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Curious Artila

Curious Artila (3/17)

  1. Run 1 2/2: Day 58, The Glaahks Are Becoming More Sentient, They're Starting to Know My Name-- I FINALLY step into Rising, Barzahl’s seat of power, the root of the madness that infects these mountains, and it’s the Attack of the “C”-Students. Every “Shaper” I meet in this damnable place is either insane or an arrogant spod with the morality of the least likeable child you know. I track down Barzahl and hear his report, and get confirmation that the slab of meat and metal standing next to him is Shanti’s killer. I challenge Stanis to a duel to the death, and immediately scurry into the back rooms of Barzahl’s palace to get at the Creation controls. I sabotage them to retain control of my party during the fight, and also for a fun surprise once I let loose hell here later. Stanis himself is a slightly toned down version of Krogst up north, who I killed a bit earlier and didn’t tell you, sorry. He has somewhat higher Acid resist to make up for his lower Stun resist, though personally I think the fact that he’s level 12 is his greatest weakness, since it allows all of my guys a reasonable hit rate. My effect resistances failed me hard this fight, though; Stanis left me dazed/wracked/charmed(?)/wracked/stunned far more often than my pets wound up being, but in the end, my alpha put him down. His last words are perturbing, though: the power high the canisters gave him broke right at the end, leaving Stanis with himself, his actions, and their consequences in his last moments. He dies, and Shanti is avenged. Also, my Helix Ring absorbed energy from him, specifically, and not any number of powerful enemies I killed. Is it because of the personal stakes? The sheer amount of canisters he used? I dunno. They don’t have a proper Anvil here in Rising for some reason, so I’m gonna see what that’s about. After that, I met Barzahl, finally, so I’m gonna see what that ending looks like for the first time ever! Okay, so it appears that the Helix Ring is one of the items you need mandrake and infernal residue to augment, along with possibly the frosted amulet-- sorry, annulet. I pop on down to the starting zone and-- oh, yeah, Zakary said Emily was sick, I should see about this. I can’t cure her myself, but I take note of her oddly familiar symptoms. I go to Medab, and Carnelian confirms it: the servile’s swamp sickness has transmitted between the two species. How Emily got it when she’s nowhere near the swamp is anyone’s guess. Questions for later; for now, I’m going home! It is, of course, not a true ending, a punishment for refusing to do the true duty of a Shaper. You guys remember I’m an apprentice, right? Taking on entire rogue nations is a bit above my pay grade. I get left as an outcast in my continued training, and the Council’s arthritic response leads to many tens of thousands dead, with far more to follow. I jump back into the game to plan out my next move. Obviously, if I’m gonna get an unaligned ending, I should take Macnulty’s advice and smash the problem children in these mountains, Barzahl and the Taker Triumvirate, they who are taking Shaping into a new, or rather very old, very scary direction. I need to get into Taker lands for the swamp sickness cure, anyway, among other quests, but I’ve been putting it off since I burned all my chances to get one of their badges without joining the Awakened first. Without it, getting to Zhass-Uss is going to be at least three zones of sustained combat, and I don’t know if I’ll even be let in without it. Still, hope springs eternal. I head to Old Rising Bridge for a quest and realize almost too late that mines reset now! I actually ran afoul of this way the hell back in Shandoka, but that was almost a week ago at time of writing and I plain forgot. Luckily I noticed just in time and disarmed the miserable things again. I manhandle the rogues, and gain a new pet vlish, which are certainly Not delicious, though the alphas certainly wouldn’t care. The Road to Phariton was far less of a laser light show than I expected, though I’m not resetting to make sure that was normal. With my Stealth at 3, the pylons only just didn’t see me as I ran through the canyon like a sniveling baby, and making it to the controls on both ends of the zone to neutralize both sets. Mechanics is basically essential for this zone, because the pylons themselves had a glow up between generations. The pylons in G2 were strong, sure, but out-harding them with sufficient firepower and optimal positioning was a thing you could do if you were talked into it by someone you foolishly considered a friend, and with a few of them it was practically required to get to the control panels. In the remaster series it’s literally impossible to do; it’s not just that they’re so much more oppressive, but they don’t frigging die! They go into sleep mode for like, a turn, and then immediately get back to blasting. Don’t even bother fighting them, it’s that goddamn stupid, even on Normal. I enter Phariton’s Hall. Within are his new, different, and special variant of servile. (Pssst! They’re special because he doesn’t have to fit each of them with bomb collars.) Once you get in the Hall proper and sneak past the artila (or kill it, I’m not gonna tell you what to do; I’m not your dad) you’ll be spoilt for choice: will you take the stealthy mechanics route with the pylon that you specifically will aggro by trying to reach the lever locking its northern controls, killing you almost immediately? Or will you take the combat route containing eleventy morbillion shrubs (which use the turret sprite for some reason) that hose you down from every direction with freezing cold and seething venom? Or perhaps you’ll take the in-betweeny route, disarming mines that will otherwise daze you, then release powerful Tier 3/3.5 creations, which would in turn also reveal the only good loot in that route lying in their cells? …It’s probably that third route for me, at least right now, and it’s worth mentioning that in the original, you either disarmed it or let it pop, and that was your lot, since that was the only way those cells opened, meaning you effectively locked yourself out of additional experience and loot. Here in Infestation, I assume these rearm themselves when you leave and reenter the zone, allowing you to bypass the encounters here one visit, and face them the next. I disarm the pylon with the spore box at the other end, and swing around to kill the shrubs, too. Honestly, they’re no problem at all here: They’re so spaced out, and my Airshocks so potent, that I can take a group of them out in a single turn, with usually only one per fight being able to attack at all, which will hurt like the dickens if it’s the freezer, but other than that it’s no big deal. I see Alpha Hyrk, who wants to be free, but I need to make this delivery happen, and having this guy in your party instantly aggros Phariton, so I leave him there for now and step into the Canister Room. Phariton’s canister mania has advanced to the point where he regards the things as religious relics in his chase for a state of higher being. You often see canister addicts’ possessiveness towards the canisters they hoard, but Phariton has a neat quirk where if you dare to ask him for one of his, he needs to remind himself that you didn’t actually use it to keep from killing you. I meet Phariton face to face. He’s exactly as weird as I figured he’d be, given the above, but he pays Intisar for the cone, and allows me some of his canisters (and money) for my troubles. I leave the canisters because I’m trying to kick the stuff, which is a shame, because these are some of the best the game has to offer. I pick up some purified essence as a consolation prize, so it’s not a complete loss. I also do a small quest for Phariton, getting him some canister supplies, along with other odds and ends, to get access to training as long as I’m unaligned. It’s my best bet to get the other two Tier 4 creations that Kima can’t teach, but his prices are expensive, literally, so I’ll be holding off on making an enemy of him for a while. Picking his brain a bit reveals he doesn’t trust or fully understand the methods the Barzites are using, which tells me he either bombed out of there before the Radiant College fully established their peering room, or he just never looked into the microscope to see what the hell they were talking about. That was a much chiller encounter than I’ve ever had with the guy. I imagine things will get much more adversarial in my other runs, but until then, some clean up. Sharon’s tests creations are a bit more manageable with Beranabus at level 16 and a drayk, alpha, and charged vlish at 14. The shade spawning vlish is chunked relatively painlessly, compared to the complete stall the fight degenerated into when I did it at level 13. The clawbug was a simple fight, since clawbugs are simple enemies: apart from the semiregular acid sprays of various areas of effect, it hit hard, but its attack focus was limited to right next to it, and even its sprays’ effectiveness were blunted by proper positioning. The bug went down, and I’m left with a rather underwhelming bracelet: +1 Strength from the fyora, cool, but 5% creation Magic Damage resist from the vlish is decidedly not. +5% Lifedrain? The weapon art? That’s useless to me; I don’t even have that skill, or the weapon skills to use it! Or does it mean I just natively have that buff? Anyway, I kill her garden in an absolute slobberknocker that kills my alpha and vlish, which nets me… 20% faster creation skill cooldowns. This thing is dogwater compared to G2’s bracelet, at least so far. That one just boosted your Shaping skills and your creation’s base stats, but it was good to keep on your person for when you made a creation, and I imagine it’d be better for a Shaper character that is actually built like a Shaper, and not whatever it is I insist on doing. I don’t trust that my own power can stand against the next trial, so instead I head back to the Lapidiary Ruins and oh, look, I have to do the tower in full all over again. Fun. Actually looking at them, they are all termed “Decaying Creation”, meaning yes, I have to fight my way through again if I back off without clearing it, but subsequent run-throughs deal in these degenerated copies that don’t give experience but are decidedly weaker. I get to the top and immediately engage the golem at the far end; it has a higher level, but far less health than the Control golem to the north, and I keep my creations out of the latter’s attack range as I whittle down the golem’s health… or rather, as I try to whittle down its health, because I eventually realize it is being healed an egregious 500 points by the Master Control, which also periodically picks up a random party member and deposits them near the chiseling golem, which stuns them and allows the golem to strike with its ludicrously damaging basic attack. I have to redirect my party to actually focus on Control, which isn’t helped by its burning attack, cone of fire, and mid-point spawning of suppression turrets and a battle beta, tossing my creations around willy-nilly all the while. Still, I manage to kill Control while only losing my newly created drayk, which left the chiseler at level 1, with much reduced health and damage. I dust it, plunder the top floor, and head to the Sholai for my next mission. They want essence. They want to get essence from the defunct Canister Factory in the north and take it back to their homeland. Well, if you put it like that, it sounds extraordinarily illegal, but sure, why not? For literal weeks, I had no idea where Zensital is. I caught up with him in Medab East some time after I sent him there, and eventually pointed him towards Rising. I reasoned he’d be posted up in a zone with an actual bed much like his last location, so I went to Degena’s inn at Rising North Gates, but no dice. I checked the Breeding Pits, nothing. Loyalist Encampment, nada. Rising proper, zilch. Trapped Forest, South Rising Road, either Rising Bridge, all vacant! Where is that man? I decided to head to the Radiant College, which is a beautiful location in this version, if I may say, to do some quests and seek him out. The quests were done, but he wasn’t there either, it’s wild. I finally found him camping out next to some supply sheds at the Rising North Gate. You know there’s an inn here, right, Zen? Zensital’s mind is a tad too open if you ask me. One chat with Barzahl and a canister later and he’s all too ready to be talked into joining the Barzites, who you think would be in direct opposition to his philosophy of “Sharing”. Though I suppose that just speaks to the malleability of it: his idea of Sharing can easily be stretched to mean “removal of law