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Deadliar

List of Geneforge characters with heavy flaws

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Posted (edited)

This list is opinionated but based on facts. The goal isn't to make fun of the games but to contemplate about what could've been and what could be. 

Also, the flaws in question aren't actual character flaws (those are good!), but rather lackluster design or writing. I've covered the first three games so far and will move on to the last two soon. Fittingly, G4 and G5 have far less wasted characters.
 

G1:

  • Takers as a whole seem overly nasty. While an open choice is one of the game's themes, there is far, far more reason to join the other two factions, power aside. One of the reasons takers appear too evil is because there isn't much indication of shaper cruelty in the game, unlike the sequels. Needs to be more clear signs of servile abuse earlier. Experiments on serviles come to mind. Give takers a proper reason to be super rebellious. Make there be legends of evil shapers of the past. Have the player fight resentful Shaper ghosts. Heck, have the player remember shaper atrocities that they've seen. Have them find logs of how bad the takers had it. There needs to be more than just rebelling for the heck of it. Edit: Randomizer speaks truth as he mentions abandoned, toxic research labs. There should be more effect from this other than a few mentions. Remember G2 and that servile sickness?

G2:

  • Zachary has high potential. His demands aren't warlike, but sly and cunning. He could've been a mastermind who'd use you as a secret agent for his redemption. He could've tried to fully recover from the damage done. Lastly, he could've had secret influence in the land. Instead, he has almost no power, locks you out of much of the game if you side with him, and gives you no help at all. A waste of a good character. I see Zachary as a foil to Barzahl, a person who excels at being a leader and strategizing. Joining Zachary shouldn't mess with the rest of the game; it should be a secret oath. Imagine if he told you something along the lines of "Do what you must, say what you must, in the end only the results matter.". Imagine if there were spies in every settlement, each with their own plans on how to restore the old laws. Imagine trying to capture Barzahl alive, perhaps? Zachary would probably want that. Maybe he'd blame everything on Barzahl, the double-traitor. Zachary is obviously flawed and a bit greedy, but there's better ways to point that out - being slimy doesn't mean he should be weak.
  • As for Barzahl himself, he fits his role very well but shows little character outside of it, by making him clearly inhuman, he loses his character. Later in the saga, the potential of mastering canisters and reshaping properly is put in the air. Instead of blindly embracing power, Barzahl would surely be a better character if he sought to fully master and control it. He'd still be incredibly illegal and opposing to other factions, but instead of a power-drunk fool he'd be perfectly sane but obsessed with mastering old secrets, which would also make joining him seem less intimidating while still being anti-shaper. Picture him as someone who's clearly indulged in the forbidden ways but is on the brink of finding out how to counteract the negative effects - he struggles with self-control but is ultimately a pleasant person with grandiose plans. He's seeking progress, not power. Now that's a much better character.

G3:

