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

Geneforge 2
September 24, 2003 | Ken Newquist

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Geneforge 2 is a role-playing game that combines fantasy and science fiction to create a world that's reminiscent of the pen-and-paper RPG Gamma World …without all of that pesky radiation.

Its creator, Spiderweb Software, made a name for itself producing role-playing games rich in plot but average in graphics. Titles such as the Exile Trilogy, Avernum and the original Geneforge earned them a loyal following that appreciated the complexity of their games and embraced their retro look.

They continue that strategy with Geneforge 2, which returns players to a world dominated by the arcane cabal known as the Shapers. Shapers are conjurors that use their skills with a supernatural ooze called "essence" to create creatures that work, fight and die for them. They are but one faction in a setting that mixes elements of sword and sorcery with touches of technology and mutants to create a unique hybrid.

The Apprentice and the Master
As with the previous Geneforge release, players start by choosing one of three Shaper classes for their character. All share the ability to create servants, but their skills with this art and other arcane abilities vary greatly. Shapers -- who give their name to their faction -- are the most magically adept, but are weak in conventional combat skills. Guardians are good with swords, but lacking in magical might. The last of the three are the Agents, sneaky, rogue-like characters who mix magic with physical prowess to complete their missions.

After character creation, players are dumped into the role of an apprentice to the Shaper Shanti who is investigating the failed frontier settlement of Drypeak. The village was founded in a dry, arid land, and the Shapers had hoped to use their abilities to create an eco-system from the dust. Their efforts, however, have either failed outright, or been twisted into horrible monstrosities. Worse yet, many of their creations have gone rogue, fleeing into the surrounding desert where they harass the few settlers who have survived.

The Shaper suspects something is wrong in Drypeak, something more than just bad luck. A meeting with the town's ruler reveals nothing, but furthers Shanti's suspicions. Her continued investigation draws the unwelcome attention of Drypeak's ruler and its guards, and Shanti decides to send her apprentice out to explore the town. The apprentice's mission is discover exactly who -- or what -- is responsible for the settlement's ongoing misfortune.

Along the way, players find themselves confronted time and again with ethical decisions. Should they slay the poor Serviles (servant creatures that tend Shaper fields and mines) that hide in the countryside after fleeing their cruel masters? Should they stand up to Shaper abuse against such creatures? Should they go on a thieving spree, stealing everything that isn't nailed down in Drypeak and earning a terrible reputation as they do so? Or should they betray all they know, and turn against their Shaper masters? All of these are possibilities, and each leads to dozens of different endings.


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