and limit for all humans”, a process that conveniently requires pinning creations under their boot even harder than the Shapers. Still, he’s not so far gone that he isn’t leery of the idea of attacking the Awakened he spent potential weeks living and learning from. Once I reach it, I’ll send him on to Zhass-Uss just to see what happens, but after that, I dunno if I’ll stick him with any of the factions or just send him to the Council ahead of me. I go through the Pit of the Bound, styling on everything I come across until I reach the Bound One and its beta posse, which turn me and my party inside out by turn two. Goddamn, maybe later. I decide to make my way to Zhass-Uss in probably the worst possible way: my usual way. I ping-pong across the map clearing opposite ends of Taker lands, hopping from the Western Marsh near Fort Muck to the Mountain Base north of Rising and delving through each subsequent zone leading to Zhass-Uss until I make it to the Zhass-Uss Outskirts, ignoring any side zones that branch off. Of special note is the Infected Crossroad, a place that has maybe my favorite moment in this game: A gazer has gone rogue here, taking over the minds of the defending Takers and the alphas and glaahks in the woods. Shortly before you arrived, a pair of serviles managed to break free of its hold and bolted for safety. One got clear, but the other ran afoul of a battle alpha and took a fatal blow to the chest. She made it to the ruined inn and curled up in the back room, waiting to die. And then, you finally arrive, a Shaper, the Enemy, and come across her. She’s actually glad to see you, because a Shaper has both the power and the inclination to kill the rogue that caused all this. And so, telling you of the gazer, she sits back and waits to die, and you have a choice: you can stand there like a dorbus and watch her die, or you can try to heal her. In vain, obviously, but you will at least ease her suffering before the end. It’s a surprisingly intimate moment, providing comfort for someone in their last moments regardless of alliance or creed, and, in my mind, fulfilling their last request: exact vengeance. The area has a few odd quirks hiding in it. For example, the alpha spawner with a dead Taker next to it. The fact that this servile was seemingly here to destroy this spawner meant some other faction put it here, either the Barzites or, perhaps more likely, the Awakened. Was the distraction that allowed the serviles to escape the gazer simply the rogue realizing the existence of this foreign transplant? Or was it occupied by your encroachment in Taker lands? I may never know, because I cooked that thing in three turns; having less than 500 health wasn’t its brightest idea, choosing to fight me even less so. Moving on to the Outskirts, I come across Aodare, a traveling Shaper entirely removed from this flustercuck who ran into a Taker patrol in his subsequent investigation and got captured. He is unflappable, and contemptuous of the Shaper who joins one of these rebellious factions. He also has a plan to overwhelm the mind of Syros, the leader of Zhass-Uss, but if I’m being honest, I really don’t know who will win out in the end between the two of them. They’re both smooth enough operators to know what the other is doing, I’ve no doubt, but if one of them will reach their limit and break, or prove too clever by half and engage in a fatal error, who can say. I head downstairs to break out Arixey, who I thought sounded familiar! She was part of that trio on Sucia Island that included Shaper Thrakerzod and Guardian, uh, the other one. She wound up getting caught the same way as Aodare, and getting her out of here requires a fight that thankfully doesn’t turn all the Takers hostile. For my service, I receive the Crystal Storm wand, a tool designed by someone only vaguely acquainted with “restraint”: a wand-like charm whose use doesn’t SHOULDN’T use action points, but must recharge after every use by killing twenty enemies, explaining to me why scuttlebugs exist. Anyway, yeah, this thing totally uses AP, and does truly pitiful damage, but it is still a charm, and one whose buffs are actually worth the space it takes up in my inventory, if only just. I learn how to make drakons and gazers from Phariton, completing the main suite of creations learned, and leaving only the cockatrice and the new stalkthorn as yet unlearned. Powerful, tanky, versatile, and VERY expensive, I’ll be rolling with Estark, Skud, and Eye Tret from here on, upgrading their levels and skills whenever I get a level and up my Essence Mastery. As of yet, I don’t know if I’ll make the jump to the Tier “4.5” Ur-Drakon, rotdhizon(?), and eyebeast since, frankly, the essence costs are already crippling with these guys, and I only went with all three of them because it’d look silly to walk about with a full power drakon and a pair of, I dunno, vlish? Being a Shaper isn’t just about being strong, but about projecting that strength to mythic levels. You have to look unassailable, and what better way than to have three of the most powerful creations these mountains have produced at your side like it ain’t no thang? Never mind the fact that I barely have enough essence to cast the bare essential spells in any given fight, I have a drakon, a rotgroth, AND a gazer! I finally enter Zhass-Uss, and meet with Syros. On Sucia Island he was just some creep in a cave who wanted chunks off of your soul, but here, he leads the Takers, along with what I call the Triumvirate: the old, disregarded Akkat, the half-formed but powerful Rhakkus, and Easss, the strongest, most perfect drakon… so far. I’m pretty noncommittal, but willing do some quests, so I get the feather badge and am free to look around, partake in their anarchic beat poetry, and look up Emily’s records because, yeah, she is from here, despite my suspicions. I also can’t ask Syros about the attacks on the Sholai, though he freely admits he doesn’t like them; he’d rather there not be more Shapers in the world to fight against, and all their escapades in these mountains so far lead him to believe they are largely up to their old tricks, and to be fair, at least Yu-La definitely is. Sneaking around, I finally find the Everfrost Mine mentioned by Ajax the Barzite and boy, is it happening: the Canister Factory’s apparently here, and Melathir is hiding out somewhere in it, so I’m able to fulfill four separate quests here. I help the Sholai tinker make her canister in-between sabotaging Melathir’s efforts with that poor rotdhizon and clearing out the lower mine of a spawner and a bunch of rogues. It is loading up the game here one day that the inefficiencies of my methods become undeniable; the game updated to version 1.0.2, which, among other things, added a tooltip displaying creation resistances, buffed the Fang Bracelet to boost Healing Craft, lengthened the time it takes for pylons to recover, and buffs certain creation upgrades, an aspect of the game I hadn’t mentioned yet, but would have had a mention in this run’s final wrap-up. By the time I finish this run, I will have been playing this game for over a month. What the hell happened? My approach to playing Geneforge could always be politely described as “painstakingly thorough”, as I comb over nearly every zone for content, experience, and money, which is perfect for playing through the whole series every two to three years, but is pretty sub-optimal when you’re doing three back to back runs for the sake of a crowd. But even with that in mind, no game of Geneforge should take this long. Even the three Mutagen runs took about a week apiece. I think I can safely say that G2 is a decidedly larger, denser game than its predecessor, though admittedly I can’t say that with 100% objective metrics, but even that doesn’t explain this terrible gap between times. I think one reason is that I’m biting off more than I can chew, at least within a reasonable timeframe: as stated before, I had four entire quests rotting on my quest log until I finally found the mine, and my quest for that took valuable time away from any number of other quests, like Emissary’s demon hunt, or finding the servile cure, which I need to resolve Emily’s conundrum, it’s fractals all the way down. Every path I take, every quest I perform, every branch of dialogue I clear leads me to two more. This game is stuffed fit to burst with things to do, and I just don’t have time to do them all. After performing a bunch of quests for several Takers, I’m left with Slay a Leader, for which even the game suggests I just throw Barzahl off the train already to complete. Pissing off the Barzites now means abandoning the canister supplies quest Corin gave me with one canister remaining, since I’ve scoured the valley of mined crystals for other items, the other canisters, and plain selling them before I got the quest in the first place. Since I’ll be damned if I’m gonna buy them back at nine to twelve times the price, I instead head to the Infernal Depot, an as yet unexplored zone which, as the name implies, has the third (well, sixth) infernal you’re likely to encounter, and is possibly the strongest of them apart from Emissary, the Rotting Avatar, who I actually have a level over at this point, being level 19, but seeing as at level 17 I effectively stalemated with Tuldaric’s prisoner, and am even now ducking the Bound One, I can’t imagine this fight will go well. Rotter is keeping the souls of the guys who summoned it bound to him, both to torment them and to empower itself. I always found it interesting that the Shaper is seemingly unaware of his violent death and current imprisonment, possibly because he’s blocking it out or suffering some kind of post-death amnesia. He’s described as younger than you, so maybe his less complete mental training makes it so he can’t manage his thoughts enough to see his sorry state, unlike the drakon being held on the other side. Pressing the issue further, he begins to get agitated, implying a psychological block, and pondering dispersal reveals the truth: he does know he’s dead, but he simply focuses on calculations and theory, refusing to acknowledge his hellish reality, since “killing” him is temporary, as he can’t move on while Rotting Avatar exists in this plane. Dispersing him for a time is fairly easy, however, along with the drakon ghost to the west, who is fully lucid and very pissed that this happened to them. I buff up and take on the Rotter… who, upon seeing Emissary’s rod, jumps to level 21 and respawns the drakon’s shade. Grand. The first attempt doesn’t go so hot, probably because I panic and split my attention between the infernal and the revived drakon, and the crush of wracking shades and burning attacks overwhelm first Heust Blade, then Tret Eye, and finally even mighty Estark, leaving me and Skud ineffectively chewing on the Rotter’s health bar, so I load back to just before the fight and begin again, this time focus firing on the main threat, and managing to take it down before the shades really begin swarming en masse. Being in a comparatively wide open space made that fight way less of a mess than the other infernal battles. Killing it gets me the final ingredient I need to get Learned Darian’s breastplate made, the Slayer’s Chestguard, which looks cracked, but I’ll have to give it some field experience to see how it stacks up against the Aura Vestment. I also have all the materials for that final canister, so I go to turn it in to Corin, who, uh, doesn’t take them, saying they have no more spare. I try to turn them in again, same result. I check my quest log, Get Canisters is gone. Corin, I can see that last room that’s still locked. I haven’t even used any of the canisters you unlocked for me, you can just take the supplies! No dice, she’s adamant. Did I do something wrong? Did she hear something she didn’t like about me, and is refusing my aid? I look around, and the merchants in Rising will still deal with me, at the same (exorbitant) prices to boot! What gives? Whatever, quest is done either way, so it’s time to incite a riot. My first instinct was to head to the controls again and dicker with them in front of Shingle to set him off, but apparently it doesn’t count as touching them if I can’t change anything about them. Hopping into the murder pit that is Barzahl’s throne room is right out, and I set off Troknan, but like the original G2, only he goes hostile in that case, so I do something that’s sure to piss them off: I pop back in to the Radiant College and kill Burham and Fenen, the Barzites’ head researchers, and swipe their research for good measure. I get outside and it’s On Sight. The turrets and guards, sure, but that one normal, docile servile ornkherd? The ornks? Why’re they at me, too? And so aggresively: the ornks leap at me (I didn’t even think they