don’t like feeling lost or confused or hopelessly off track. But it’s immersive at the same time.
I hesitate to use the word “authentic” because I just read a NYT piece saying that it’s the new “awesome”—but I think this is a case where the importance of authenticity really applies. Planescape is true to its own world, maybe at the cost of playability—but this is admirable. In the face of pressure to accommodate the player, it remains distinctively itself.
Alright. More on that later.
On another note, the game is interesting as far as perspective goes. In dialogue options, it often tells “you”—me, the player, playing as the Nameless One—what feelings I have. I don’t really know how to describe this. I’m playing, but I’m playing as the Nameless One. And the game is telling me what the Nameless One feels—yet this feels natural. So, sure, it’s in the second person. But it’s also weirdly blended with the first person, because I’m making choices in the world.
All of this is making it pretty hard to write about.