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benzidrine

Finished Geneforge 3. Storyline feels like a missed opportunity

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I am playing through the Geneforge series again and just completed 3 as a rebel. Number 1 and 2 are my favourites but I could never get into 3. I think storyline wise it is annoying to me that the most interesting dynamic of the story is in the background IMO. The serviles are rebelling and taking over settlements but the character is never really a part of it even though that is arguably the most interesting struggle going on. I think if when the character went rebel they actually saw servile families being able to escape from slavery or if they went shaper they saw escapees rounded up and executed then the story would be much more interesting. This is presumably happening lore-wise but it is for the most part glossed over. I think that would actually make an interesting moral quandary about how far is reasonable to go to stop slavery in a society and is there a limit to actions that are reasonable in this endeavour. Which is probably a good moral quandary because the answer would be different for every person.

 

Just my interpretation of the game, every person's interpretation would be different. 

 

Also if it is ever remade I got to say the exploration in that game is the weakest in the series. The islands are small and if you talk to people they give you a fairly accurate layout of the each island and what to expect. It's kind of unique in an RPG in that way, since really you already have a pretty good idea what to expect most of the time before you get to an area. Which I guess is actually realistic but perhaps not the best thing for an RPG.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Yeah, 3 has a lot of flaws. But the story aspect you suggest is decidedly one-sided. It paints the rebellion in too good a light. This is a world of Grey vs. Gray morality. If we see servile families flee (and note we haven't seen any children in GF yet, since you can kill anyone), then we need to see the flip side as well, as either those same serviles are pressed into the war and we find them cowering in a mineshaft somewhere or we see serviles burning down human houses. Jeff has been careful to always show conflict of the rebellion from the point of view of the armies, with the civilians being the backdrop. They're there, we talk to them, we might even rescue their ornk, but they aren't important. The key feature of all but three of the factions throughout the series is that a phyrric victory is preferable to compromise. Since in GF3 we really only see two-and-a-half factions, they must both be painted equally ugly by the end of the game. The chief problem with adding a servile plotline to GF3 is that you don't really have a chance to see any rebel serviles (rogues, yes. Rebels, not so much) until the fourth island where they are already freed (and those that aren't are described as having been rescued from the war). You're right, it would be a beautiful addition, assuming both sides get a chance to look like heroes and both sides are given the chance to look like monsters. The question is where do you put that? On the first island the Shapers had absolute control until their school got nuked. The second island is about the pettiness of Shapers, to counterpoint them being good-guy cops on island one, and is the first real look in the series at how outsiders are treated by actual not-crazy not-criminal Shaper. Island three has had a war going on for long enough that they built a fort at the staging area, with an implied Dead Man Zone just beyond it. And then Island 4 is already conquered by the rebellion so there's not a whole lot of opportunity to rescue any mistreated serviles there. Island 5 shows that the Drakons treat serviles effectively the same as Shapers, leading to the question of what is the rebellion actually about. Put another way, the islands are on a scale for who controls them, with 1 being fully Shaper and 5 being fully Drakon. Islands 2 and 4 show the problems the two orders have with outsiders/civilians. Where do you put a servile escape scene? Where do you put the servile execution? It would be beautiful, but it doesn't fit into this game as Jeff wrote the plot.

 

The rebellion has never been pro-servile the way the Awakened or even the GF1 Takers were. It has ALWAYS been anti-Shaper. This is why in GF4 we see what we do in the rebellion.

 

As to you final point, I personally enjoyed that everyone on every island actually knew the way around their island and could give realistic directions. Its the thing that allows me to forgive that game for the boats (and their equivalent zones in the later games, but those were less bad). Especially on the second island, every one of the natives SHOULD know exactly where the 'rebels' are hiding, they've all been there at some point in their lives. It's only their fear of rogues and the BritiShapers that keeps them from heading down there with beer and jerky. These are SMALL islands, notice that from the testing grounds to the shaper school is short enough there are no campsites or beds at the testing ground. Compare the the testing grounds in GF5. This implies that the human and servile workers at the testing grounds (someone has to feed the servant mind) went home at night, possibly though the mines. If your island is that small, you might not know where everyone lives, but you know every landmark on the island.

Edited by earanhart

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G3 probably had less focus on creations being oppressed precisely because it was the main argument for joining the rebel factions in G1 and G2. But I think G3 is the worst of the games at showing both sides in any case.

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2 hours ago, wackypanda said:

I think G3 is the worst of the games at showing both sides in any case.