could jump, let alone leap), and the servile just doesn’t get terrified. Everything inside of them should be screaming to runaway from the Shaper, killer of Shapers, but they’re more willing to get active than the human guards, ‘cause they’ll start running once the going gets tough enough. I try to minimize civilian casualties in my rampages, so I break for the north and the Loyalist Encampment (please never change back Macnulty’s and Bunk’s overhead dialogue, by the way, it’s all I have) to recover Essence, then load into Rising proper from the south. I’m immediately thrust into combat mode, and decide to stay in it the rest of the way through, since Barzahl will be busy wrangling with his four drayks that just went rogue, and I want to get to him while his health is still battered from that. I make my way west, chunking the common guards while they’re distracted with killing the rogue alphas, which allows me to kill Trace and Corin with no interruptions. The alphas themselves are too weak to pose a challenge to anyone here, but not having them crowd me as the rest of the guards zero in on my location is a good enough reason to sabotage the control pylons here. I get into the throne room and hey, they didn’t interact at all. Is the room is so big they can’t see each other? Regardless, I am beyond him, level-wise at least. As me and mine flood into the room, the drayks begin to shake off the bonds of Barzahl’s control! A few rounds of glorious death dealing later, and the bastard falls in a spectacular pyrotechnics display. The deed is done, the day is won, time to spread the good word. Zakary sounds pretty happy about it, and Amena Blade is also glad to hear I might be willing to join the Takers. Sorry cornpop, I’ve got an unaligned ending to check out, but maybe next time. For now, it’s demon time. I square up against the Bound One next, in a tough but manageable brawl. When he sees the rod, he doesn’t raise his level like Rotting Avatar; instead, I imagine his “drawing up of power” is the shattering aura he drops on my party nearly every turn, shredding my buffs and often stunning us. Thanks to my new Chestguard’s ridiculous defenses and stun resist, however, along with Skud’s inherent 50% stun resist, we mopped up the betas and got Bound to half health, at which point he ran off to recover in the back, though not before healing to full health. I’m right on his heels; experience in G2 informs me that while he goes back there, he doesn’t stay back there, and having a superpowered golem at your back while you’re picking through treasures results in weapons-grade bad times. The party corners him in his tunnel and unload searers, drakon fire, and eyestalk beams until his stone prison crumbles, and he’s dragged into an even worse one. Sorry, man, but I definitely needed that canister of Endurance I’m not gonna use. After that, it’s time for Infernal Teriel to go, a relatively simple matter now that I simply ignore their little helpers and beat it into submission before it can heal too much. They drop the truly mighty puresteel plate, a beautiful collector’s item, and Emissary has her rod safely returned to her. I don’t know what she’s gonna do with them, but that’s no longer my or any mortal’s problem. I have no earthly idea where Zensital is, and the only places I haven’t checked in Taker lands is-- hmm… alright! To Benerii-Uss I go! I actually cleared BU Power a bit after I dealt with Everfrost, but opted against going into Holding until I did all my Taker quests. Then when I did, I went to the Entry instead to see what was up. What I found was Rhakkus, who ignored my drakon and rotgroth in front of him and blew me up after the all the drayks focus fired on me. After that I swung around and went to Holding, finally. I gank a few servile guards and come across a big stone door I can’t find a way to open, before linking up with a few rogue gazers and killing Akkat and his lab assistants. I may have loused something up because unlike Rhakkus, he never said anything to me, only getting narration about how badly he died. I go down what looks like a side entrance to reveal zone The Geneforge. I then turn around and go to BU Shaping; I’m saving that one for last. BU Shaping is a whole lot of tunnels, tanks, and some Takers. I also get to see their peering room, as well as the swamp sickness cure, which I pocket while taking in reams of paper filled to the brim with nonsense script detailing the secrets of life. Xanadu-style, an entire tangent best saved for the post-runs conclusion springs into my mind fully formed, so I head west to pick up the herringbone hatchet I need to finally be rid of that tree, and head south to fight-- OMG, Rhakkus, hi! I guess he heads to the Entry when they get alerted you’re coming up that way. I walk in with a standard bless, shield, & haste, only for Rhakkus to blast me with his basic attack, which kills me with burn damage once it becomes my turn. I haven’t mentioned the new Burn status affliction yet, but I appreciate how realistic it is, being afflicted by powerful fiery attacks, and unable to be cured by effects that relieve other status conditions. In fact, its tooltip says it can’t be cured at all, which makes sense, obviously: good luck curing being on fire. But it leads to me liking it a lot less when I’m the one on fire. Attempt 2 starts with the same buffs, and also essence shield, a spell I remember using quite a lot in Mutagen, but only used a handle of times to date. Still, it does its job admirably, eating Rhakkus’s initial attack and leaving me with only the pitifully blunted burn damage as I lead him north to the incinerator, turn it on, and leave him to get stunlocked by the resulting solvent bath. I collect his cloak for no reason than to have it; at this point there are no merchants with enough money to buy anything I have to sell, even if I didn’t turn half the map hostile. I go back to Benerii-Uss’s front entrance, and now that Rhakkus is taken care of, I can slap down everything that appears in front of me without resistance. My liberal use of airshocks and searers catches up to me, however, when I run into Tessera Eye, who gets a lucky stun off on my entire party, and slowly but surely picks off all of my creations as I, bereft of proper mass healing items or even an essence pod, make do with plinking him to death with firebolts and searers. Couldn’t even save the servile he was interrogating. Broken and beaten, but not wanting to leave the mountains, I fall back to the Loyalist Encampment to recover and remake my forces, settling on Cherub, Virtue, and Eye Ophan. Back at the Entry, I continue cleaning up everything I come across, including the second gazer to the west. Giving the once over to the other areas of Benerii-Uss, I finally delve into its depths and, dodging the annoying golems and the pylons to the northeast I can’t turn off (the room next to them contains early game garbage and a canister I can’t use. What the hell is the point of it?) I reach it, the Geneforge. It looks gross, a chemical soup of flesh, crystal, and herbs floating in essence, a comparatively roughshod and slapdash version of Danette’s masterwork back on Sucia Island, fitting for these mountains, but doubtless just as potent. To the south is Easss, who I have a choice in dealing with: either we join in battle right then and there, or I convince him to use his Geneforge, and sabotage it while he’s using it. There’s also the third option of just letting him use the Geneforge, and fighting the resulting “Augmented Easss”. Let’s see how that goes. Talking to Easss gives me a few bits of information: among other things, the Takers were the ones who stole Yu-La’s goo, which is in fact a sample of that original Geneforge, in order to make this one. This canon also adds an additional link to the drakon chain with Sith, Shaped by Rhakkus, Shaper of Easss. At least, I think she’s new; I could go back to G2 and check, but I don’t want to spend two weeks playing basically the game I just played just to check… mainly because I have two months set for playing literally the same game I just played for the other two runs. He is also genuinely sad when recalling her death, fascinating given the utterly inscrutable expression he holds right up until it’s time to kill you. I convince him to finally pull out all the stops to kill me, and watching him stick his hands in the Geneforge, it occurs to me that this is probably the most precarious position this setting can produce, because I could absolutely push him into the pool and ruin everything if only the game let me. Instead I let him juice up to a level of Shaping perfection never before seen on this earth, and the fight begins. I see in this state he is immune to stun and mental effects, a given at this point, but he’s also packing an 81% acid resist, neatly scuttling most of my game plans. No poison resist, though, which is good for all one players who brought their trusty venom baton to the final battle. It takes me more than a few tries to kill him, partly because halfway through Mr Ultimate Lifeform calls in reinforcements, but also because he’s just really hard to hit; with him at level 24 Beranabus (21) has a hit chance of 69% while blessed, and my creations, all level 18, are swinging with 59% accuracy. Easss has a chef’s platter of debuffs and AOE attacks, and my supply of status wands are pretty much wiped out, so I just throw myself at him until the dice roll in my favor enough times, an inelegant solution, but if it works, it works. His drops are pretty crap, but he’s the last boss, what are ya gonna do. Also, when I was hunting around for ways to turn off the mid-fight cavalry charge, I saw a neutral Rotdhizon with an apparently broken dialogue box. Weird. No one has anything to say about the Triumvirate getting packed up, at least outside of Taker lands. Mind you, I only checked in with Macnulty and co. and Zakary, so I’m probably missing someone, but at this point, I don’t care! I won! Oh yeah, completing Grimwing’s quest unlocks a shed full of garbage; I suppose it’s gratifying to see his questline is garbage from start to finish, anyway. Let’s see our ending: As you may have expected, Zak was executed, and Drypeak was nationalized. The Awakened have their hopes and dreams crushed yet again, along with their homes, schools and bodies. The Barzites are almost completely annihilated, though unlike Beranabus, I have no doubt at least a few of them made it out of the crucible to continue their work elsewhere; if people could escape Final Sanction on Sucia, an island, I know a couple of them will break out of these mountains. The Sholai clear off with the essence, inviting even odds of either becoming a second Shaper Empire or utterly collapsing under the weight of unchecked, never before seen mutagenic terrorism. The Takers saw the writing on the wall and wisely dipped; really, the Awakened really should have guessed the same. As for Beranabus, despite his, hmm, odd opinions regarding creations, he proved he was loyal where it counted, and effective to boot. He becomes the shadowy arm of the Council, ranging far and wide across the Known World, protecting the commons and killing any Takers he comes across. Unbeknownst to him, behind a large stone door deep in the mountains, the newest link in the chain stirs. And that’s the run. Heavens, that took a long time. And apparently I have no excuse, because the second I stepped into Benerii-Uss Holding I went into a flow state for six hours and beat the game, updating this rag all the while. I never did find Zensital, but the ending makes me think he made it back to the Council before me. I don’t know who attacked the Sholai with spawners; I didn’t even have the option to ask Syros, and the Triumvirate were more interested in telling me to eat their collective schlong, so I guess I won’t know for sure until the Torment run. I told Emily about her parents, at least, and got her to blow this popstand before the Shapers gunned her down. I don’t know if we’ll ever see her again. Probably not, considering I never got that rematch with Beka. I’m gonna read up some strategies and jump back in on Veteran. Hazel the Guardian’s not gonna know what hit them, but at least I’ll probably have an inkling.
