Geneforge 1: Mutagen – Review
Follow Genre: Tactical turn-based RPG
Developer: Spiderweb Software
Publisher: Spiderweb Software
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

Geneforge 1: Mutagen – Review

Site Score
8.2
Good: Great story, good combat, dialogue choices matter
Bad: Graphics look a bit outdated, sound effects are simple
User Score
9.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Geneforge 1 – Mutagen is a remastered version of Geneforge, a game which was released in 2001. The graphics got updated compared to the original, while retaining its classic style. The story, mechanics and gameplay also got improved, to meet modern standards. Geneforge 1 – Mutagen has been developed and published by Spiderweb Software, which is also the creator of the original game.

Story

Geneforge actually has a deep and complicated story which you’ll gradually uncover as you explore and talk to the NPCs. In the introduction animation, you’ll learn a bit about the world, that magic exists, and that a specific type of magicians called ‘shapers’ can form living creatures to do their bidding. Except that, you don’t know much and mostly learn about the world during the game. There’s a short animated intro, which tells you a little bit about the basic lore of this game.

You’ll begin the game as a shaper apprentice, shipwrecked on a mysterious island that had been closed off by shapers, a long time ago. Why this has happened is kept secret, but you have no choice but to explore the island in order to get off of it again. To your surprise, you meet many creatures inhabiting this island. All of these creatures are shaper creatures. Many have become feral and will attack you, but some are friendly, especially the servant-type creatures. They have survived on their own for a very long time and grew a functioning society. While exploring you’ll learn about them, but also about what happened on this island in the past.

Choices you make in conversations and actions do matter, and you can choose to align yourself with several factions, to play peacefully, make friends or even attack everyone you see.

Graphics

The graphics look kind of old-fashioned, but that’s because this game is an updated version of a game that came out in 2001. You have an isometric view of the area you are exploring, with a very simple mini-map in the top-right corner. The textures are pretty basic, but they have some nice details and they manage to convey the atmosphere of the area well. The characters’ sprites don’t have much variety, but that does fit the story. The look of your character won’t change as you are upgrading your gear, which feels like a missed opportunity.

The character portraits look hand-drawn and are very nice. The introduction also features pretty cool comic-style graphics. The world-map overview of the island looks pretty nice and detailed, although at first, you won’t be able to see just how many areas there are to explore, since they only appear on the map when you encounter them.

Sound

The music is mostly noticeable during the title screen, where a pretty relaxing soundtrack plays. During the game, there are ambient sounds that differ depending on what type of region you are in, and all actions you and the other characters take have simple sound effects. The intro of the game and conversations aren’t narrated; text will simply appear on screen for you to read for yourself.

Gameplay

Geneforge 1 – Mutagen is a turn-based tactical RPG. It features an interesting and original storyline, and great combat mechanics. It’s your goal to uncover what is going on in your surroundings and hopefully make it out alive. Your character is able to fight using weapons, using magic, and using creatures you create. Your character class dictates what you are good at: the skills that match your class are the cheapest to get. However, you do have access to all skills, so it’s possible to make a very versatile character.

You’ll fight using a team of creatures you’ve created to protect your character. Especially if you are using a shaper-class, your character is pretty weak and once he dies, it’s game over. As you explore, you’ll gradually discover how to make different kinds of creatures. The creatures you create all have stats and skills you can tweak, to make them stronger. However, creating them costs essence, which will impact the number of spells you can use. Additionally, stronger creatures are harder to control, and might flee when in a battle. Essence spend on creating creatures will come back to your character once the creature dies, but it usually pays to keep the creature alive by healing them.

Each area you explore is connected to one or more other areas, creating a huge map to play through. As you explore, you’ll gradually unveil the map. Each separate area isn’t too big, although it generally consists of a kind of maze, filled with either hostile creatures or NPCs to talk to, so playing through an area still takes quite some time. And after finishing one area, you’ll notice new ones will be unlocked, adding up to a huge amount of content!

You can freely explore an area and your creatures will automatically follow you around until you spot an enemy. Then the game will switch to battle mode, where you can move around your character and your creatures on a grid. The combat is turn-based. You’ll only be able to use your character’s spells and items if it’s his turn, so you need to keep an eye on the health of your character and all your creatures, and time your healing well.

As you level up, you’ll earn points to improve your skills. You can also level up your creations, to make them stronger, and grant them new skills and abilities. This will make the creature cost more essence, so you have to make a choice whether you want a few strong creatures, or many weaker ones.

This game features an expansive story, which mostly plays out through dialogues with NPCs. You’ll have several dialogue options to choose from, and your answers will influence the game. There are several factions of serviles (the intelligent creatures living on the island) you’ll encounter, and you’ll be able to align yourself with a faction. There are serviles who want to be independent and respected, serviles who refer to you as an almighty god, and serviles who despise all shapers and anyone trying to control them. Your dialogue choices will influence how the serviles see you. You’ll also have the option to solve quests in multiple ways: violently, by talking, or negotiating. You’ll be able to steal items from serviles, but if they see you doing it, their opinion of you might change.

Conclusion

Geneforge 1 – Mutagen is a great turn-based RPG. The graphics look a bit outdated because of the overall style of the game, but the story and game mechanics are solid and fun. The story is interesting and deep, and it’s great that you can make meaningful choices in dialogues. Combat works well and is relatively fast, so even if you play the game mainly for the story, the combat won’t be much of a bother. This game is huge, and will take you many hours to complete. Geneforge 1 – Mutagen is recommended for anyone who loves RPGs with an extensive story, as long as you aren’t put off by the classic look of the game.

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Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Geneforge 1: Mutagen - Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Anmaja


I'm a LARP writer, freelance teacher and everlasting PhD student, and an avid gamer. Nowadays I game mostly on PC, but I love my retro playstation 1 & 2 as well :) I like watching anime, movies and series, and read books & comics whenever I have time!

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