 

This. Leaving aside the gameplay annoyances caused by the boat / island system, one of G3's failings was making both sides unpalatable and then forcing you to choose one. In the earlier games, there was something appealing at every faction available, and there was also the option of refusing to join any faction. G4 did a much better job of what G3 tried to do, I think: tell a war story where you ultimately need to choose a side, both sides have sympathetic characters and points, and you still have the option of choosing a third possibility that attempts to subvert both sides. Instead, in G3, you get Shapers who are civilized jerks and rebels who are barbarous jerks. It's always irked me that you don't get to visit Icy End until after your alignment is locked in, because I feel that town does more than anything in the game to show the rebellion in a sympathetic light.

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Jeff has said that it was a very deliberate choice to make both sides unpalatable in G3, while not allowing a compromise option.  The problem is rather that it succeeded too well in doing that.  It would have been one thing if each side had a Khyryk who was *actually* on their side, however much in the minority they might be there, instead of the one positively received character in the whole game being allowed to do what the player isn't and just refuse to pick a side.

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11 minutes ago, Triumph said:

It's always irked me that you don't get to visit Icy End until after your alignment is locked in, because I feel that town does more than anything in the game to show the rebellion in a sympathetic light.

 

Huh, I can see that, but for me Icy End was the point that said "Drakons are just Shapers 2.0," especially with the cake sidequest. I don't think that was the intent of that sidequest, but it's how it comes across to me. Icy End made me want to see the other intelligent creations rebel against the Drakons and the Shapers, or set up for an Astoria-style faction.

 

The later alignment lock was better in G4 (and a bit of an overreaction to G3s early lock, IMO), but I think there needed to be one more minor event on the Shaper side just before the final battle. Even just the General being gone from his office after you turn in the quest before.

 

3 hours ago, wackypanda said:

G3 probably had less focus on creations being oppressed precisely because it was the main argument for joining the rebel factions in G1 and G2. But I think G3 is the worst of the games at showing both sides in any case.

 

I'll agree with this. I think the largest alignment hole is that until the end of GF3, and I mean the western side of the Isle of Spears, the Player doesn't really have a sense of why any non-ego-maniacal Shapers enforce their laws the way they do. From an outsiders point of view, who cares about a strong other faction? Lets trade with them, similar to how the Scholai get treated after GF3. Shapers don't have an issue with Scholai who don't learn Shaping (from what we can see). The problem comes when the laws that govern the Shapers internally are ignored and their magic is used. Until you get to the End-game of GF3, the only thing you really see that hits this is the Spawners. GF3 did attempt to show some of this "Benevolent Shaper Rule" with the necromancers zone at the end of Island 2, and then the series enforces it a bit as practically every bad thing in the series comes when someone ignores the Shaper rule of "Don't go here." Even after GF1, ignoring Shaper law is the direct cause of almost every problem in the game, beyond common banditry which if the Shapers weren't having to fight a rebellion they could afford to go stamp out. We have indications from GF4 and GF5 that that used to be one of their public services: keeping the roads safe. Are they heavy-handed, absolutely. Probably too heavy-handed. Look at a Gazer and you understand why Shapers control their arts. Look at the bugs from GF5. Look at the description of giant rats from GF2. But until the end of GF3 you never really get a slap in the face that says "This is what Shapers want to prevent!" 

 

I wonder, if the Rebellion had happened without any rebel Shapers, if canisters could not give the ability to Shape, how would the Council have acted? I imagine that at least two of them would have been "Wait, what? Umm, okay. Give us back all of our serviles and ornks. You can buy batons from us if you really want." There would be some war, but at a certain point the Shapers would ask if it was really a worthwhile war. Killing the people who would be paying your taxes. We do know they conquered most of Terrestria through war, but that was centuries ago. Even the "Recently settled" lands have been under Shaper control for long enough that the locals say "centuries ago." And they stopped at some point, because Drypeak Mountains are a "Distant colony."

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, earanhart said:

 

I wonder, if the Rebellion had happened without any rebel Shapers, if canisters could not give the ability to Shape, how would the Council have acted? I imagine that at least two of them would have been "Wait, what? Umm, okay. Give us back all of our serviles and ornks. You can buy batons from us if you really want." There would be some war, but at a certain point the Shapers would ask if it was really a worthwhile war. Killing the people who would be paying your taxes. We do know they conquered most of Terrestria through war, but that was centuries ago. Even the "Recently settled" lands have been under Shaper control for long enough that the locals say "centuries ago." And they stopped at some point, because Drypeak Mountains are a "Distant colony."