  2. Run One Half: It's Been Seventeen Days! I wanted to jump back into Geneforge on a nice, even difficulty for my experience level. (You’ll quickly see how that worked out for me, but unlike last time, I wrote this sucker in real time as I played, so I didn’t know for a very, very long time!) I refuse to learn from my personal tragedies, so I once again neglected to look up the forums about mechanical changes before I start playing. I’m not a complete idiot, though: this time I’m taking Shaper Beranabus for a ride on Normal difficulty, aiming for a low canister Servant or else unaligned ending. Since I don’t know how to change the color of my character sprite, or even if I can, I continue. I finally start and, wow. I never got this granular writing about Mutagen, but in that game, the opening cutscene was actually the same opening as the original Geneforge, just using that limited color palette the Dragon Ball manga used every once in a while. It was cool to see, if a little underwhelming. Infestation, however, has entirely redone art and a new scrolling narration that leads directly to the start of the game. It’s… mostly fantastic, so I feel really bad about saying mostly. The scroll being automatic meant that the pictures cycled through to match, meaning I couldn’t get my fill and really take my time to appreciate the art. But what I did absorb from my limited time with those pictures was their more realistic style and actual coloring, which is incredibly appealing and I might adore it as much as the original illustrations. And you see, I do mean ‘as much’, because while G2’s sketchy, charcoal drawing style may have been kinda blobby and have certain subjects be hard to entirely parse, the emotions of Shanti’s Apprentice shone through with their cartoony white eyes peeping out of their shadowed hood, pairing with the narration to clearly show not just how exhausted they are on the trail, but how sick they are of being strung along by their training, how they weary of being their master’s pack mule and whipping-boy, and how much they relish those moments of peace by the fire. The new art’s more realistic style, while a stunning treat, just doesn’t have That, at least so far. Playing through the tutorial, my previous experience with Mutagen is, of course, easing the transition into this new Geneforge 2’s way of doing things, along with its new additions, skavlings and skuttlebugs and artilae, oh my! Another thing I noticed is that, well, again you don’t get free points at the start to put wherever, instead getting more points per level up-- still 10, too. I didn’t expect that, considering the average endgame level nearly doubled from the first game’s, but I forget that experience requirements rise as your level increases, capping at 1400 for a level up. My Leadership starts at zero, much like Mechanics and Stealth, and I only put 1 into it at the end of the first zone. I thought by the end of the tutorial I’d get another level up and bump it up a few more points, but I barely got halfway there. This… was the first time I was going to step into Drypeak with less than three Leadership. Would I not have enough to overwhelm Takena’s reluctance to let us pass with Facts and Logic? Would Shanti forever see me as a complete dorbus, only good for carrying her bags? Would the game just softlock, Jeff Vogel never considering a player would be so stupid as to neglect their ability to talk good!? Would I DIE!? …Turns out, you only need one Leadership to get that dialogue option, at least in Infestation, so false alarm. Milling about the town, I note a few differences that stuck out to me. For one, in-universe reasoning for the MC being able to walk in to most people’s houses with no resistance; apparently, Shapers are just allowed to do that, like their entire empire’s a company town and they reserve the right to do zero-notice inspections. Second is Elili the alchemist’s dialogue when referring to Zakary: while in the original she outright called him a liar when she described him proselytizing the colony’s future, here she instead calls his claims “deceitful”, which on first read seems like a distinction without a difference, but contextually reads like she’s pulling her punches, switching to a criticism of his actions instead of what might be perceived as an attack of a Shaper’s character, especially to another Shaper. Townspeople generally seem even more uncomfortable interacting with a Shaper this time around. Probably because I’m more willing to bring up capital crimes around them: it seems saltweed, that baseline magical herb, is one of the ingredients for essence, of all things, and upon hearing that Elili wants some for her work, I immediately press her as if she’s just gonna tell me if she’s planning on doing unauthorized Shaping as a side hustle. I probably sent the poor girl’s blood pressure the moon with that! I’m one of the magical aristocracy holding absolute authority over her, with full license to violently murder her on the spot if she broke that law. No wonder people are uncomfortable around me; my mere presence holds that over their heads like a Sword of Damocles, and they can’t even risk giving a smartass answer to my stupid questions because their neck may get snapped by Macavity the Thahd before they can make clear how sarcastic they’re being. In the servile quarters, there’s a book on Inutile serviles that struck me as… odd. It doesn’t read like a Shaper text at all; it’s written more like the Shapers left an area long ago, but people still had to deal with serviles and their Inutile population. It even talks about giving them land to live on on their own! Really, I’d expect this in maybe Medab, but the talk of the Shaper cause really makes me think a more appropriate place to find it would be-- Pentil… Yeah, I had to boot up Mutagen and, oh schist, Helping the Inutile is right there in my Codex! It’s the same entry, word for word, bar for bar! I try to question Thossila about it to see if they’re doing something weird with it, but no, it seems to just be an oversight? I guess? Whatever, more important to me is the second floor, where Thossila has a securely locked room. Probably her bedroom, and she just doesn’t want her charges wandering in, but there’s bound to be some sweet loot in there. The barracks’ basement has an even more secured door! So many secrets this time around. I’m currently too thick headed to unveil Sencia, so I head into the Warrens. I head to the meeting I’ve been putting off; seriously, it took me two hours to reach Drypeak, and I’ve spent six hours across four real days bumbling about town alone, though most of that time was spent tabbed out writing this post, staring into space, or bumbling about town in real life while the game was still running. Writing was never going to pan out as a career for me, and this forum “series” just demonstrates why. I try to use a candle in my inventory, but that didn’t work, as in, there’s no Use icon on it. I had to exit the inventory and press ‘U’ to pull up the Use Ability/Item tab. Your mileage may vary on how much that bothers you. Alright, meeting’s done and dusted, just puttering around the Warrens and, by the (locked) Guardian Barracks, is the Codex entry “To Be A Servant”, which is hella sus to see, because despite Zakary and Nora’s claims that the rogue issue is well in hand, this book implies the rogues are not only organized, they’ve been present for so long that not only do they have a slur for the loyalists here, but the loyalists have since reclaimed that slur! Why is this book not behind those locked doors!? It raises so many questions for any visitor who happens across it! And there’s an Obeyer text in the storerooms! Wha-- Keep them in your room, Zak! Expand your personal library! You gave the Inutile booklet to Thossila! Do you know how that looks?! You’re supposed to be keeping this mess a secret, and you’re this sloppy covering your tracks?! Amateur! Looks like this subterranean warren has an upstairs, which, okay. In it is one Sage Markov (Sage in this case being his title, presumably), of the Turabi. Like, ‘Turabi Gate’ Turabi. I think they mention it in G5 that they led into the Drypeak Mountains, so sick worldbuilding, bro. Only other thing of interest up here (besides another locked door!) is a note hidden in one of the record books, detailing a suitable location for something. No doubt something important, but what? I head over to Tyallea and discover he is both much further in his Shaping hall than in the original and possessing much lower health than most any other non civilian character in the Drypeak area, I think because you can actually get into a fight with him without pissing off everyone else. I buy a level each of Daze and War Blessing and Holy price gouging, Batman! I immediately forget about that, though, because I see a magic anvil here! And I already know a recipe! Mind you, reading it thoroughly, it just seems to be refitting the purifying elixir recipe to instead just use mandrake tincture and demon bile on an appropriate item directly. I head to the back to get ambushed by Artilae and complain to Ty about it. Turns out 1 Leadership is way too low to finesse a free lesson from this guy, so I’m gonna head out till I level up and try my sob story after I get Leadership to at least 3. I link up with Shanti at our flat. I tell her about the spy, and am bid to range the wider Drypeak area for more information. The fields to the west offer nothing of significance, but man are there a lot of rogues. Instead of heading straight into the woods to the south, I head back to Tyallea for a level each in Searer and Create Thahd, and take a detour to the mines. Within is Zora, who has a number of pretty worthwhile abilities, as well as a book about mines in the servile quarters. As in, spore mines. Did someone make a mistake? Is there some Shaper apprentice somewhere in the Illya Province flipping through a book on ore mine management in utter confusion at this exact moment? Also, there are two variants of lamps. Slightly different visually, but they both work and are named the exact same. They’re also found in areas right next to each other, so I’m puzzled by this inclusion. I could understand and appreciate different lands or factions having different variants of the same basic item: the provinces in G4, the islands in 3, and yeah, the different factions here in the Drypeak mountains. But I’m getting these variants between adjacent zones. I mean, sure, I get that domicile lamps and industrial lamps are rather different things, but the only thing keeping these two sets of items from stacking together is the slightly different art. And yeah, I know a candle functions exactly the same as the lamps, too, but that’s still a candle, a different item, albeit one that serves an identical purpose. There, it’s like making a distinction between Zippos and grill lighters, where with the lamps, it’s more like divvying up your grill lighters based on the brand. I find the serviles and head back to Drypeak; I was mildly worried Zora would bounce when I went to any non-mine area, but so far, it seems she’s down to roll with me throughout the larger Drypeak area. I turn in my quest with Thossila and-- apparently, one of her serviles found a Shaping manual in the research warrens’ trash. And she was going to return it to Zakary, but instead KEPT IT! Because it was INTERESTING! No fooling! Thossila. Babygirl. This conversation should Not be Happening. You are literally a ghost, because you don’t exist, because I killed you the moment I heard that you are currently in possession of Shaper secrets. And Zakary, you’re not safe, either: are all the Shapers here secretly giraffes, because that’s the only way you can consistently maintain this level of oversight. Someone else bless this mess, I’ve got things to do! I expected the Infested Woods to have gloomier lighting, truth be told. As it is, it almost feels like the Forsaken Lands, except the super fungal forests have been swapped for the fugly thorn trees that plague this valley. I don’t have enough living tools break into the monastery from the sides, so I guess I’m going in loud. That went well, on Normal. No clue yet how miserable it’ll be on Torment, but that’s for future me to find out in, judging by the time it’s taken me to get this far, two years. The spawner dropped a sweet cloak that gives points in specific abilities, which I think is weird, in-universe. I get items that augment your base stats, and even things like Shaping or magic skills I can see as it magically aiding you as you act, like boosting the power of your spells or stabilizing your creations as you Shape them, allowing you to craft them better. But individual abilities? That’d be like if I wore a particular cap, I’d be able to throw a curveball, but if it got knocked off my head somehow, the ball’ll go wide like it normally would. I met Sharon at her grove and promised to look for a library (In THESE mountains? That’s likely!) to help translate her book. Went to the Crags to get that final strong rogue on the way to the cave. I imagine on my way back to Drypeak I’ll see to those rogues in the western mines. The Crystal Caverns, in contrast to the aforementioned Woods, are much darker than I expected. Less blue, too, which may have something to do with it. Within