  • Litalia is more an antagonist than a rebel. All she does is make a mess everywhere she goes. Helping her is more evil than anything. Whether or not you side with Litalia should give you an evil/good ending, not a shaper/rebel ending. There should be ways to help the rebels without being a horrible, horrible person. Being horrible to shapers is one thing but the actions done in G3 are misguided and foolish. You should also have an option to be a full rebel but still kill Litalia for her actions at the end of the game. 
  • Lack of true rebels on Greenwood. The island of literally no choices. There's a group of rebellious people in a place near Kentia...they don't do anything. Swap these guys for a proper rebel group. Greenwood doesn't have much shaper monitoring, it's a perfect place for all sorts of illegal research or even a black market. Have a quest to convince the Kentia leader to allow the rebels to do their thing safely. A little shady business hurts no one, and the Kentia leader isn't a shaper. It's good potential for this sort of thing. Fixing the rogue problem should make you quite convincing in this regard. You leave the island either way but you can make choices at least, this way.
  • Lankan is a [censored]. A good leader sure, but a total fool with a horrible goal as well. Remove that canister gubbins. Lankan's goal should be to win against Diwaniya and fight for the rights of his people. What if you killed those spawners but told Diwaniya that Lankan and his men helped solve the problems? What if you worked to actually make him more powerful, instead of just bringing him a canister? Steal research, get rebellious people to defect, get supplies and so on, until the settlement is actually a threat to San Ru. Make negotiations and get Diwaniya to break his word and treat Lankan as an equal. This guy's backstory is great, but then you meet him and it all goes downhill.
  • Diwaniya is okay but isn't anti-rebel. He's anti-rogue. Fixing the rogue problem should get you off the island but shouldn't actually solve the island's problems. If being pro-rebel means you get Diwaniya to acknowledge Lankan, being pro-shaper should be about getting Lankan to bow down and face justice. Convincing people to desert him seems like a textbook way to crush the rebellion in Harmony Isle. Do a series of quests that improve the state of San Ru enough to get everyone but Lankan to leave, and then maybe he'll run off the island or get jailed in defeat. 
  • No rebels on Dhonal's Isle either, really... I think a rebel outpost near the Creator dungeon would be a fine addition. A secret place that you'd know where to find if you were pro-rebel, or that you'd massacre with the army if you were pro shaper. I feel that people in this outpost would be all about secrecy, gathering as many people as possible and amassing a force that will eventually get Rahul to surrender. Guerrilla attacks and the like. The creator and rogues are a distraction, these guys should be the solution (for rebels). Dhonal's Isle is one of the few locations where there's a very good reason to directly attack the shapers. It's important for the rebels to want to specifically slay the shaper authorities though, not just everyone. Loads of assassinations and sabotages, maybe with a bonus quest to kill Rahul later once you're powerful enough.
  • Rahul has no character. His actions are fine but he's a shell of a man. Give him backstory, give him his own views that aren't just generic propaganda, give him a proper goal. Rahul needs to be against rebels, not just against rogues like Diwaniya. A history of dealing with rebel atrocities should be good. Rahul, survivor of five assassinations, quencher of six uprisings, and so on. Have Rahul lead the charge instead of barking orders to Greiner. After killing the rogues, Rahul should be the one to find the rebel outpost and start the raid on it. It's a moment that shows both shaper cruelty and shaper justice at the same time. Think of him spouting mad revenge for what the rebels did to the isle as he goes on a killing spree, shocking even his own men. For a pro-shaper, that's a display of loyalty and care about his people. For someone less-so inclined, that's a cue to reconsider what they've been doing... 
  • Akhari Blaze needs to be more than a villain. Either this or there should be another leader figure for the rebellion that's less hateful and more geared towards having peace, but without old shaper laws.

 

 

G4 and G5 coming up  later as I still have some analyzing and brainstorming to do.

 

What characters would you change if the Geneforge series gets remade?

 

Edited by Deadliar

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G1 - The Takers have more reason to hate Shapers than the other groups because they are living downstream from a Shaper caused toxic waste dump and are being poisoned from it. There are mentions of the sealed research lab causing it and you can get there and see what happened.

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Posted (edited)

Geneforge 2, Zackary:

Zackary is IMO, not portrayed as a cunning and sly individual, but as an indecisive worthless pathetic coward lying with every breath to cover his mistakes and crimes. He is not a mastermind, nor a visionary nor a genius. He's the tarnished has-been, that is now a pencil-pusher that got eclipsed by the genius that was his apprentice, was tempted by power and blinded by a more charismatic personality with true leadership abilities - Barzahl, but didn't have the guts to open his wings and fly too close to the sun but neither had the courage to return to earth.

He's not portrayed IMO as a foil for Barzahl nor as an excellent leader; on the contrary, he's portrayed as a someone Barzahl used and a bad leader.

And in that regard, he's portrayed very well and plays the role of the used and discarded pawn very well.

The person you describe, the leader with the plans, the mastermind that slowly changed his mind and works towards redemption, the shadow puppetmaster... Zackary IMO was never intended to be that.

 

He's an inglorious idiot that couldn't follow Barzahl nor he had the guts to admit his crimes to the Shaper council so he's locked indecisively in the midst, until an agent shows up and he has her imprisoned as if that would stop her.

In short IMO the game rightly utilizes Lying Zackary the Deceiver as a worth-less-than-a-glaak's-vomit. 