We have the answer to that. They would brutally wipe out opposition. Di-something, the shaper of Harmony is the exception. 
It is stated in the opening intro texts. It is also mentioned in the later games when they mention "the great rebellion" won't be simply erased from history like other rebellions that the shapers prohibit even discussion of. We also see a taste with the Trakovites (even the peaceful ones) being locked in cages and left to starve to death or other horrible ways of execution not for rebelling (because they didn't till GF5), but simply questioning the wisdom of Shapers. The locals in those settled islands are, as we learn in the games, strongly encouraged to abandon their culture and forget their history. 

 

The Shapers don't ask for taxes and trade. They take what they want. They don't care much about casualties. What is the worth of a life when you can make more? Soldiers died? Make more battle creations. Farmers, crafters died? Make more serviles. It is also mentioned in the games when you're presented with "the way a Shaper looks at the world" with people as background noise. I think it's in GF4 and GF2. 
The difference between the Drakons and the Shapers is that the Drakons shape themselves too and are less oppressive to creations (while the vast majority of them also think they are above the "lesser races"). 

Edited by alhoon

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I feel the Trakovites are a different enough creature, as their philosophy is that Shapers should be denied Shaping. That is a direct attack (even if just philosophical) against the Shapers, not a mere NIMBY. As for other rebellions being mentioned, I can only think of one mention of that, in the Shaper ending to G4. A lot of ending text gets ignored by the next game(s), but that one I think is different because it's history. We don't know if those rebellions involved Shapers or were attempts at wholesale war against the Shapers. They might have been exactly what I was imagining, but the only thing we know about them is that they exists. As for opening intro texts, we don't know if those wars were rebellions or expansion on the Shapers side, nor do we really know how long ago those were. Given where Shaping started, what the first three creations were, and where the center of Shaper power has been for recorded history we know they started out as a warring tribe who developed a better weapon than anyone else. At some point they became a power both on Sucia and the mainland. After this the Council was made, after this Sucia was banned, and somewhere in there the Shapers forgot where they came from. That's a big thing to forget over just a few centuries. When and why the Council was made, how old the Shapers are, how the Guardians and Agents came to be, when Shaper Law was codified, most of the contents of Shaper Law, all of these things we simply don't know and they would shine a lot of light on this topic. I'm not saying they wouldn't simply curbstomp anyone who tried to leave their control peacefully or only with traditional weapons, I'm just saying the Shapers during GF1 live in a world where they have been the power for a VERY long time, with no threats of any kind that we know of. After so long and so much evolution, we don't know that the Shapers are the same war-tribe they used to be. They certainly don't seem to care about bloodlines very much. That would explain why they are so slow to respond to this rebellion: they aren't used to actual war. If they were, then at the first sign of something wrong they would have sent out an Agent, and when she didn't return a squad of Guardians, probably backed by a Shaper or two.

38 minutes ago, alhoon said:

The locals in those settled islands are, as we learn in the games, strongly encouraged to abandon their culture and forget their history. 

Where do we learn this? In Mera-Tev it is implied that the only reason the natives aren't talking about their history is because they are scared it will label them rebels somehow. The fact is in GF5 we see more cities that show signs of the original inhabitants architectures than not. If Shapers were strongly encouraging conquered people to forget their history, they could easily have destroyed and replaced all original buildings over the course of a generation. They've had hundreds of years to not do this in both Mera-Tev and the Storm Plains, places with easy access to building materials and good climates.

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Posted (edited)

It is exactly that: In some parts of the Shaper Empire, a few buildings (mainly forts) remain and many people are afraid to mention their history. The buildings in the Shaper cities are mostly constructions of the Shapers or a blend of Shaper-local culture except castles where they often kept good ones they conquered. When you visit places with ghosts etc we are told those days are not taught. In Mera-Tev the local language is all but lost. Storm Plains have been tamed. Derra Reaches is the only place where the locals haven't been strongly assimilated as they are comparatively new additions (or, well, not really additions as the Shapers ignore the desert people). Considering the Shapers are around there for just a few centuries that was quite fast assimilation. Many conquered peoples under other empires usually kept their identity and language for centuries. For example, the Safavids (Persian dynasty) showed up a millennium after the Sassanids (previous Persian dynasty) have been conquered. Many Indian states kept their identity and culture despite being conquered by Turkic conquerors (Timur) and ruled by his successors and successor states + Britain. 

 

From what we have been shown in the game, at least in my opinion, it is clear that Shapers were a despotic, authoritarian magocracy that viewed very bad anything they perceived as challenge to their right-to-rule, including cultural identity, magic (restrictions on not-shaping magic too) and slightly diverging opinions. However, they had the insane power to spam forces for ever and the ability to create food from nothing (shape ornks) plus workers to take care of modified crops and construction (serviles).