the Caverns, there are crystals, shades to guard the crystals, a drayk to hoard the crystals, and a servile to sit among the crystals and wonder how things got to this point. I can take one or two crystals and only have to deal with the one or two shades in my immediate vicinity, but when I take one too many—four, to be specific—me and mine get jumped by 8 lovely topaz shades pouring from deeper within the cavern and get slaughtered to a man. I reload and just make my way to Wyx, who I think brought in statues to stand in the passageway leading to them. Are the statues part of their hoard? A flex to visitors, before they went senile? Do they actually have nothing to do with them being in this natural cavern, and someone else brought two dragon statues here for some reason? The world may never know. The conversation with Wyx went like I expected it would, except for an option explaining their ‘killing wrath’. I figured all this time that Wyx was always this weird, or else they were afflicted with whatever equivalent for dementia drayks had to deal with. But apparently, their spikes of anger are caused by, or are at least deeply tied to, the Barring of drayks and the subsequent extermination of the species. Wyx was a good, loyal creation, but they apparently didn’t make the cut, so they had to flee and make due in a cave far from everything they’d ever known. They spent potentially centuries in this cave in the middle of nowhere, with no one to talk to, listening to magic crystals to subdue their anger at the injustice they suffered; small wonder that they’ve got rage syndrome. Judging from their environmental dialogue, Wyx is aware of their “anger issues”, let’s call it, but doesn’t know why it’s such a problem for them. I really feel for Wyx, and it’s gonna be a real dick move when I force them to give me their favorite crystal later. Back at Drypeak, I blow Wyx’s spot to Takena and get a book on Weapon Shaping, the new hotness. I guess they can be compared to Weapon Arts in other games, and I don’t know where the Shaping comes from. I guess they use essence, but most spells do, too, so the name feels arbitrary, especially when common guards are allowed to learn them. I don’t have a point of weapon skill, at least not natively, so it’s not going to be at all useful for now. I got the roamertooth band from Allizar’s quest, but apart from the occasional steel javelin, my preferred missile is searer, and I dumped my starting dagger to keep my weight down. At some point I’ll have to bump up my melee so I can wield the bronze sword in my inventory before it corrodes, but for now, I heed the call of the mines. I go to fight the stronger rogues I mentioned before. Fighting them would have been foolish at level four, because I would surely be killed, and I know this because I fought them once at level four, and you can be sure I was killed. But now I’m level FIVE, and victory is practically assured. I clean out the grunts wandering the nest, but the big fish have yet to strike. The blessed thahd promises to be a right bastard, but at least it’s solo. At the very end of the cave is another, stronger searing artila backing up an ancient artila. They’re giant worms! How long do these things live that one can be called ancient? Whatever the answer is, both of these encounters have loot behind them, so I’m going in. Okay, so between starting the fight with the thahd before it could see me and some lucky dazings by my own thahd, we got it to half health before it finally attacked. Two things from that: one, a single hit took out half of Macavity’s health bar, holy shi-- And two, the searing artila apparently heard the scuffle, and coincidentally rounded the corner just in time to shoot Macavity while he’s down. We only barely polished off the thahd before the ancient one popped its head in, too. Looks like it was one encounter all along! Oh, Joy! Even so, they were no match for a true Shaper, his creations, and a lady he conscripted to be his bodyguard. None of my party members died, either, despite their best efforts. Now to Saltmarsh, but first, Ciphar. I manage to finesse him into being my tour guide for a day. I can’t imagine this will be difficult, but never say never, our dear Mr. Vogel could’ve snuck something in where I’d least expect it. Sneaking along the eastern wall of the canyon north is great for avoiding rogues, and I highly recommend it to spies and momma’s boys. As it is, I scour the marsh before I reach the camp guarding the tunnel. The confrontation with Beka goes differently, as I suspected it would: the high Leadership option, instead of preying on her fear of Shaper control by threatening to enslave her loved ones with your Shaper powers to get her to back off, instead has you reschedule your deathmatch by threatening to torture her family before you kill them, which isn’t much worse than the original, but it is a lot cruder, more… base. I’m also holding the game to this: I’d better see Beka again for round 2, or I will raze Rising to the ground. Oh, I’m just joshing ya; I was gonna do that, anyway. I poke my head in the tunnel briefly, but turn right back around and head to Drypeak to share my findings with Shanti, who says she sees great things ahead of me. I make my way to the tunnel with my head held high. I’ve earned my teacher’s respect on this mission, and when I discover what’s on the other side, it’ll be as Shanti’s apprentice, yes, but also her respected partner. Past the door, fresh tracks. Someone came here recently. A bit further in, Ack! A crumbling thahd! Before I dispose of the sloppy wretch, it holds out a scroll. A message from Shanti! If I hurry, I might be able to reach her on the other side of the tunnel! I leave the poor creation to collapse into sludge and trek onwards. The Thahd I picked up earlier is getting antsy, and Zora decided to bounce. It’s for the best, really: her skills are appreciated, but enemy levels are ramping up, and hers, uh, can’t. As is my want, I clear out both the combat and mechanics routes, lamenting that mine disposal no longer grants experience. I finally trust myself to not chop off my own fingers with a sword to actually equip one. I probably won’t be used much what with all the friendly bodies between me and something to use it on, but in a pinch it’ll be better to have than not. That vagabond thahd finally broke and ran. And in the middle of a fight, too; how rude! I should make an artila to compliment my fyora and thahd, but with all the essence I’ve invested in Frizz and Macavity, I’m gonna have to wait for a level up and drop a point into, ugh, essence mastery. Intelligence was already a tough sell for me in the classic series, and then it covered both essence and spell energy. As it is now, I have a hard time justifying the cost to myself. I make it to the end of the tunnel and come across a canister. I pop the top and get… well, a little tooltip opens and says I’ll get Protection. I use the canister immediately, of course, because you should always use protection. Oh, before I leave, there’s a door I didn’t open! I head there and immediately see another note, this time from an unknown author. It mentions an artifact in the chest, and a… Radiant College? Sounds like a place with a library! More importantly, it confirms not just the entrenchment, but the establishment of Drypeak’s enemies. They have institutions in the mountains. Higher education! I go to the next zone and, wow, again. I’m not super jazzed by the map being permanently zoomed in, but seeing the whole of the Drypeak Mountains rendered in the full beauty of the late day sun evokes a special feeling inside of me. I load into Freegate and-- oh right, this place is extremely illegal! Someone should do something about this. Well, it will have to be me and, of course, Shanti-- Oh. Oh no. Shanti has been attacked, and captured. This isn’t just an investigation anymore. This is also a rescue mission. I step through the gate into a foreign land, and am immediately jumped by armed serviles. It seems Rising has a welcoming party for any Shapers that enter these mountains. Suits me fine; I’m currently in the mood for, ah, culturally enriching these rogues, with Searers. A sudden sound behind me reveals the pincer movement! Trapped between two groups of serviles, I prepare for a knockdown, drag-out brawl, when suddenly BRODUS BLADE FROM BEHIND, WITH THE STEEL SWORD! We clean up the ambushers, and I begin to head north, but before I do, I check out the woods. Sure, the screeches and cries for help are definitely just rogues trying to lead me into an ambush, but I caved and made an artila since leveling up is taking so long, and I really want to test it out. I tried to ice the charged vlish I immediately came across, but it managed to call out for its friends before I took it down. A good strategy in this situation is to run like hell to an open area and fight there: in this case, right by Squib. He doesn’t actually get involved in the fight, since I like meeting my opponents where they’re at so I can kill them where they stand, so when they show up, I slowly but surely take the fight to the woods I just took the time to avoid fighting in. I’m in the thicket now, and at the edge of my vision I see a big, Corrupting blighter and some of its lesser but still potent friends heading right for me. I try kiting for a second or two, but I remember I’m on Normal difficulty and just out-hard them. Having heroically cleared out these woods (at least for now), I tread onwards. I make a beeline for Medab to meet Learned Pinner, and Medab East to dap up Brodus Blade. My goal at this point in the game is to power level: perform quests, gain skills, and earn enough experience to gain quite a few levels between Awakened territory and Barzite lands. But before all of that, I have to visit a few old friends. First up is Sharon, who helps me out by giving me the fang bracelet she’d been working on and sets me loose in her backyard. Alright, let me at that fyora, I’ve been hankering for some better gloves-- oh, it’s a cryoa now. That doesn’t mean much to me, though, a lizard is a lizard is a lizard. Lemme just mouse over it to see its stats and-- I’m sorry, how much health? And it’s level 14? …Next up is Drypeak, where I start pressing the citizenry in earnest on the illegal Shaping going on. None of them know much of anything, obviously; they figured Zakary and Barzahl were doing something weird up there, but they just wrote it off as Shaper business and hoped it wouldn’t get them all killed somehow. If I want real answers, I gotta ask the big man himself. Zak looks as terrified as I’d ever seen someone. He could almost definitely lay me out even without his guards and turrets, so I guess he thinks he can’t try something without risking me running off. Mind you, he wouldn’t know about Shanti’s abduction, so he probably figured it go really bad for him if she found out about that. Of course, the main reason I wasn’t killed on sight was because he needs me to help him fix his mess. I’m trying for either an unaligned or Servant ending this run, so I may eventually join him, but for now I’m a bit too woke for his taste, so I gotta go about my business in such a way that rumors of my regressive ways reaches him. I can also just gain the Leadership needed to bully him into letting me join him, which is probably what’s going to happen. I head back to the Medab area to clear out some spawners and recover some ornks, and meet one Courier Bharl, who, after saving from a roamer ambush, I am given the choice to rob his delivery of pods and spores meant to aid the sick in Medab. While very based, I instead elect to send him on his merry way. The ornks I meet in the southern Medab area are predictably slow as molasses, but the lost ornks in G2 were slow as cold molasses, so this is actually a quality of life update. I return the future rashers to Praw, and continue my search through the off roads of Awakened territory-- what in the world is an Irradiated Vlish!? Evidently, a vlish that can cast Mass Madness. I nearly got folded by my own thahd, but the misbegotten squid carked it first. With that and the other rogues dusted, I make my way to the retreat to the southwest and make note of the pair of Shaping tomes I’m too unlearned to make any use of. Nothing a few dozen stabbings can’t fix. Not gonna lie, the Stinking Marsh got hands. Pyroroamers for miles and they hit hard. And don’t get me started on their explosions; keeping enough space between me and them meant my thahd was useless for every fight except the last. And boy was it the last: I slipped into a crevice in the wall to get the deadeye cloak and walked into a half-dozen of the little bombers. My fyora went down fairly early despite my best efforts, and I was spending most of my AP every turn