Adventure & RPG
It was with eager hands that I typed in the password to unlock the Geneforge 4 beta that I received from Spiderweb Software to preview for IMG. I've been a major fan of Spiderweb ever since Exile and Nethergate glued me to my computer. Not only that, but Geneforge is quite possibly my all-time favorite Spiderweb series. I feel a little dirty for saying it, of course—the truly hardcore Spiderweb fanatics are Exile all the way—but Geneforge's real-time engine, incredibly unique fantasy world, and faction-based plot-lines have stolen my heart. Add to that the fact that Geneforge 3 had the best interface of any Spiderweb game I've ever played (including Avernum 4), and I think I had some license for getting super excited over a Stuffit progress bar.
I'm pleased to say that my excitement was entirely warranted.
In many ways, Geneforge 4 is more of the same (which, as anyone who has played a recent Spiderweb Software game should know, is a Very Good Thing). The interface is very similar to Geneforge 3 or, for that matter, Avernum 4. Standard movement in the world is point-and-click, real-time fair, while combat is turn-based. The statistics and magic systems are exactly the same as past Geneforge games.However, there's more to Geneforge than Spiderweb Software's tried and true shareware RPG formula, and I was noticing the differences from the instant I hit the "New Game" button.
First off, Geneforge 4 completely departs from past games in the series by offering five classes to pick from (as opposed to the original three): Warrior (same as a Guardian), Infiltrator (Agent), Lifecrafter (Shaper), Shock Trooper, and Servile. That's right; at last you can truly represent those poor oppressed Serviles, funny nose and all.
Secondly, very soon after starting a new game I realized that Geneforge 4's world is much more active and interesting than past Spiderweb games thanks to a large number of graphical enhancements. Two of the most obvious ones were weather effects and small environmental animations.
That's right; for the first time in the history of Spiderweb games, we've got weather. Rain falls at times in outdoor areas. Water drips from the ceilings of caves. As for environmental effects, fires smoke, magical lights let off little magic bubbles (although I still haven't figured out why), the canisters that remake your genes spark, and more. The combination of these two seemingly minor areas of graphical improvement actually make the game become much more alive than any Spiderweb game I've played before.
And it doesn't stop there. There are new character models, new creations to battle, a slew of entirely new (and really well done) spell effects, fading dialogue boxes, and other graphical improvements scattered throughout the game. Even the time-honored fiora model has undergone a transformation into a much more dangerous-looking reptile. The graphical changes aren't too radical, but they are very noticeable and do a surprising amount of work towards making Geneforge 4 even more immersive.