As such, resistance against them was futile. They had endless manpower to support their armies and industries. Aside of that they were also very powerful mages in the Pew-Pew-Boom-boom staff too; a shaper without creations is no pushover. You would either bow down and follow their commands or be crushed and annihilated. That seems to be the Shaper (and Drakon) imperialism.

 

 

Hence, I strongly support the rebels, the human side. Greta - Astoria side. 

Edited by alhoon

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Wow the quality of discussion on this forum is amazing. Just to address a couple of things though with my POV on them. 

 

On 4/26/2019 at 11:28 AM, earanhart said:

 But the story aspect you suggest is decidedly one-sided. It paints the rebellion in too good a light. This is a world of Grey vs. Gray morality. I

 

I agree that would be a one sided approach for most people but I think that is kind of needed as it is a decidedly black and white story for the shapers if you roleplay a realistic personality in Geneforge 3. The argument of the Shapers is primarily that any nastiness is justified by the absolute need to keep shaping and the shaped under control. that The PC of GF3 first experiences the rebellion is of his school being destroyed. Then the PC sees nothing but out of control shaping destroying stuff for the rest of the game until Island 4 - Gull Island. But I'd say island 4 even then the PC meets creations so hostile that the PC would be unconvinced in any case. The only thing the Rebellion really makes as an argument is that Shapers will be defeated and that they offer power. But the first argument doesn't work in an RPG because who would roleplay a defeatist and really a defeatist mindset could not achieve the things the PC is required to. The offer of power doesn't work because for most of the game the Shapers are clearly offering a better deal being the establishment while at the end using canisters will obviously allow the top tier creations, the PC has no way of knowing that or reason to believe it. 

 

I played a rebel in GF3 because the rebels are more fun for me but it isn't a believable character arc. The storyline really only  makes sense as a shaper loyalist in GF3. The shaper's are also unpalatable in the game but from a PC point of view it is the only option, it only looks like a decision at all because we are viewing it externally from the lens of having played the other geneforges.

 

If I was to rewrite it, I would have the school not get nuked but torn apart by competing factions within the student body of loyalists and rebels. Then have the player discover a deserted school when coming back from an expedition or something similar due to civil fighting between the emerging factions. Then Litalia could come and make her pronouncements like the original game. That would help give an unbiased started. Then have more opportunities to see things from the servile side throughout. 

On 4/26/2019 at 11:28 AM, earanhart said:

 

The rebellion has never been pro-servile the way the Awakened or even the GF1 Takers were. It has ALWAYS been anti-Shaper. This is why in GF4 we see what we do in the rebellion.

 

For me the rebels always seemed like the realists. That for creations to stand any chance against the shapers it would require extreme measures and that living side by side was essentially impossible because free creations could not co exist with a nation of enslaved creations.

 

I think one point in the game's favour is that someone can play it and come to the opposite of my interpretation though. That is a sign of good world building. 

 

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"That for creations to stand any chance against the shapers it would require extreme measures and that living side by side was essentially impossible because free creations could not co exist with a nation of enslaved creations.
And yet, GF5 showed us that this wasn't the case. To a degree, even the Awakened GF2 ending did just that for at least some years. 

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GF5 is in the middle of gigantic conflict that is tearing apart the world. I remember the GF2 ending being that you are imprisoned by shapers then get freed in a prisoner exchange and spend the rest of your life fighting shapers in a conflict where neither side can progress. I meant co-exist as in peaceful co-existence.

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Posted (edited)
25 minutes ago, benzidrine said:

GF5 is in the middle of gigantic conflict that is tearing apart the world. I remember the GF2 ending being that you are imprisoned by shapers then get freed in a prisoner exchange and spend the rest of your life fighting shapers in a conflict where neither side can progress. I meant co-exist as in peaceful co-existence.

 

Well, with both sides being able to spam soldiers at a moment's notice, soldiers that haven't been lovingly raised by parents for 15-20 years etc, tends to me this hard. I would frankly think the Trakovites are right in this regard: As long as you have Shaping, you will have conflict simply because casualties don't matter. And if you start shaping shapers like the rebellion? heh. Then it won't matter if Shapers die. You can always create more. 
The Monarch kinda got on this train hard. Why have anything else, if you can make loyal servants and hordes of non-hostile soldiers? Simply kill everything and remake the world as you like it. 

Edited by alhoon

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Geneforge 3 get's a lot of cool points because it introduces us to many of the series interesting staple characters. Greta, Alwan, Litalia, Warmaster Karikiss, and of course, my personal favorite, Khyryk. These characters each add a sprinkle of immersion to the overall plot of Geneforge 3 and I'm glad they stick around until Geneforge 5.

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