The Monster Mash: Geneforge Saga

By Adam Smith on December 20th, 2011 at 3:38 pm.

One of those screenshots that is Kryptonite to some and Lois Lane to others

On one level, this post exists to inform of a fantastic deal on that thar Steam, however it’s also the first time we’ve mentioned that the games in question have appeared on Steam at all. They are the Geneforge Saga, five RPGs created by Spiderweb Software between 2002 and 2008, although they feel as if they could have been made between 1992 and 1998, with their turn-based combat, isometric graphics and enormous amounts of questing and freedom. The Geneforge world combines traditional fantasy tropes with monster-making, leading to all sorts of choices and ethical dilemmas. Steam is currently offering these five massive RPGs for £8.49. There are also sizable demos over at Spiderweb’s site.

If you enjoyed Avadon or the Avernum and Exile series but missed out on Geneforge, you’ll already be aware that this is a fine deal, with a whole lot of game of the sort that’s become vanishingly rare. There’s probably enough RPG goodness here to last most of 2012 as well as the dark remaining days of this rapidly dwindling year. I say ‘probably’ because I’ve only actually finished the first one. It’s very big indeed, with plenty of scope for several playthroughs.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m willing to forgive the occasional clumsiness of the interface for no other reason than that it reminds me of the saucy times I spent with clumsy interfaces in my youth, but everything works just fine once you wrap your head around it.

I was so glad to see these arrive on Steam that I really should have said something at the time but here we are and I’m saying it now. They are on Steam and at a bloody good price. The only potential niggle is that they can’t be purchased separately, so if you already have a few you’ll have to double up to get the pack. But even the first game is still $15.00 direct from Spiderweb, although there is a CD bundle for $25.00.

It boils down to this – if you enjoy old-school RPGs and thrill to the idea of turn-based combat with monster creation and magic, you can bag five of the blighters for a very good price indeed, wherever you buy them.

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57 Comments »

  1. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    I’m currently playing Baldurs Gate for the first time. Please don’t kill me. But after BG1&2 I will definitely tackle Spiderweb games next. Got my eye on you, Vogel!

    • mouton says:

      BG games are very good, but Vogel’s games are superior in terms of plot depth and maturity. They don’t look as good, though.

      Oh, and do check Planescape: Torment if you haven’t.

    • qrter says:

      Hot little tip – GamersGate have a D&D anthology on sale for 10 euros, including both Baldur’s Gates (and expanions), Planescape: Torment , The Icewind Dales (and their expansions) and Temple of Elemental Evil.

      Offer expires in 19 days and 16 hour

      GeneForge is wonderful – I bought the pack a couple of weeks ago on Steam, for the full price. I’ve only played the first game, and I loved it. These games are HUGE.

    • InternetBatman says:

      The Baldur’s Gate series really shines in the NPC writing and conversation between party members. Geneforge shines in its world design and plot. Overall I like Baldur’s Gate more (it’s certainly prettier), but would like to imagine how Jeff Vogel with a lot of resources at his back.

  2. Cryptoshrimp says:

    I dearly love these games. They have a lovely flavour of fantasy that is, as far as I know, not found anywhere else. Also, battling the interface and clumsy graphics is really worth it for the amazing story the games offers. Woo, Serviles!

  3. RF says:

    I really loved Jeff Vogel until it turned out he didn’t give a shit what his fans thought and just kept making his games more and more dumbed down in order to attract an imagined “casual” (or something) audience.

    This is now culminating with him rereleasing the Exile series for the SECOND (as in, this is the 3rd release) time in the Geneforge engine without any of the lovely party walking mechanics that made the game feel so massive.

    • mouton says:

      Why do you care what he thinks of you? Most people you admire probably consider you an idiot.

      Just play the games and see if you like them. If you don’t, well, you can go to some rpg forums and complain. There seems to be a group of people who lost the ability feel fun anymore, unless they are pining for some good old days.

    • RF says:

      I don’t care what he thinks of me, I care about the quality of his games.

