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“What can change the nature of a classic RPG?” Answer – a resolution-tweaking mod.
A couple of you have previously pointed out The Gibberlings Three‘s marvellous Infinity Engine res hack in our comments, but though I cooed with interest and immediately saved it to my bookmarks (three times, it appears), I’ve not had a chance to take a look until now. Yesterday, though, was Finally Replaying Planescape Torment day for me, and word of a resolution-raising tool that saved this incomparable tale of destiny, identity and tragedy from pixels-the-size-of-fists graphic-o-horror excited me enormously.
It’s a mod that’s superficially a wholly aesthetic tweak, but in fact it changes the entire game to a fairly profound degree. The standard compliment and criticism for Planescape is that it’s essentially a novel hiding in games’ clothing. Mostly that’s because of its wonderfully ridiculous slew of text, but partly it’s because, on a technological level, it’s an ugly game. Bear with me before you get angry about that. The blurry pixelisation is one thing, but the greater problem is how little of the world you see – just narrow, blocky slices of screen, each offering only the vaguest sense of where you were. That ever-overflowing text box thus became the player’s focus, and the lavish artwork underneath it so often overlooked.
Playing PST at 1680×1050 thanks to this mod – the pixels not stretched, but rather the game world expanded, a vast amount more of it now visible at any one time – I’m constantly struck by how beautiful it is. It seems less a thing of pixels now, and more like the vast painting it was created as. Particularly, the cursed, sinister city of Sigil is no longer a collection of short, dingy alleyways and squat, disconnected buildings, but this grand expanse of gothic metropolis – bustling with NPC life, sprawling and darkly gorgeous.
I get the sense this is Planescape as it was intended to look. It’s a different game for it, and now I stop to stare at the world as much as I do the elegiac prose. Unfortunately, the increased resolution does make said prose (and much of the UI) squinty-small, but I’m more than happy to make do. Oblivion, NWN2, The Witcher – losers in the 2D vs 3D RPG war. Give me this any day.
The Widescreen Mod (something of a misnomer, as it can do full-frame tweakery too) also works with both Baldur’s Gates and Icewind Dales. Changing the resolution seems like such a minor thing, but the degree to which it transforms these graphically-hamstrung games into sharp, presentable modernity is genuinely astonishing. Find it here.