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Help me out, I'm trying to understand the 4.5 community rating on this game.

It's advertised on it's storepage as giving the player 'tremendous freedom', it's titled 'Geneforge', and the unique draw is that you can build your own party out of various creations.

Ok, great. Sounds Fantastic. Except, I'm about 30 hours in after an aborted first playthrough, and I've been walking around with these same naked orangutan guys since the start of the game. I have 4 creature choices, but Thahds are clearly the best and the only thing reasonably priced that doesn't get 1-Hit KO'd.

I'm playing as a guardian, or sentinel, whatever it is. My characters carry limit with 4 strength is 91 lbs. There are bulky 10 year olds out there who could carry 91 lbs. Also, keys weigh 1 lb each. I'd hate to be a janitor in the geneforge universe.

I understand this game was made by one person, whatever. The Ultima games predate this series by nearly a decade and don't have these ridiculous problems. I also feel like the game, due to lack of any real progression or useful upgrades, is much more linear than advertised. I'm not going to ask for a refund, I just wish the ratings from the community were held to a more consistent standard. This is by no stretch of the imagination of 4.5/5 or 9/10 game. Ridiculous.
Here's an anecdotal example from my enlightening and blissful escapades in Geneforge. I was meanriding casually through the tree-mazes with my bff naked chimp compadrios when I happened upon a bridge fortified with turrets.

'Hark!', I thought, 'It would beseech me greatly to return forthwith to town, summon a ranged projectile minion, thus doubling my firepower and increasing my odds of success. I shall return victorious and drink flagons full of buxom women upon the corpses of my defeated foes, verily!'

So I spend all of 90 points on a Fyora, go back to the Turrets, and guess what? 0-10 pts of dmg per attack, 40-50 dmg taken per attack = 1 shot KO. Wow, the strategy, I'm so RPGenuinely overwhelmed by the options available to me when it takes 4 attacks to kill a ranged enemy that kills me in 2, plus deals poison dmg.

There's also probably been around a dozen times already where my attacks in combat have reduced an enemy to 1hp. When it happens, I get this mental image in my head of a developer with trollface.gif giggling with glee and scampering back into the dark recesses where all game developers dwell, together privately feasting on the certain knowledge that they left a big, steaming pile of manure out in the open and every person who plays their game won't be able to do a thing about it.
Post edited March 10, 2020 by dozah
high rated
Hi there!

First of all, once you have spent 30 hours on any activity, you must have been able to draw your own conclusions about it. In this case, it is simple - this game is not for you. This by extension means that the other games by Spiderweb Software are not for you either, because they all share a lot of mechanics as well as - for want of a better word - feel. They are not identical, but I have found that you either love all of them, or resent the whole bunch.

This is fine. These games are clearly made for a niche audience, and you simply happen to not fall into this niche. Do not forget that most ratings come from people who finished and enjoyed this game, hence its overwhelming success in this regard. Those that did not like it gave up at the beginning and never looked back - few people are as persistent as you are.

To answer your question, I am of the opinion that Geneforge 1 is one of only two perfect games I have played in my life (the other one being Gothic). I guess the reason I hold all Spiderweb games to be above and beyond most everything else I have played comes down to 3 aspects that these games do so well.

The most obvious one is the writing. These games are like reading some truly excellent literary works while actively participating in the story. The language is eloquent and inspiring. There are quotes from these games that I have come to use actively in my conversations. The descriptions are evocative and interesting, the worlds unique and engaging. Still, these are not reading simulators. You actively participate and your choices matter and determine outcomes. You also get to experience the consequences of your actions, successes and failures. If you skipped all those text boxes in the game, then you cut out the heart and soul of this experience. If you have read them, and the texts did not connect with you, well... I guess we are all different. I for one prefer imagining the worlds and scenarios, characters and events rather than being shown in awkward cutscenes or imperfect virtual worlds. Nothing can ever live up to the power of imagination. The point is that if you are a reader, you will like these games.

The second aspect I love about Spiderweb Software's games is the exploration, both figuratively and literally. As the world opens up, more and more secrets are revealed and more and more questions are answered. Who are the shapers? Where did they come from? What are their tenets? What is the viewpoint of their creations? Who is this strange foreigner and what is his agenda? What is the geneforge and what does it do? While getting answers to your questions, you also literally clear the maps and discover details and points of interest or mundane everyday stuff. I will never forget the first time I was sneaking around in an abandoned lab somewhere in Geneforge, dodging monsters and looking for treasure, when I found a barrel, which contained trash and bones. I heroically found the trash can. Every moment you are in these games, there are a plethora of things to do and areas to explore and it helps that these areas largely make sense, unlike in most RPGs.

The third aspect is progress. I have no idea what horrendous build you have made for your character, but I also used a Guardian for my first playthrough and I managed to get the ending I was aiming for in the end without too much headache. If anything, Spiderweb games are a bit too easy on normal difficulty, as you can easily become an unstoppable force if you, like me, complete all the side quests (with the exception of Avernum 4 - that game is hard as nails). There are a lot of options to go for and the games allow for all kinds of crazy character builds to work out in the end. As a Guardian, I made my character an indestructible melee fighter, which made some areas with turrets difficult, and I had to run through these, but otherwise most enemies were simply obliterated once I managed to close the distance with them. I strongly suggest going for the Shaper class if you want to play summoner, though. That makes the game even easier and in a lot of ways more fun as well.

I have played through the complete Geneforge series, the Avadon trilogy, Nethergate Resurrection (twice, with both factions), the new Avernum trilogy, Blades of Avernum and Avernum 4. I have clocked between 40 and 100 hours in each of these games. The only ones missing are Avernum 5 / 6 and Queen's Wish, but they are on my to-do list. The excellent ratings come from a few select people like me who are enthralled by the unique and unlikely experience that Jeff Vogel's games offer. You have spent 30 hours on what I think is his magnum opus and it did not manage to captivate you. I am sad to hear this, but then again, you will most likely find your entertainment in other video games. Thankfully, there are vast amounts available for all of us.
Post edited September 29, 2020 by mithrandirhunter
I'll TL;DR this:

Good writing, competent gameplay, deeply intriguing systems, sort of the whole thing Jeff has always been about. Looking pretty has never been on the table.
Darvond: Looking pretty has never been on the table.
I think OP was complaining about balance issues with the party creatures, and not the visuals.
True, but I think that it sounds like a serious mismatch between play style and in game choices. I've never maxed out my creations at the time of creation until deep in the game when I'm replacing a creation that got killed in a fight. Early game, I'd probably tilt more toward missile for the PC and honestly I'd think fire shaping (fyoras and cryoas) are a better option for a guardian than creations that duplicate the guardian's forte (battle/melee).

By picking up every javelin laying around in the first two zones (and the thorns for when I get access to the first baton), I've played a guardian who can one-shot the fyora in the first combats in the second zone.

While these games aren't for everyone, there are definite rewards for creating a character that matches the player's style and leaning into those choices when you're allocating the skill points as you level up, and recognizing that sometimes an area is too tough (for now) and either a different approach or a different path is needed (or spend some time doing some quests to level up, but jack-of-all-trades just isn't in the cards.

But to answer the nominal question about the good ratings: it is the story line. It is the complex, gray morality--and in the case of Geneforge 1-3, it is solidly a game of undertrained character surviving against odds that should have resulted in that most common ending (the "you died" screen).