    • Buttless Boy says:

      I dunno dude (or dudess), my memory of Exile is of something far less complex than Avadon or whatever. I didn’t have much patience for hardcore RPGs when I was seven.

    • RF says:

      It’s not. It has a system more akin to Fallout’s skill system than Avadon’s Diablo 2-esque talent trees (which is, to be honest, an insult to Diablo 2′s talent trees) one.

    • Wizardry says:

      The Exile games were fantastic. They were far better than any non-independent CRPGs at the time (the mid-90s).

    • Archonsod says:

      I used to love the RPG community, till it started getting dumbed down.

    • Hyouko says:

      Heya RF – just to set the record straight on this: I was a beta tester on the remade Avernum game for the past few months, and it most definitely does have a big old classical overworld to explore. You may be thinking of the “second trilogy” (Avernums 4 – 6) which didn’t have it. I’d say that the mechanics in the remake are streamlined and balanced, but the actual fights tend to be more cleverly designed. These days Jeff is relying on less of the “big baddy with tons of HP” or “baddy that summons a minion that summons a minion that…” and more on encounters where enemies switch up their tactics in interesting ways as they lose HP or allies.

    • sinister agent says:

      I used to love my kids, until they started getting dumbed down.

      I really should have called somebody about that gas leak.

  4. Will Tomas says:

    *Flicks wrist, sending lure to land with a plunk*

    These may very well be good games, but they aren’t RPGs. Back in the day RPGs were desperate to be real-time, first or over-the-shoulder third person, and have full audio recording of the dialogue. Just look at Skyrim or Mass Effect – them’s what all those old games wished they could be. These things look like board games. Get with the times!

    *sits back patiently*

  5. MoeGreen says:

    I tried the Steam demo for Black Fortress but just could not get into it. I appreciated the simple graphics and well-realized atmosphere and world, but was really put off by the dull combat. The story did not draw me in either. Still, I’m glad these are being made and I applaud Spiderweb for their efforts to tribute (and add their own flavor to) a passed age of gaming.

  6. Vexing Vision says:

    If you dislike part 1, just skip the rest and play Geneforge 5, which is an amazing RPG with lots and lots of plot-relevant choices and factions to ally (or betray) with.

    It’s really good, and worth the price of the bundle on its own.

  7. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    These games are highly recommended by me. If you’re tempted, you can always try the sizable demos.

    -edit- it still surprises me when places like Steam or GOG only have windows versions. There’s mac versions available from the Spidersoft website.

  8. Buttless Boy says:

    I have happy memories of killing rats underground in the various Exile shareware versions, so I should probably pick up one of these Spiderweb packs at some point. Was thinking I’d go for the re-remake of Exile though; would I be better off getting these instead? Or should I wait for the re-re-remake?

    • Vexing Vision says:

      At 8 pounds, what’s there to wait for?

    • Buttless Boy says:

      I’m thinking of it more as a time investment than a monetary one. These old-school throwback isometric RPGs tend to suck me in for months.

  9. DogKiller says:

    How do these games compare to something like Fallout or Arcanum?

    • FhnuZoag says:

      I’d characterise Geneforge as ‘Vogel does Arcanum/Fallout’, yeah, as Exile was Vogel does Ultima.

      It’s quite good, fun games. The world isn’t as expansive or as varied as Fallout, and it isn’t as funny, but there’s lots of things to do and people to kill. The combat system is better – being able to command your allies helps, and there’s more combat powers. There’s a more interesting faction system, with each faction being written as more morally gray instead of good or evil.

  10. Dizzard says:

    I’ve played games in the Avernum series and I think I played a demo for the first geneforge game.

    I really want to get this soon. I’d agree there’s a certain something something about spiderwebs games. The settings have a really authentic feel to do them.

  11. MythArcana says:

    Great long running series, great company. It’s just unfortunate that they had to cave into the lucrative marketing pressures of today. Now they’ll have to reinforce the barricades for the onslaught of snot-nosed, rude kiddies who can’t reboot their computer without permission from v@|V3. It truly is a sign of the times, and I feel for Spiderweb…even though their sales will probably improve now.

