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GamesFirst! Magazine

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Take Fallout and lose the nuclear waste. Take Planescape: Torment and factor out the interminable dialogue. Add a heapin’ helping of real-time combat. Mix these ingredients well and fold them into an entirely original 3D fantasy world, and you’ve got Torn, Black Isle’s intriguing-yet-risky new RPG.

Black Isle bestrides the PC RPG world like some digitized geek colossus, routinely producing games that win RPG of the Year (as they have for the last four). Lately they’ve been winning with stunning PC iterations of the AD&D universe, so it seems gutsy-bordering-on-crazy for Black Isle to turn its back on such a sure thing and set its next RPG venture in an heretofore unknown fantasy setting. There’s nothing that demands a deep backstory like an RPG, and it remains to be seen whether players will flock to a new and unknown world.

Black Isle’s betting that the game’s deep RPG system will overcome such obstacles, and that eventually the world of Torn will become as well-known as that of the Forgotten Realms. Torn will use the Fallout series’ S.P.E.C.I.A.L. character system, which will allow players to solve game problems in many different ways, from force to guile. This should make the game much deeper than your standard hack n’ slash fantasy RPG, and with a non-linear story line and a deep character generator, Torn may very well become the “thinking man’s RPG”.

In any case, it was nice to see a fantasy world that draws from a mythos other than those of Tolkein and AD&D. Even the playable races deviate from the usual. While the game does contain dwarfs, elves, humans and halflings, they don’t look at all like the standard issue ones, and the game also introduces two very unusual races—the ogres and the sidhe. Torn’s monsters are also an interesting combination of the familiar and the original.

It’s hard to tell how the game will look. Black Isle is using the Lithtech engine to create Torn’s graphics, and at E3 they were sort of a mixed bag. Mostly they looked a lot like Baldur’s Gate in 3D, and that’s a good thing and a bad thing. However, some of the game’s monsters were extremely well-rendered, and we can only hope that the graphics engine sharpens up as the game’s development progresses.

It’s hard to make a call on this one. If it all comes together, Torn could be Black Isle’s next big Game of the Year franchise; if it doesn’t, they could have their first real flop. Since I’m big into originality and risk-taking, I’m pulling hard for them—but they’re facing a lot of competition, not least from their own Baldur’s Gate series. 

  

Rick Fehrenbacher

 

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