Geneforge presents an original setting, masterfully blending sci-fi with fantasy. Here “Shapers” are humans able to create and shape life through magic, raise armies of creatures to work and fight for them, and even genetically alter plants to serve as tools and weapons. Everything about the world seems exotic and well-thought, and it’s very interesting to learn about its lore and workings.
The story starts with your character being washed in the shores of a mysterious island, where rogue creations run wild over abandoned Shaper ruins. As you explore the massive island in search for a way back home, you’ll find the truth behind the abandoned ruins, and will decide the fate of the various factions that inhabit it. The writing is solid, and the game asks you to make some seriously complex decisions, without any banal morality judging you. I’ll add that Geneforge is the only game I ever played where the NPCs managed to change my mind with solid arguments (instead of bribes) after I had decided on a set course of action.
Combat is turn-based with action points, and although it has some annoying limitations (like only one attack per turn), it’s solid. There are three classes to choose from, and they give you freedom to fight any way you want, being able to create hordes of weak monster to fight for you, focus on a large and powerful creatures, cast spells like firebolt and fear, or simply hack and slash your enemies. Non-combat skills like Leadership and Mechanics are also important, as they provide unique ways to avoid conflicts and solve quests. And although it may not seem obvious at first, there’s a great deal of reactivity here as well.
When this was release, back in 2001, cRPGs fans had their mouths full, being spoiled with the release of classic such as Arcanum, BG2: Throne of Bhaal, Morrowind, Wizardry 8 and Gothic. So it is understandable that Geneforge, with its unattractive graphics and puke-green UI, went by undetected by most. But it’s a damn shame, and you should fix that now.