    • Unaco says:

      As opposed to the onslaught of abuse, vitriol and hate he received from certain communities long before he was on Steam?

      http://jeff-vogel.blogspot.com/2011/05/avadon-out-for-windows-responding-to.html

    • vecordae says:

      @Unaco

      The joyless, entitled, reflexive whinging of the “old school” and “hardcore” rpg crowd is a sign that one is doing things correctly.

    • Wizardry says:

      Yes. People aren’t allowed to say that his new game sucks.

    • vecordae says:

      Hahah! Joyless AND reflexive! Solid gold, mate.

      Nah, there’s a difference between actual criticism (“I didn’t like feature X because…”) and the whinging I’m referring to (“You are an insufferable chump-frumpkin because you added post combat revival!”)

    • Wizardry says:

      Oh right. So we should give constructive criticism instead? So he can take them on board for his future games?

      For example, if you tried Avadon: The Black Fortress and didn’t like it, I’m sorry. That is the sort of game I write now. This will change. Five years from now, I’ll do something entirely different. (I really, really want to return to open-ended non-linear games at least once before I retire.) But for now, that’s it. If you hate my new games, then there is nothing I can do about that.

      Well that was pointless!

    • vecordae says:

      He’s no more obligated to listen to you than you are to me, mate. Anyway, the more coherent and thought-out your criticisms are the more likely it is that someone who reads it will take it to heart. Also, if you ever feel like producing your own game to show us in the industry how it should be done, it will give you a great framework to start from.

    • Wizardry says:

      That was from a blog post, not a message to me specifically. He basically came out and said he doesn’t care if people don’t like his new direction. How do you expect the RPG Codex to react to that? With constructive criticism?

    • scharmers says:

      “How do you expect the RPG Codex to react to that? With constructive criticism?”

      Well, that explains a lot of your posts. RPGC is filled with hateful mouthbreathers, who as individual members each have their One True RPG with everything else being garbage. It’s the only RPG forum where you honestly can find people who hate even the crustiest and most-hardcore of RPGs from any era, and, like Wizardry, can find people who hate even the crustiest and most-hardcore of RPG creators. Although…although I’m pretty sure that most of the people there like Arcanum. So that’s an exception.

      RPGC is like No Mutants Allowed, but instead of simply limiting their hatred to Bethsoft’s F3 and FNV, hate the breadth and width of the entire CRPG genre, with the exception of their own One True RPG.

    • MonolithicTentacledAbomination says:

      You really couldn’t fit a $ somewhere in that corruption of Valve?

    • ffordesoon says:

      No one will ever “satisfy the RPG Codex”, even people from RPG Codex. That place is a nightmarish morass of curdled nostalgia and bitterness towards anything created after a given member turned eighteen. It’s the gaming forum equivalent of those people who say that the Beatles killed rock music because they stopped singing songs about sports cars and juke joints, or those comic nerds who hated the fact that Nick Fury in the Ultimate Marvel U was a black dude even though the white dude is still in the regular Marvel comics. I’m pretty sure NeoGAF looks at that place and trembles at its snobbery.

      If this RPG you’re apparently making is designed to appeal to the RPG Codex crowd, Wizardry, you’re screwed before you start, because they will not be happy with it. It’s not that you won’t have made a game that appeals entirely to them, because you will certainly have made that game. It’s just that they will be unhappy regardless; if not for a real reason, then for an invented one. I’m not saying this to insult you or the RPG Codex; I’m trying to warn you off of that path, because that way lies madness, even for a hardcore RPG purist like yourself.

      Seriously.

    • automata says:

      Gee, this RPG Codex place must be horrible. *Goes to visit the site*

      *One minute later*

      A Codex thread about the Ultima series, where people seem to be happy to recommend games without everyone saying “they all suck”: http://www.rpgcodex.net/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=67188

      A Codex thread about which GOG classic RPG game to play first, again lots of posters not saying “they all suck”: http://www.rpgcodex.net/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=67666

      A Codex thread about Gothic 3, where people express differing opinions that aren’t “it sucks”: http://www.rpgcodex.net/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=67600

      A Codex thread about where the new King’s Bounty and expansions get some love: http://www.rpgcodex.net/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=67844

      But yeah, the Codex is a forum of individuals who all share exactly the same opinion on everything with no discussing it beyond how much it sucks. And everything new is irredeemable rubbish.