sucking down healing pods, and between that, attacking, repositioning to stay out of explosion range, and using a crystal/wand, I can only pick two. I finally had to send my thahd to charge into the middle of them to make some space and damage one of them enough to kill it with my artila, setting them all off, and taking Macavity with them. After that fiasco, I had to lick my wounds back in town before heading back in with a new pair of beefed up fyoras. I get through an absolute crush of pyros and get to the cave they’re all coming from. My business is with the spawner only; unless plans dramatically change, I’m not joining the Awakened this run, so the Drayk in here won’t see hide nor hair of me. It would be a fairly simple battle if the game didn’t do this thing where a half dozen pyros are placed right next to where you round a corner and immediately start the battle before you can get clear of them. As it is, both my fyoras are lost before I clear them out in one big blast, but another pyro comes in from deeper in the mine, and I lose my artila keeping my distance from that and the new ones the spawner kept spawning. I might be imagining things, but can it heal, or is the natural regen enemies have just screwing with me? I thought the blast took out a third of its health, but three-ish turns pass where I have to ignore it in favor of juggling roamers, and when I look back, it’s near full. Either way, there was no way I could defeat it by myself, even if it wasn’t puking up pitbombers, so I retreat, again, trek through the marsh because it can’t be cleared, again, and make it back to town to rethink things. Again. This time, I’m going in with two artila. Pure damage usually never gets these things, but the d.o.t. typically will, and pairing poison with my acid searer should make quick work of the roamers. As for the spawner itself, that will require the things I’m making at the location: volatile thahds. I typically dismiss the unstable variants of creations as cruel and wasteful inventions, but in this situation, my compunctions will have to be put aside. And good thing I did, because the artilae didn’t make it out of the first round, thanks to acid spray, roamer explosions, and the local radiation. It took my thahds leaping to the spawner and wrapping up it and the fresh spawns long enough to them all to go up in flames in one crescendo of damage ticks. With that done and the marsh cleared, I can turn in some quests. A level up tantalizingly close, I head for Belik’s Crossing, where a sign helpfully informs me to stay on the path, lest I get attacked by rogues. After my last misadventure, I obey the sign, only for a fyora to walk right up to me seconds later, and a fight breaks out anyway. What oaf is even guarding this road? There are fyoras crawling all over it like cane toads. I see a guard, but Mekkan apparently only cares to guard the bridge to the Magus Complex. At least he likes what he’s heard about me, and lets me through without incident. I blow all my supplies clearing out the fyoras and thahd shades, head back to Medab to resupply, see that I’ve just about exhausted the merchants of things I actually want to buy, and head west to go to Triola, instead. Triola itself is boring, apart from the ganking I talk my way out of and the murderer I run into. The important things are the quests I pick up; I don’t think I can get the Fort Muck quest if I’m not Awakened, but I get Kill Bandit Leaders and Check Ellhrah’s Tomb, two awesome setpieces by Geneforge standards. However, they’re pretty long and involved as zones go, so I leave to read the Group Heal and Learn Roamer books I left in the Patrolled Path, and have to deal with the still uncleared Hunted Fen. Let me take a minute to talk to you about the Hunted Fen. Hunted Fen, in Infestation, is filled near to bursting with scavlings, the new junk creation enemy; think the various worms swarming all over Geneforge Four and Five. This combat zone deals in what I call “pack encirclement” encounters, where singular enemies are too cowardly to engage, and will instead growl and run some distance away from you. But not too far away, because when they feel there are “enough” of them around, they all attack. In the previous series, the attack was limited to the rogues you triggered the fight with, with any that happened to wander close enough joining in, but otherwise minding their business until you repeated the process again. Here, however, once the fight started, it did not end: just about every scavling in the zone entered the fray, to the point that for four rounds in a row, every scavling I killed that round would have its position taken up by yet another scaling by the start of the next round. More than a few times, I thought there had to have been several spawners just out of sight making the things, because otherwise, they’d have to be pouring in from all over the zone, and that just doesn’t make any sense! And then two separate bands of packrats literally leapt into the fray, and I realized just how jank this zone was. What’s the reasoning behind making the enemies behave like this, as punishment for daring to enter combat at all? Even when the fight nominally ended and the zone was clear, stragglers still came trundling up to me in ones and twos from the other side of the map when I was trying to explore. It’s goddamn insufferable. With that done, and the aforementioned skills gained, I head back to the starting zone, to contemplate my life and the road ahead of me-- wait, who is this girl with fyoras surrounding her? Oh my what. Emily? Emily. Emily, this girl from nowhere, this literal who, this Create a Character whats-it, is a Shaper. Or whatever passes for a Shaper in Barzite lands; and make no mistake, she’s definitely from Rising, I stake my soul on it. Their insane methods almost certainly wiped her memory, and she somehow left the College and wandered off to Drypeak without being detected. One hole in my theory is that she says she remembers a cold climate, and while I think the Drypeak mountains are generally pretty cold and windy, being a mountain range and all, the area I’d most associate with that descriptor is Zhass-Uss, and the rest of the Taker lands. That’s a nonstarter, though: Emily’s human, and I don’t really remember any humans being there at all. Anyway, I was also gonna ask her about the fyora she Shaped right in front of me, but apparently, the game decided since I opted to ask after her first, I actually don’t find her breaking Shaper law with her existence all that big a deal and dropped the option for good. Real Cool. I head to the Warrens again to buff some of my attack spells when, surprise surprise, Zakary pipes up! And he wants to know what to do with Emily! Rather, he wants me to evaluate Emily and decide what to do about her. He raises a good point that it’s perfectly possible that she didn’t seek these powers out, and was pressed into using a canister; we have no real way of knowing the chain of events that led to Emily being here, since the only witness we have to those events is Emily herself, who can’t remember them. If she didn’t actively seek out the ability to Shape, then Shaper law apparently doesn’t really have a clear response for this case: what is to be done about a person who has had Shaper secrets imposed on them? Hell, does that description even apply to someone who has had those secrets Shaped into them? Questions for the Council to decide: Emily can look after herself until then while I take care of more urgent matters, like clearing out swamp thahds, and looking up dead languages. Before I really make the effort to break through the rogues between me and the Magus Complex, I head the opposite direction and go to the Infiltrator’s Fort, which, between the map icon, the soundscape, and probably the blue raspberry GUI, I always took for a nighttime level under the full moon in G2. Here, it looks about the same time of day it usually does in this game. Apart from that, it’s just as fun, linking up with a band of serviles to smash a Taker installation, and afterwards, scouting out the area for goodies. I get a brief scare with the last two mines in the little base to the west, since my Mechanics is at 5 at this point and they require 6 and 8, respectively, but I just trigger them and flee so I can get at the loot. Not the canister, though; I like fyoras and all, but using one of my few allotted canister uses on it is outrageous, especially since you don’t need the skill at three to make cryoas anymore. Onto gate-crashing. The Complex Gate is set up in such a way that you can either handle one big combat encounter consisting of three waves of roamers and artilae, else you can step off the main path and use stealth to pick through the trapped woods, if only so you can say you did it. As you can guess from how I phrased that, my preferred method is the Shaper way: Kill Rogues Dead. However, I will spare a minute to do an obstacle course. Getting to the gates, I muck about the entrance mulling over the meaning of rocks, when surprise! The rogues have come to me! I must’ve been a good Shaper this year! A really good Shaper, because now I have my own route to deal with individual packs on their own instead of gormlessly weathering waves of roamers in the middle of the road. I swing back around to see what the sentry roamer on the road would do, but it was gone for some reason. I don’t think I killed it, but that could mean anything from it having left when I began killing roamers in earnest, to having simply despawned when I triggered this alternate path. Something to find out when I play this game with cheats a year or two down the line. Magus Complex itself is more of the familiar, except for Guard Guard, the guard who guards. At this point, I’m just inured to all the flagrant violations of Shaper law, so I learn maybe four new spells (going from 3000 coins to zilch in the process), and scrounge a pass from a student’s belongings. This grants me access to one(1) book on blessing magic, and nothing more. My blessing magic is at 2 at this point, so I can’t even use it. I circle back to it by way of Triola towards the Power Station for some dosh and levels, and learn… War Blessing. I also buy a level of Create Vlish to fully upgrade my trio of creations to tier 2, and make my way to Ellhrah’s Tomb. I cleared out the Bandit Marsh already, but judging from the hassle that was, I’m still not strong enough to comfortably clear the Warren of the Three. So, Mr. Eko will have to wait while I perform an exorcism or twenty. But first, Fort Muck. I can’t resupply here, since I’m not with the Awakened, but there is a cute rat friend to make. Just gotta deal with this raiding party-- wait, there are human Takers? This one is specifically a mage. They didn’t talk, and the game didn’t take any note of them being there, so I guess this is not worth commenting on in this version? I can’t say this with any amount of certainty, because all my save files in G2 either have Zhass-Uss hostile or are back-up saves that haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m pretty sure the drayks and serviles don’t want anything to do with humans, Shaper or otherwise, due to outsiders’ complacency and profiting off of their exploitation; I dunno, maybe I’m mixing it up with sentiments from G4, but I do recall there not being any humans in Zhass-Uss. I guess the Takers in this canon aren’t so hostile as to lump in commons with their hatred of the Shapers. The Tomb itself wasn’t extremely different from the original, apart from the cone attacks. Oh, and the Chain Lightning that kept killing my vlish. I got hit by that one a few more times, though strangely enough my rat either dodged them all or the damage dwindled to the point of negligibility by the time it reached it. My Weapon Shaping will probably hover at around two or three this entire run, so I likely won’t find out how that skill works until my next one. I peek my head in the Pit of the Bound, but everything there is scawwy high-leveled, so I’m gonna bounce till quite a bit later. With that, I did most everything I think I can currently do in Awakened territory at my level, so I try my hand at the bandit warren just to see if a can actually handle the bosses there. The rank and file bandits are manageable as long as I’m not swarmed, but my larger issue is healing, both for me and my creations. The way enemies spread damage in this game with various AOEs means I spend a lot of time and essence on Group Heals, but since a lot of my essence is wrapped up in buffing my creations, I actually don’t have many casts, usually four, and that’s without regarding any attack spells I may cast in a given encounter. Healing spores are an easy solution, and allow me to properly attack on the same turn, but they’re