 

Edited by alhoon

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Posted (edited)

Could've, Alhoon, could've.

 

I personally think that Zachary is pathetic, but he showed traits of cunning between his otherwise bland character. I think he could've been, and should've been, a mastermind-type guy, and not the weak, regretful person that we got.

Edited by Deadliar

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8 hours ago, Deadliar said:

Could've, Alhoon, could've.

 

I personally think that Zachary is pathetic, but he showed traits of cunning between his otherwise bland character. I think he could've been, and should've been, a mastermind-type guy, and not the weak, regretful person that we got.

 

 

Oh, you mean a completely different character based on the same experiences and background?

I am not so sure... a mastermind Zackary wouldn't have been outmaneuvered by his apprentice in the first place nor he would be the follower while he was the mentor. He would be more assertive. What I mean is that without the burned-out has-been that lacked decisiveness GF2 wouldn't come to be like that.

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Posted (edited)

G1:

There are hints that the Shapers used to be a lot more callous, such as the Arena, although that was not specific to serviles. If I recall correctly, the toxic waste thing was less about the serviles getting sick and more that the soil wouldn't support crops, and it wasn't a sudden thing - it ties into the Takers' origin story, where they waited for the Shapers and suffered for years until the "take our free" guy sounded off.

 

G3:

The game has an overall lack of sympathetic rebels.

 

I've posted this here before, but another round won't hurt. 😛 In G4 and G5, where you get to interact with more rebels, three main points come up, as I see them:

1. The Shapers initially lost a lot of ground due to their arrogance/inflexibility in fighting an organised enemy who could Shape. (This is true because G4 and G5 show the rebels losing ground or stalemated, so they must have gained ground from the Shapers at first.)
2. Shapers didn't care about outsiders, at least from the outsiders' point of view.
3. Creations were oppressed.

Since G3 is about the beginning of the rebellion seen in G4-G5, it makes sense to explore these themes (with the benefit of hindsight), and we do see some flawed attempts at them.

 

I agree that a rebel presence on Greenwood might give more choices. The role of Scintle (the abrasive mage in the woods) could be expanded. But the hypothetical rebels can't be doing anything that the Shapers would crack down on, because

Quote

Greenwood doesn't have much shaper monitoring

Other than the Shaping school which drives the majority of its commerce?

Then again, it's not necessary for all the islands to give a Shapers/rebels choice. The conflicts on Greenwood Isle are meant to highlight point #2, i.e. how Shapers treat non-Shapers (Burrowing Mold, the blockade, the leader trying to force you to deal with the Creator). I don't think they do it well, but moving on.

 

Regarding Harmony Isle, I would go further and say it's a complete mess. It's not so much that Lankan's goals are bad. It's that the game denies you the logical method of addressing what he claims his goals are. He claims he needs the canister because Shapers (i.e. Diwaniya) have failed to protect his people, but you can never point out that Diwaniya has asked you to get rid of the rogues. Did he have an ulterior motive for wanting the canister specifically? Is he looking for revenge for those of his friends who have already died? Does he think he can do a better job ruling the island than Diwaniya? You will never know, because you can never say that to him.

Quote

What if you worked to actually make him more powerful, instead of just bringing him a canister?

The whole point of canisters is that they are the fastest way to put magical power within reach of ordinary people. Whether that is a good or bad thing is one of the major themes of the series. I suppose the G2 Barzites could have elaborated on this a bit more.

Quote

Fixing the rogue problem should get you off the island but shouldn't actually solve the island's problems.

I don't think the game's narrative ever said it did. In the pro-Shaper ending

Spoiler

the Shapers slaughter Lankan's group and try to re-assign Diwaniya to someplace more miserable but can't think of anywhere.

 

I agree that Dhonal's Isle needs a better rebel goal. (In fact the Shapers vs rebels conflict on this island is a complete waste of the rebels' time.) Since it is the main Shaper military presence, it makes sense to explore point #1. For that to work the rebels' plans need to be more creative than "spam spawners". In G2 they were making new, horrifying, fascinating creatures. This should have continued into G3. They don't even have to be animal-type creations like the ones in G2. Biological warfare is the obvious possibility; the servile sickness quest line in G2 shows that Sucia Island tech can be used to study diseases. But it's not even the only possibility. For example, we could have rebels luring Shapers into fields of flammable grass and then ambushing them with hasted pyroroamers.

