Geneforge 1: Mutagen DEALS
This is a remake of the first game in the original series. If you want to read a review on that game, and on the series itself, you can find that here.
As I said in the other article, the Geneforge games are some of my favorite top down, isometric RPGs. The problem with them is that, other than games 4 and 5, they can be hard to play due to out dated graphics and controls. That isn’t out of the ordinary for many of these kinds of games. The original XCom and many others (all great games) are nearly unplayable today. Well, after 18 years XCom had their remake in 2012 with Enemy Unknown. For Geneforge, it took 20 for Mutagen, but it is here.
The strong points of the game are the setting, the story, and the characters. Jeff Vogel, the guy behind Spiderweb Software, has been writing and making these games for years. His skills and strengths in these areas really show, and he has polished the story of the original game to a wonderful shine.
Mutagen (and the rest of the series) takes place in a world somewhat like our own, in the late Medieval era. Humans can forge steel, build large stone castles and structures, and survive day to day life much in the same ways with farming and animal herding. However, unlike our own world, there is magic present in this setting. Those that are strong willed enough can master magic, while those with a little talent can focus on creating higher quality alchemical potions, or forge enchanted items.
If that was all Geneforge had, a generic fantasy setting, it would not be the fascinating games they are. There is another facet to magic, called Shaping. Shaping is the magic of life, and those who practice it are called Shapers. Shapers control the known world, and for good reason. They can create dozens of ferocious beasts at a whim to tear their enemies apart. But the reason why they are in power is because of their genius.
The setting for Mutagen is fantasy, but with the Shapers creating life, anything is possible. Living creatures called Batons can fire projectiles at high speeds, doors can be remotely opened and closed using living creatures inside the walls that operate them. Servant Minds are creatures that cannot move, used to process and record huge amounts of data. Turrets and Mines have been created for defensive purposes, living creatures that fire projectiles, or explode, at anything that comes too close.
Fyoras are fire lizards used to heat forges and light fires, Clawbugs are used to excavate large underground areas, Battle Betas are used for manual labor that is just too much for humans, and Serviles are creatures that act as servants not just for Shapers, but also regular humans. There are many, many more, and they elevate the games from fantasy to some other sort of genre. What that genre is, I don’t really know, and that is what fascinates me about these games. They are just so, alien.
How does the game start off? Well, you are a student of the Shaping arts, and you have been attacked while sailing to your next place of study. You wash up on an island, called Sucia. All you know is that this island is barred. It is forbidden for anyone to come here. However, you need to find a way off the island, as well as find out who attacked you.
From there you explore the island, and find that Serviles who were left and abandoned there have made new lives and communities for themselves. They have split into factions. Some want to return to their old ways of servitude. Others want equality with humans and Shapers, while others want to destroy the Shapers for abandoning them.
There are also other forces at work on the island, the people who destroyed your ship are trying to figure out the magics of the Shapers, as well as the even darker secret hidden on the island, the titular Geneforge.
You can play the game in many, many different ways, and this creates massive opportunities for replaying the game. At the start of the game you pick a class, Guardian, Agent, and Shaper. This changes the base starting skills and how much points it costs to buy things in different sections.
You can be a Guardian, who focuses mainly on combat with some shaping on the side, an Agent who focuses mainly on magic with combat on the side, or a Shaper who focuses mainly on Shaping with magic on the side. However, you are not locked into anything. While it may cost more points, you can have your character be and do anything they want to.
Again, one of the greatest strengths of this game is your ability to customize your character. As it says above, you can make yourself a powerful mage, an invincible melee monster, or a master Shaper, able to create hordes of powerful monsters. Or, you can beat this game without ever attacking anyone.
This game can be beaten without ever casting a single spell, or swinging a sword. Reminds me a lot of the old Fallout games, where you could beat them by playing a purely passive, charismatic character. You don’t see that done much anymore, but you can do it in Mutagen!
The combat in Mutagen is tons of fun, and keeps you coming back for more. Rogue creations of all different types and shapes, from magic using Vlish, to exploding Roamers, to experimental creatures never seen off of the island, you will never get bored of facing these enemies. There are also the Serviles of the different factions, who can easily turn against you if you don’t take their side. There are also those mysterious assailants who attacked you and left you stranded on the island.
So many different factions and even individuals to side with, and so many different kinds of enemies. The game is tons of fun. The magic feels powerful, your creations feel like extensions of your will, and melee and ranged combat is extremely satisfying.