shockingly limited; only a few vendors sell them at this point in the game, and my reputation makes buying them from Elili prohibitively expensive (or at least prohibitively insulting). My next best course of action is to stockpile essence pods and neck them at regular intervals, which works, but makes me think I have to be going about this wrong. I encounter Quorn, who was just a name and a body in G2, but here has a bit of flavor: I’m betting he was one of those Taker cultists just outside Kazg, given his age, esoteric magic abilities, and clear, rabid hatred of you (though that could just be because of my intrusion. And, y’know, killing his men.). He turns out to be a shockingly unpleasant fight, specifically because of several moves of his that cast various statuses, one that looks like a cone or AOE dominate spell, a terrify, a slowing move, a brap cloud that inflicts mass Wrack, and the ubiquitous mass energize seemingly every servile knows in this game. Between those and the fact that the enemies’ high levels makes them hard to hit at level 11 (10 for my creations, and 9 for the rat),you can see how it’d take a few tries, and a few casualties. But in the end, I take him and his posse down, pick up Blyster, bomb out to heal at Triola, and move on to Mr. Eko. It seems Eko Blade kept the name after the divorce. It’s weird to see, considering he’s the one that decided to bounce from the Takers to be a bandit instead, but I guess he was only there for Gnorrel. His dialogue suggests he heard you tearing through everyone else before him and has been steeling himself back here to face death with dignity. The narration also suggests I’d be open to cutting a deal with him, which, considering I’ve spent the entire rest of the time I’ve been here here silently butchering bandits, is a bit rich. As for his actual fight, he has less health than Qwerty, but he has crazy stun defense, which blunts my Airshock’s effectiveness on him, but his two friends are still fair game, and they’re all grouped up in a big bunch. In my initial attempt I just ran in, which allowed them to start the battle and act first, suppression batonning half of my team to death, including Blyster, an unacceptable outcome. My second, successful attempt saw me bless, protect, and haste before entering the arena already in combat mode to get the jump on them. Being a purely physically damaging enemy, the champions don’t exactly throw around statuses, only layer on covering fire with their batons while Eko alternates between buffing them all and firing poison shots. I take out the champions fairly easily and give Eko the Caesar treatment until he dies… which reveals Phase Two. I thought you said serviles didn’t leave ghosts, Connavar, you dead idiot! I mean, I suppose they still don’t without a magic spell to do just that. In any case, it’s not the first exorcism I’ve performed this week, and if I have my way, it won’t be the last. I send Mr. Eko into the light and raid his cupboards for the package Zyan wanted, as well as some other loot. I leave behind the artila canister-- actually, why is that even in Eko’s room? What purpose does a servile have for a canister they can’t use? As a lava lamp? A conversation piece? This one isn’t a joke, but a real guess: a last resort to evade the indignity of imprisonment and execution from the Awakened? Whatever the reason, it’s gonna sit pretty in there until these mountains get Final Sanctioned. I duck out again to recharge my batteries and flog my junk, leaving Vizzedra to sweat for the several days it’ll take me to make the round trip from Medab. If, indeed, she realizes I was here at all; her and hers are doing some crazy stuff behind that door. Going through the two sets of double doors to High Vizzedra’s section of the dungeon gives me eerie flashbacks to Shaper facility security door set ups. Not helping the vibes are the discarded remains of spent canisters just inside. Either some poor fools tried seeing what would happen and got wrecked, or something real bad is going down just ahead. The canisters in her bedroom paired with her writings at least suggest that Tuldaric’s modifications allow serviles to freely use canisters without the guarantee of gruesome death. Which means this version of High Viz isn’t just stronger, but canister-mad, too. Lovely. I barge into her lab and oh, cripes, she’s managed to summon something here. Looking over the infernal, it seems I can take a clean shot at it and blow Viz and co. sky high, and probably me with them. Instead, after weathering some delusional yapping, I simply kill them all myself in probably the least problematic boss fight of the three, leaving the infernal free to go back home, or dissipate or whatever. I grab Vizzedra’s sensory toy and hit up Triola to get my reward, and then, I finally head south, into Barzite lands. The Experimental Valley is a trip to even peek into, there are so many mines. When I finally pick my way through to actually see the acid sprayers, they require 8 Mechanics to disarm, and I’m at 7, so there’s no way I’m exploring there until I hit another level up. It’ll be Clawbug Canyon instead, which is not very notable except that the regular clawbugs here are too weak to grant EXP to a level 12 character. Kss-Urg’s Valley is much more notable in that the cryoas are even weaker, and also I walked into an ambush of glaahks and battle alphas and died in one turn. I retry using my patented “go in there in Combat Mode, you idiot” method and clean up in there, leaving behind the Weapon Shaping canister there. I know this place has cryoa spawners, but I don’t remember their spawn tracking me down in the original. This makes exploring the area a pain as long as I don’t confront the zone’s master. Kss-Urg doesn’t want smoke, which is fine by me, because she’s level 14, so I don’t either, at least until my creations’ levels are at minimum 12. I kill the spawners, explore at my leisure, and move on. Holy hell, the Thahd Dumping Ground is not a difficult zone, but it is damn annoying for one reason only: explosions. Specifically the fact that the explosion range is tight and the damage drop off is feckled: 6 or 7 spaces is the radius and at this point does 50~ damage at that range and maybe 100 at like 4 spaces. Stupid damage, and with how turn orders work out, I can’t get all of my party out of the way before the stupid things either die and explode or close the distance even more to attack, upping the damage if it dies at that point. I finally enter Gheth, and get my first somewhat coherent rundown of Barzite ideology, which only confirms my belief that the Barzites proudly embody all the cruelty of the Shapers as a group, while gleefully ignoring their already kind of shaky dedication to responsibility. I resist the urge to headbutt Dawn, and help out Finchy by grabbing his mandrake root, and I see the path to the zone west. Something about how Finchy mentioned it didn’t sit right with me, so I opted to pop in to… Shandoka… a new zone! A new zone with Sholai! How are you in the mountains? Ilyusha tells me they had the bad luck of capsizing on our shores and holed up in probably the least safe place for a stranger to be in this strange land. He wants me to kill some kind of monster in the nearby mine, and tells me I should talk to a lady that lives in a house to the north for advice. More interesting than him is Intisar, who got just plain screwed by Zakary’s flim-flammery. Her and Elili could make a support group. She wants me to grab a valuable crystal out of that same mine, making mention of the danger of the shades in there, likely being created or made more dangerous by Ilyusha’s monster. She also mentions this witch or whatever to the north, so I’ll swing over there after I talk to YU-LA! She’s here, too, after dodging Final Sanction, only for this second expedition to run aground on Shaper lands and come across improbably illegal happenings again. At least they’re not the ones breaking the law this time… at least, not the MAJOR ones… yet. It seems Yu-La got the goo she got from the Mutagen protagonist stolen from her by some visitor. My guess, unless it’s a remake-original character, is that Phariton is up to his old tricks again. In my last topic, I “theorized” (more accurately, I just threw out a guess) that the goo was a kind of starter for a Geneforge. If Phariton or whoever else has that, as well as the means and the know-how to build their own Version 1.0 Geneforge, they are going to lap the competition in these mountains. Hell, they might just win against the Shapers, if they’re really nice with it. I head over to the little house to the north after killing an annoying spawner, to find no one inside. There are stairs going down, but instead of a garden variety basement, I find… a woman standing in the middle of a magma chamber who, after the narration goes into detail about how definitely Not Of This World she is, says in environmental text “I am Infernal” and rushes me. After I’m done bricking myself and realize I’m not being killed, she’s just wandering, I actually talk to her and learn that she is Emissary, a horrifically strong infernal who wants me to defeat other infernals and bring them to her. Even the original Geneforge 2 was filled to the brim with infernals, just another symptom of the breakdown of law in the colony. But clearly, there is at least one more this time around, the “Aspect of Chaos”, a 2007 forum poster-Aah name if I’ve ever heard one. Still, the fact that I’m running into level 20 entities in this place is giving me vibes of the last game’s new content, and of being decidedly underleveled for it. I’m gonna hold off before I head into that mine, and explore the rest of Gheth in the meantime, taking note of as much of its private Shaping halls as I can get to without getting spotted. I pressure Brent into revealing that Shanti was taken west, and make my way to the Guarded Groves, a place of roving clawbugs and their vlish shepherds. Nothing to report here, oh yeah, except that Shanti was murdered here and left to rot. This is a heinous crime, one that demands retribution, but all clues for her murderer’s location point to Rising. I take a bridge “guarded” by rogue alphas. The Barzites, low on Shapers both real and engineered, had a common soldier maintain control of a group of powerful, willful creations. It went about as well as you’d expect, and the battle beta at the center of it all is the subject of nearby Darian’s quest. The fight went as expected until round four, when he went crazy and threw poor Beranabus over the tree line onto a pile of bones, a moment that would be even more spectacular if it wasn’t immediately followed by poison and acid dropping the creature’s health to the threshold where I could LowTierGod him. With that done, and my reward obtained, I immediately think, “You know what? I actually want to take the OTHER bridge to Rising.” The old bridge is utterly uneventful until I come across a just absolutely zooted drayk bumbling around the flowers. A least, I assume she’s zooted until she mentions a “messiah”. Oh dang, she’s not high on jazz, she’s high on Jesus! Fyora Jesus! I’ve stumbled into some kind of hippy-dippy reptile cult. I don’t know if this messiah is a drakon, or if some sort of super fyora has appeared to lead them to their better lives in the sky, but I’m about to find out. Turns out the cause is one of the stone eggs Hannah of Wealth over near Medab told me about. They aren’t worshiping the egg, though; the egg’s leaking essence just warped their minds to the point that they imagined a messiah and made a religion out of it. I take the thing, somehow stemming the leak and breaking its hold on the dozen or so creations that now have me cornered. I may not have thought this through, but I kill my way out of the tunnel, and dodge Karhren on my way to the next zone, not out of fear, but because it looks like she’ll still be vibing as long as she doesn’t see me. The Loyalist Encampment is a refreshing island of sanity amongst the waves of Barzite depravity. I think Macnulty and Bunk’s environmental dialogues were accidentally switched, leaving Macnulty the Shaper griping to himself about how Shapers get too fancy and wanting to run the ones with Barzahl. More power to him, and to me as I get a trainer willing to teach me actually worthwhile spells, as well as higher-tier creations like drayks and rotgroths. Kima has loads of skills for the unaligned Shaper, and at a fair price, too. She’s also sick of all these fatherless commons having access to yet more fatherless Shapers’ secrets, and wants one particular specimen, Melathir, to have his neck turned for his crimes. I have a marvelous time setting off nearby mines I can’t disarm to get at the workshop to the south, and head north to Buck’s