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Publisher: Spiderweb Software    Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: 601    RAM: 30 MB    Hard Disk: 25 MB    Graphics: 800x600 @ 16-bit

April 3, 2002 | Christopher Morin

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How May I Serve You?
As I mentioned, as a Shaper, the player can create life forms that will serve him. Creating life is not without its drawbacks. Each player character is given so many “essence” points. Creating a servile draws upon those essence points. Essence is the innate ability Shapers have that allows them to create life. The amount of essence you have depends upon your skill level and your intelligence. Each creation has a set amount of essence it draws from you. If you have 30 essence points and create a creature requiring 10, you will have a maximum of 20 essence points available to you for the creation of new serviles or the casting of spells. To regain lost essence point, you can kill your creation and absorb its essence, find an essence pool, or return to a town friendly to you – assuming you have not alienated everyone on the island. I especially enjoyed creating serviles to send into battle for me. As useful and cute as those little Fyoras were, I was colossally disappointed that I could not create Liv Tyler to come do my bidding. I searched all the help screens and included documentation, but could not find any way to bring her into my life. Perhaps Spiderweb Software will add this feature in Geneforge 2. But I digress. Your creations are there to serve you. You can increase their abilities, but that will cost you essence. Geneforge forces you to make decisions on how you will allocate these resources. This will enhance the replay value of the game. You can try playing through allowing your creations to level up on their own, assuming they do not die first, or you can play through and pour all you essence into created beings and hope they become strong enough to keep you alive throughout the game.

Your Momma Wears Combat Boots!
Do not allow the simplistic graphics lull you into thinking all of Geneforge is equally simplistic. Just mastering the combat system in Geneforge is an exercise requiring a large bowl of popcorn and a tall glass of some sort of carbonated beverage. Permit me to elaborate.

Combat in Geneforge is turn-based. When the player encounters enemies, the game automatically enters combat mode. At the start of each turn, each character has eight action points. It is important to remember this because the simple act of moving your character uses action points. The farther you move, the more action points are used. Attacking an enemy requires five action points. Using an item, like imbibing a potion, takes three action points; and getting or using items also requires five points. Be wary of how you move around during combat. You can find yourself a sitting duck for the next round if you choose to engage in too much activity and/or movement before you actually attack an enemy. Fortunately, Geneforge has very easy enemies at the beginning of the game; thereby allowing the player to grow somewhat used to the combat mode of the game and develop some sort of general combat strategy. Personally, I like the old boxing strategy of “stick-and-move.” During combat, Geneforge will center on the nearest creature that has action points available when the main character has run out for that particular turn. This was mildly annoying, at times, when I was already on my way to that character or even another one and had to backtrack with the mouse.

There are many facets to the overall effectiveness of your attacks in Geneforge. If you are used to other RPG titles like Baldur’s Gate, you know that your dexterity and strength play key roles in how often you can attack and the amount of damage you dole out. Geneforge has these skills broken down into missile, melee and spell attack skills. The game calculates your character’s attack strength differently, depending on the type of attack. For a melee attack, the game calculates your chance to hit and damage by adding your strength to your melee attack score. The calculation is similar for a missile attack; but instead of adding your melee attack score, the game adds your dexterity score. For spell attacks, you guessed it, the game adds your spell attack score and your spellcraft score and the score you have for that particular spell skill. Of course, you can wade right in and figure it out as you go along, but you will undoubtedly find yourself staring down the wrong end of a fireball and unable to move because you have used all your action points too early into combat. It is worth the time it will take to read the supplied documentation. Your first time through will be more trial-and-error than anything else. It will show you where you want your skills to be in order to complete the game the way you want to. While this complexity can add to the replayability of the title, it will likely frustrate the casual gamer just looking for fifteen minutes of entertainment.


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