The map is huge, with so many different areas to explore, from deserts, to swamps, lush forests, cold mountain tops, and even barren wastelands. Caves and underground workshops and Shaping halls of all kinds litter the island. So many secrets to unearth, and so many different ways to play and beat the game.
However, as with other Spiderweb games, the problems eventually do show up with the usual suspects. Sound effects and music are where these games have always been lacking, with most sounds you hear coming from other sources. The only music in the game is in the opening, everything else is just atmospheric noises, like different birds cawing. I really hope that one day original music and sound effects are introduced to Vogel’s games.
However, his focus on setting, story, character development, and game-play pay off, and more than make up for the lack of music and original sound effects. It actually kind of works well, not having any music, allowing you to put on and play what ever you feel like in the background.
There are some small changes and gripes that I have with the game, and I will list them all here at the end before the conclusion. Shaped creations no longer taking a portion of your experience in order to grow stronger is wonderful. Instead they not grow stronger based on your skills in Shaping them.
However, if your make your creations more powerful than you, there is a good chance that if they are wounded they can flee, or even attack you. The ability to play a super weak Shaper character with immensely powerful creations is now gone, and I think that is a shame. However, there are so many other ways to play.
Sadly, as with some of the other more recent Spiderweb games like Queen’s Wish: The Conqueror (an article on that game can be found here), and the Avadon trilogy, spells have been severely cut back on and reduced in number. The ones that remain still feel powerful, and using them at the right times can be game changing, but that vast number you once could use are now gone. In the original Geneforge series there were 29 different spells, split between Battle Magic, Mental Magic, Blessing Magic, and Healing Craft. Now there are only 16, four in each category.
However, creations can now use active abilities, and be given passive ones as well. This really changes up how you play as a Shaper, as your creations now play more of a tactical role in combat, not just killing enemies with basic melee or ranged attacks.
A change that is extremely welcome after replaying the older games, inventory weight has been removed. While what you personally wear, such as armor, can encumber you if you do not have enough strength, you can carry around however much of what ever you want in your inventory. However, to compensate for this the inventory has been made smaller, so you can hold less items. But, a junk bag has also been added, where you can immediately put things that you don’t need, or want to sell.
This junk bag has an unlimited inventory size, and can be sold in it’s entirety upon getting to town. Don’t think that you can cheese the system though, items put in the junk bag can only be taken back out once you get back to a friendly settlement. I think this all works great, and takes away a lot of unnecessary focus on inventory management that often cluttered up and bogged down the older games.
Achievements have been added to the game, which I think is a nice touch. Now you can keep track of what difficulties you have beaten the game on, what bosses you have faced and beaten, as well as what secrets you have uncovered. Also included are achievements for beating the game in different ways, and getting different endings, which increases how much you can replay the game even further.
In the end, this has been an extremely welcome entry into the library of games that Spiderweb Software has put out, especially when compared to other recent games like Queen’s Wish. I have had an extraordinary amount of fun with the game, getting 50 hours in my first play-through of the game, and I plan on playing it again soon. I would highly recommend it to both big fans of top down, turn based isometric RPGs, as well as people who don’t really know what these are or who have never played a Spiderweb game before.
For those who are fans of the old games and are on the fence about it being a remake, the original story and content are still there, just polished up and improved. To everyone out there: play this game! The great thing is, if you go to the Spiderweb Software site, you will be able to play a demo of the game, to help you decide on whether you like it or not. There is no reason not to play it and give it a try.
Geneforge 1: Mutagen
A wonderful top down, turn based, isometric RPG. A fantastic entry into the library of Spiderweb Software games. Great game-play, setting, story, and characters. I would recommend that anyone and everyone try it.
- A massive and forbidden island to explore, giving around 50 hours of solid gameplay.
- Extensive character choice in terms of what class you pick, and what skills you put points into.
- A thrilling story with a great mystery, as well as excellently written characters, and a wonderfully alien setting.
- A vastly improved inventory system that cuts down time fiddling with items and weight limits.
- Drastically improved graphics and user interface that make this game look lovely, and playing it super easy.
- Shaped creations can now be customized and given active and passive abilities.
- The combat, be it with Shaped creations, magic, or melee/ranged, is always a ton of fun.
- Added achievements improve the replay experience.
- Music is nearly non-existant, and almost all sound effects are not original.
- Spells have been cut down in number, and some skills have been removed from the game entirely.
- The difficulty of the game can be brutal at times, while the easier difficulties can be, well, too easy. Finding the right balance can be annoying.
A fantatic game that I would recommend to everyone, long time fans of these kind of games, and newcomers alike.