A rebel hideout on Dhonal's Isle would also be a good place for the player to meet intelligent creations, instead of near the end of the game when the player has already chosen a side to support.

Edited by wackypanda

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You make some nice points. I do have a single thing to correct though.

 

>Other than the Shaping school which drives the majority of its commerce?

They're dead lol. It'd be a primo chance for previously-secretive rebels to spring up.

 

As for the more contemplative points, I think that the canister on harmony isle ruins Lankan. He's presented as a great leader, supposedly a person of great influence.
Instead he just chases after this canister blindly. How are we supposed to believe that a person is clever while he behaves like a fool at the same time? 

A lack of choices and proper solutions is one half of the issue, that's true, but it doesn't fix this nonsense. I mean really, really now...does Lankan think that gaining some power for himself is really what he needs to win a non-violent struggle? He outright forgets everyone but himself, lol. The whole 'support the whole outpost' thing seems far better. Lastly Lankan doesn't give a damn about the morals of canisters and reshaping, he doesn't even mention that stuff. He just knows it's illegal and he wants it for personal reason. Leave Barzite agenda to the actual Barzites, methinks.

 

A big problem on greenwood is that there aren't any shapers other than you. You get to see some nasty stuff but there's ultimately no one to blame for doing or not doing things. A wise man would notice that the situation could've been better even before the school was attacked...but this isn't something you get to see in-game, and that's what matters ultimately.  If you need to spend time trying to make sense of obvious events, something's wrong. 

 

 

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So Deadliar how would you yourself fix these problems?

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2 hours ago, Vinlie said:

So Deadliar how would you yourself fix these problems?

Vinlie… you wanted scripting and moding practice. Changing the dialogue of all things, it's the EASIEST thing you can do. :)

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Posted (edited)
Quote

They're dead lol. It'd be a primo chance for previously-secretive rebels to spring up.

 

In that case the rebels would only have the time between when the school was attacked and when the blockade went into effect to set up a self-sustaining operation. Not a lot of time for anything more interesting than moonshine distribution (on a scale of illegality).

 

After some thought, I think the lack of rebels on Greenwood might be justified because as the last isle in the chain, it has no strategic value to the rebels after the school is destroyed. You can see this when what you do with the Greenwood Creator doesn't change your Shaper/rebel standing, but what you do with the Dhonal Creator is a major path choice. Again, having the rebels around to interact with sounds fun, but I'm not sure they have an in-game reason to be there.

 

Quote

As for the more contemplative points, I think that the canister on harmony isle ruins Lankan. He's presented as a great leader, supposedly a person of great influence.
Instead he just chases after this canister blindly. How are we supposed to believe that a person is clever while he behaves like a fool at the same time? 

A lack of choices and proper solutions is one half of the issue, that's true, but it doesn't fix this nonsense. I mean really, really now...does Lankan think that gaining some power for himself is really what he needs to win a non-violent struggle? He outright forgets everyone but himself, lol. The whole 'support the whole outpost' thing seems far better. Lastly Lankan doesn't give a damn about the morals of canisters and reshaping, he doesn't even mention that stuff. He just knows it's illegal and he wants it for personal reason. Leave Barzite agenda to the actual Barzites, methinks.

 

 

Player choice in this case ties into the poor writing. Lankan comes across as an idiot while the game is trying to present him as a leader because the root of the conflict between him and Diwaniya, as written, is completely solvable with Diwaniya's solution (together with Norrell's offer to negotiate a lighter sentence for Lankan), and the writing doesn't acknowledge this. (I did point out that the game's ending shows that removing the rogues doesn't get Lankan to submit to Diwaniya, which is consistent with how their conflict was written, but has no bearing on how illogical the conflict is.) This is still true of your solution. I would ask your Lankan the same question: Why should I support the outpost by breaking Shaper law and bringing them research and recruiting for them (which takes much more time, as well), when I can remove the rogues or build up San Ru as Diwaniya wanted and make the island safe for everyone?