      Edit: Oh and if they were such a vile place with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, why did Jeff Vogel’s next blog post say this: http://jeff-vogel.blogspot.com/2011/05/on-making-lots-of-people-angry.html

    • Hatman says:

      RPGC is filled with hateful mouthbreathers, who as individual members each have their One True RPG with everything else being garbage. It’s the only RPG forum where you honestly can find people who hate even the crustiest and most-hardcore of RPGs from any era, and, like Wizardry, can find people who hate even the crustiest and most-hardcore of RPG creators. Although…although I’m pretty sure that most of the people there like Arcanum. So that’s an exception.

      RPGC is like No Mutants Allowed, but instead of simply limiting their hatred to Bethsoft’s F3 and FNV, hate the breadth and width of the entire CRPG genre, with the exception of their own One True RPG.

      Slightly better than the people who believe the Codex is comprised of a hivemind of Fallout 1 worshippers that only exists in their own head, but not much. Still falls for the bizarre and entirely unverifiable claim that everyone likes Arcanum when half the members consider it a broken mess, but points for effort. The part where you’re baffled by the concept of people having varied tastes is intriguing.

  12. Vinraith says:

    I don’t really understand the mentality that looks at 500+ hours of RPG’s and says “$25 seems a little steep for that, I think I’ll wait for a sale.”

    I’m pretty sure if that mentality becomes sufficiently widespread it will ensure there aren’t any more hundred hour RPG’s made, though.

    • JFS says:

      People are probably weary that they’ll ever have the time to spend those 500 hours. Granted, 20 hours would still be enough for the price asked, but psychologically no one likes to pay for things he doesn’t ever use. Can’t really blame them, I think. Also, prices for games are inflationary low at the moment, think of the bad word that starts with “bu” and ends with “ndle”.

    • sebmojo says:

      You’d be lucky to even get the arrow out of your knee by the hundred hour mark in Skyrim.

  13. FunkyBadger3 says:

    Line one overview makes me think of Shin Megami Tensei… this is a good thing. Someone confirm my suspiscions I should buy…

    • malkav11 says:

      Er, well…they’re very good games but they’re approximately nothing like the MegaTen games.

  14. Knufinke says:

    I searched for “Geneforge” and “Spiderweb Software” in steam and no results, the link above works however… *shrug*

    Are there more Spiderweb Games on Steam? And if there are can someone directlink them, please?

  15. InternetBatman says:

    I am incredibly thrifty with my gaming money and I still spent $80 on the Geneforge collection six months ago. I still think it was a fair deal. Geneforge is a great series of games and I would highly recommend it.

    One thing though, the games tend to encourage you to join factions, most of whom are pretty reprehensible.

  16. johnpeat says:

    I played the Avadon Demo and much as I liked the whole feel of it, it just got a bit tiresome with far too much talking to people and not anything like enough action

    Is this how Spiderweb’s games usually play? I realise some people like talky RPGs but I tend to prefer the “just tell me where they are” games myself…

    *dons armor – takes directions – chops things to bits*

  17. Odeon says:

    I’m somewhere in the middle between Kryptonite and Lois Lane when I see that kind of pic. Maybe something like Jimmy Olsen.

    I still love Fallout and Fallout 2, but haven’t played most of the other highly-revered iso-view RPGs from the era. Not because I didn’t feel the draw, but because, like today, I just couldn’t afford all the packaged goodness that was available. That and the fact that I played through every nook and cranny I could find in Fallout and Fallout 2, with the rest of my time spent in Civilization and Civilization 3 and 4. The result was that a full generation of games passed me by before I pulled my nose out of them enough to see what I’d missed.