You can always count on Final Fantasy for an epic and satisfying storyline, but the majority of the franchise still falls into predictable ruts. Reunite the orbs. Slay the dragon. Rescue the virginal love interest. Discover the emo guy's unforeseen destiny. Pit magic versus technology or vice versa. Stop some screen-filling representation of chaos, preferably in outer space.
Final Fantasy Tactics, in comparison, seems grounded and believable. The wars, religions, political struggles, class conflict and international alliances of the Ivalice kingdom could pass for our own world’s convoluted history. Narrative points as dramatic as assassination, terrorism, economic crisis, slavery and even the ascent of an illegitimate heir each have their modern parallels. The tragic ending is more Shakespearean than Square.
While other Final Fantasy games might make you cry, Tactics is the one that will make you feel like a grown up.
A gruesome murder. A missing killer. Two detectives searching for clues. The plot could be ripped from any number of generic whodunit games or CSI spinoffs, most of which substitute forensic special effects and copious amounts of bodily fluid for any real level of maturity.
Indigo Prophecy surprises and challenges the player instead, fracturing the clichéd setup into multiple angles and perspectives. You control both the wanted man and the two detectives searching for him; in fact, you must hastily cover up the crime scene before returning as the cops to analyze whatever clues your former self accidentally left behind. In a later chapter, you inhabit both the killer, who is suffering from strange visions, and the killer’s brother, who doubts the very existence of those visions.
Most games draw a clear line between good and evil, hero and enemy, success and failure. Indigo Prophecy blurs those lines, and is much more authentic as a result. (Well, until the hallucinogenic circus of the second half, anyway... the less written about that, the better.)
“What can change the nature of a man?”
The average game wouldn’t bother - or dare - to pose such a philosophical question. Planescape: Torment, although marketed as a hack ‘n slash RPG and based in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, is not your average game. It asks the question repeatedly and then devotes the main character, the entire story and over 800,000 words of script to attempting an answer.
Can the Nameless One, your immortal and amnesiac hero, change his nature? Is infinity enough time to atone for the sin he committed in his first, original incarnation? Can a man fight against himself and win? Or is he doomed by destiny to repeat his past again and again? With Planescape: Torment, the soul-searching questions and fascinating answers never end.