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Geneforge, from Spiderweb Software, is a PC role-playing game that harkens back to the older days of software games. The graphical elements are somewhat simplistic, trying to capture a three-dimensional feel with only two real dimensions. The combat is turn based, depending on movement steps ≠ which can be your undoing ≠ but the guiding force to this game is choice.

What Geneforge may lack in visual candy, or fail to entice with its audio track, it manages to overcome with an entertaining storyline and solid game play.

Yours is the lot of shapers, a clan or discipline that can recreate life, and can forge new elements and new creatures. As a novitiate, you set out upon your journey, only to have the life-craft you are upon attacked. You land upon an island which was banned, or barred. But the island of Sucia is hardly bereft of life. There are serviles, those who used to serve the shaper masters, as well as bandits and monsters to fight.

Upon landing, game players will be treated to two realms which serve as the tutorial. You will learn how to shape life ≠ more specifically fyoras, a lizard that will accompany you and cast fire bolts at your enemies. The amount of essence points you spend on the fyora (for those who have played RPGs before, consider essence akin to mana), determines its intelligence, ability, et cetera. If you spend the bare minimum and just create the fyora, it can go wild and attack you at the most inappropriate moment.

This game is rife with large game boards and 77 different locations. There are things to discover at every turn, and ≠ as mentioned ≠ choices you will have to make. In the town of Vakkiri, you will receive a quest from an Awakened Servile to seek out the Taker spy in the village and report back who it is. When you encounter the Taker spy, he will ask you to kill the elder leader of the Awakened.

The Awakened have come to understand that they are on equal footing with their Shaper masters ≠ and yep, because you are the first Shaper they have seen, they are nervous. But there are others trying to undermine the Awakened. That would be the Obeyers and the Takers.

Combat is not the only option you have. You can choose the peaceful approach; however, you will need leadership points in order to negotiate well. As you complete quests and journey forth within the game, you will level up, and you will get skill points to improve your powers.

You can steal, but you may be seen, and if so, that creates a reputation. If you kill major characters, you develop a reputation and not only will some villages be opening hostile to you, but you may draw attacks.

What some games purport as mana (magic casting ability that regenerates over time), Geneforge is not so generous. If, while at a lower level, create a fyora, you may not have the ability to heal yourself in a battle.

The game does have other elements that are quite in line with RPGs. You will have a paper doll and inventory in the interface. You simply drag elements from the inventory onto the paper doll to equip them.

The game did not come with a manual, but rather has an electronic file that, while easily accessed, does not do a very good job in explaining the nuances of the game. In this regard there was a lot of trial and error. Fortunately the game does have a very good save system which allows players to tinker with some of the game elements without having to pay the price of starting all over again.

When it comes to the actual game play, Geneforge is quite smooth. Transition (or travel) time between areas happens quickly, and the game plays well. The story and dialogue is all written, which requires a lot of reading. Some conversations will head in different directions, depending on which question you choose to ask, but most eventually will return full circle to the starting questions.

When it comes to the sound quality of this game, it really isnít that good. Eating sounds (which are munching sounds) are overblown, there is some audio break-up and the effects are not that well done.

Visually the game is simplistic. No camera angles or options, the animation is kept simple and the environments, while well done, are overly detailed. If you remember some of the old Commodore 64 RPGs, you will have an idea what you will see here.

All that said Geneforge still manages to interest and entertain. All your avatar wants to do is get off the island, but, to paraphrase, life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. In that regard, this is a well-conceived storyline.

Geneforge will not appeal to all RPG fans, but if you are interested more in story, and in quests, than in eye candy, you should enjoy this game.

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