 

Also, you pointed out yourself when talking about Barzahl in G2 that he would be more interesting if he was pursuing power for the sake of what he thinks is progress. Therefore, it is entirely possible for Lankan to have sympathetic reasons for wanting a canister as a means to his ends, if the conflict was better written.

 

Quote

A big problem on greenwood is that there aren't any shapers other than you. You get to see some nasty stuff but there's ultimately no one to blame for doing or not doing things. A wise man would notice that the situation could've been better even before the school was attacked...but this isn't something you get to see in-game, and that's what matters ultimately.

 

An interesting point here. Because there aren't any Shapers other than you, the NPCs rightly or wrongly place the blame on you or expect you to fix things. One problem this creates is that Greenwood's narrative of "Shapers aren't responsible and don't care about outsiders" clashes directly with the typical RPG player's overly helpful (if not entirely altruistic) disposition when a game has free saves and no time limit. The best example is the dialogue where the commander is trying to twist your arm to deal with the Creator. You have dialogue options to be utterly indignant that she would dare to tell a Shaper what to do, but at the time, I was wondering: "Why would I say that? Killing rogues is in my job description, and even if it wasn't, I killed worms for like twenty people on my way here, I can make time (and get XP) for something that is actually causing you problems!" If a typical Shaper in fact gets indignant at this sort of thing (and the commander in fact usually needs to manipulate them to get things done), there need to be typical Shapers to show this.

Edited by wackypanda

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9 hours ago, alhoon said:

Vinlie… you wanted scripting and moding practice. Changing the dialogue of all things, it's the EASIEST thing you can do. :)

I like to think I can tell a good story, ya know? Gimme a story element to change and I'll try my best 👍

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, Vinlie said:

So Deadliar how would you yourself fix these problems?

I intend to wait to see what happens with the Geneforge remakes.


I have faith that things will be far improved. If they aren't, I'll make a mod, I suppose.

 

Importantly, player choice on Greenwood could solve that last issue wacky mentioned. The player is given the option to be rude... but what if you could actually try to order the people around? Get yourself an escort squad of controllable soldiers that are clearly afraid for their lives by forcing the commander to help you.


Then, if any of them died, you get a lovely reaction from the commander. Something like clearly being enraged but holding it back and being polite. After all, what's a few followers to solve a rogue problem, eh? A better choice for a less-kind shaper roleplayer.

Edited by Deadliar

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Posted (edited)
33 minutes ago, Vinlie said:

Are Geneforge remakes actually confirmed?

 

The first one yes, there's a thread about it.

 

57 minutes ago, Deadliar said:

Importantly, player choice on Greenwood could solve that last issue wacky mentioned. The player is given the option to be rude... but what if you could actually try to order the people around? Get yourself an escort squad of controllable soldiers that are clearly afraid for their lives by forcing the commander to help you.


Then, if any of them died, you get a lovely reaction from the commander. Something like clearly being enraged but holding it back and being polite. After all, what's a few followers to solve a rogue problem, eh? A better choice for a less-kind shaper roleplayer.

 

Can be modded in. And you can also make their deaths, each one, affect your standing with the Rebels and\or with Greta. And even have personalized names for them and death messages if they die.

The whole thing is a bit tricky for a beginner but not impossible. Making a couple of them recruitable for a hit in reputation with the Rebels and then getting the penalty back (or not depending on answers) when they're returned is easier.

 

Want to go berserk? Make it possible for one of them to use the experimental canister in the warehouse  to make that soldier better "accidentally" (if you haven't used it your character is theoretically unaware of what it does) for a significant hit with the Shapers AND make Alwan abandon you on Harmony.
Something that Lord Rahul would drill you about when you meet him and you have to tell him "it was an accident! I didn't know!" etc just to postpone your trial until the end of the mess.
Gives you a reason to go for Litalia if the Shapers threaten to have you on trial for that, doesn't it?

 

And all those, can be done with a few changes in dialogue and some script magic.

That's the power of modding.

Edited by alhoon

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