Creek, which sounds like a local vacation spot in one of the more wooded sections of Minnesota, or a mascot horror game taking place in the same. Poking around, I overhear a human say, “Shandoka”. So this is where the rest of the expedition ended up. I want to snoop around further, but battle betas and cockatrice are a compelling deterrent, even if I figure I’d win. Seeing the dazed thahds and a severely locked shed near them, I utilize a cheeky save and reload to discover another stone egg. I figure there’s a key around here for this door, so I hold off on opening it for real for my return trip, after I complete the Shandoka quests. I figure I may as well make some headway on that right now with the lowest investment of these, going to Sage Markov for Yu-La to track down a potential canister workshop. From the jump, I see that it is about a century too old to be our target, and investigating confirms the assumption, and agitates the scuttlebugs infesting the joint. They stay neutral, too, so in the span of a few seconds a half dozen of these things walk right up to me and explode without sending me into combat mode. I do it manually once I figure out what the hell is going on and bolt with a plundered puresteel bar once I blow up the bugs between me and the exit. A small aside, I also can’t find a way to check my creations’ resistances. I can see my own just fine, but I don’t know how to see theirs, or if there even is such. I know they HAVE resistances, my gear and some of their abilities makes that clear, I just can’t see them. Yu-La’s next quest would have me go to the main Sholai camp… whose location she is unaware of. Luckily, I figure I know the place, but I’ll still need Ilyusha’s help to actually get into it, and that means entering his fracking mine. To prepare, I take the Purifying Blade I got from Markov’s and juice it up with as many canisters I passed over in my adventures here as I can remember. It requires 5 Melee skill and has no additional effects, so I’m really only doing it just to have it. Actually clearing the mines was almost disappointingly easy. The Aspect of Chaos has the performative, “edgy little freak” energy of a Homestuck troll, and gets laid out just as easily. Next time, don’t test out your new Shaper toys against a Shaper, numbnuts. The tower it was scouting is similarly not a big deal, until I got to the top and got peeled like a potato by the pair of golems there. I’ll try that fight again in a little while. I get my rewards and new marching orders, and head back to Buck’s Creek. The bridge still isn’t raised, so I do have to fight through the rogues here, and meet, uh, Grimwing. Who wants… shrubbery. And the name of his quest is… The Knight with Needs… Dog, I thought we as a society agreed to stop making Holy Grail references twenty years ago in an effort stop being kissless. I also get the stone egg unlocked, and walk right into another bombing for my troubles. I actually survive due to having been coincidentally behind the nearby… I guess its a rock? My new alpha got annihilated, though, and my drayk would’ve been similarly cooked if it were a space or two closer. Anyway, Zosima wants me to clear the tower for real this time, and I’m also gonna find out who left spawners to attack them. The actual investigation is just a formality, honestly: The Awakened are decidedly preoccupied with their defense plan and fending off the Barzites and Takers, and wouldn’t waste manpower and resources playing aggressor to a handful of scavengers who aren’t doing anything to them, no matter how little Pinner may think of them; the Servants are right out because they don’t use spawners, dum-dum; unless Barzahl decided petty antagonism of a group already in his grasp and supposedly under his protection was a good idea… maybe the game could sell me on that being the angle if they do just unveil him being an inexcusable troll towards anyone he can get away with. But no, it’s gonna be the Takers, either for petty revenge for Trajkov’s Sholai bringing the Shapers to Sucia Island, or as Step 1 of killing them all to prevent this new expedition from making these mountains a second Sucia Island (rich as that sounds). Going around, it seems I also have the option of flogging the crystal cone meant for Phariton to any faction leader instead. I’m not going to, though, because that seems like a great way to get Intisar killed. I deign to humor Grimwing for a time, fetching him potted plants, but I have an issue with his next request, this time for tall shrubberies. He explains I can head to the Shapers Elissa, Sharon, or Phariton for these rare specimens, but when I head to Sharon and clear the way to her collection of these precious plants, I see she has all five needed to meet the requirements. They count as charms, so among other things they don’t stack, requiring me to play my favorite minigame, Junk Bag Manager, but my main issue is that the quest could really stand to be a bit more involving; for example, it could easily have had only two or three tall shrubberies in one location, requiring you to go to at least one other Shaper and dealing with necessary combat encounter or mechanics test. I imagine lugging a number of useless, non-stacking items across several zones would be a pain, so in my hypothetical revision, the tall shrubs are just normal stackables like the regular potted plants. As it is now, Dominant Strategy wins out, and I take all five to Grimwing, who turns out to be beefing with a tree that is, and I can’t stress this enough, nowhere near him and his shrubbery. It needs to be cut down, and if this game hands me a herring hatchet, I need to ask myself serious questions about allowing Monty Python fans to ruin the things I love. Elissa won’t help me with the task of making this Hyper Hacker, because she holds this tree—which I remind you, is as illegal as near everything else in these mountains—to be a glorious work of Shaping ingenuity. Lady, this is basically just me doing my job. I’d need to go to Barzahl (you know, the guy who made the thing?) to see about this hypothetical tree chopper, and, uh, good luck, me? I actually go to South Rising Road, both to see this tallest tree and to get a good look at what the Barzite school system counts as a success story: Bernard, a myopic, pilfering geek who leaves his uncontrolled glaahks all over the damn place, likely penning in poor Manny just to the north. Bernard even stole valuable supplies from Manny and left without saying a word! Could you imagine? I, personally, would never steal from some perceived “lesser”. I only steal from my equals and superiors; they tend to have better loot. Also, Grimwing was right, that tree is evil and has to die. Speaking of “equals”, I confront Bernard in his workshop about the mandrake. He talks big, but folds when a proper Shaper like Beranabus stares him down. I can’t imagine he had more than a half-dozen canisters to gain the skills he says he has, but the way his anger spikes when questioned resembles a more, ah, regular user, so either he as a common is just naturally more quickly affected by canister use than a trained Shaper would be, or he’s huffing more of them down than I thought; I guess he’d have to have learned his combat spells somehow. I’m not a huge fan of his 90% mental effect resist, given his background and attitude, especially when my own MER is at 50%. Bernard does his best work as a craftsman, and unlike most of the craftspeople I’ve come across in my travels, I think I’ve got all the materials I need to make his thing, except for a steel breastplate, which I don’t have on hand and is hella expensive, but eminently procurable. Still, since I’m not planning on wearing the thing, just selling it, I’m gonna hold off on that until I procure some steel plate through scavenging. After coming up with nothing, I head back to Bernard’s. Stepping into the back immediately turns him hostile, and I don’t see another way in, but it nets me a mandrake root among other treasures, so I just roll with it. I get the Shaped Blade from Maynard and stow that with the rest of my hoard in my Drypeak apartment, and move on to the Breeding Pits, also known as the entire southern half of the city of Rising. The Breeding Pits are genuinely pretty engaging as a mainly combat zone with occasional optional bypasses via shortcuts, but I take a brief detour to an adjacent zone, the Road to Phariton. Phariton, or, as properly as this forum will allow, The F##kler, has filled the canyon leading up to his crib with an obscene amount of pylons, which will doubtless be even more heinous here in Infestation than they already were in G2. I can’t get Jack Joseph to turn the things off so I can do the delivery, so I back off and finish the Breeding Pits instead, then turn right around and go to the Rising North Gate. Scouting around, I thought the College had beefed up its security since last round, boasting some kind of outer vestibule containing additional guards, but I checked G2 and sure enough, it’s featured there, too. I'm gonna do you guys (and this forum) a favor and post this run in two halves.
  3. Zeroeth Run: But First, the Waffling Geneforge 2: No Colon Required, despite being the game I give the least thought to, tends to be the game I do my best work in, having done all my previous Torment runs with it or Infiltrator… no, wait. So I’m actually gonna play this now, and not buy it as a “little treat” for myself then forget about it for over a year what like I did with Mutagen. Cracking it open I see settings for the game’s resolution, a la G5: Overthrow, a game I haven’t played since the last time I posted about it in, let’s see… 2018! …Roughly six years ago at time of writing. Ugh, I was in my early twenties, then. Ugh, these reminders of the passage of time keep jumping out at me. Let’s move on. First impressions once I actually open up the game is that the opening music is a lot more in line with Mutagen’s than the original G2’s short, bombastic blaring (of trumpets, maybe? And war drums?), having noticeable, uh, steel drums(?) and… okay, I’m not at all a musician and have the opposite of a trained ear. Opposite of a functional ear, probably: early hearing loss is hereditary in my family. All I can say on the music past that is that it’s both lower key than Mutagen’s opening and decidedly longer than G2’s. It definitely looped at least once before it ended, and if it happened once, they could have had it loop indefinitely, they just decided not to. Actually, hold up: it began playing again once I tabbed back in to quit out, so there’s that. Moving on again, the “cover art”, as it were, is weaker in my opinion. Geneforge moved to using 3D renders for its art going into Geneforge 5: Overthrow, and kept it for the remaster series' openings. I didn’t have a strong preference one way or the other about Mutagen’s opening art compared to G1’s; the Shaper with a fyora in a crystal ball or whatever conveys similar enough vibes in either portrayal. On my least charitable days, I could say the Mutagen version looks like a cosplayer roleplaying the G1 art at a convention, but depending on who you are that’s a point in its favor. G2’s art, though, is great. I distinctly remember it being the banner for some section of the Spiderweb Software site for AGES, even, though when I went to the homepage, I got jumpscared by Infestation’s version, which kinda tees me off, if I’m being honest. It loses something not just from the jump in medium, but also the mind of the artist. Let me explain: whatever else I could say about G1’s cover art, it definitely depicts a Shaper. They ain’t doing all that much, but they’re doing not all that much as a Shaper. G2’s art in both permutations attempts to display a Shaper, presumably Barzahl, Shaping a Drakon on a pedestal, but both depictions fail in entirely different ways: Geneforge 2 gives us Justin Some-Dude, working over the summer at some wizard-themed strip mall attraction before junior year, and is really glad the big hood keeps him from being spotted by anyone he knows babbling like a renaissance fair reject in front of a twelve-foot tall Plasticine model of what is probably the owner’s fursona. “Hark, the wyrm-men riseth from the Nether, uh, the nether realm. Draw thine Gershwin-brand Fun Wands®, and cast the Freeze spell with the sacred incantation, frostus icilico! I shalt prepare the chant to send these foul beasts back to, uh, from whence they came, yeah.” Meanwhile, Infestation depicts Sage Braddock, a classically trained theatre actor who did not think he’d be scratching off his fourth year working at Evermore Park at this point in his life, but he’s still a professional, God dammit. Sure, his feet hurt trekking back and forth across the park every day, performing for the same three groups of twelve locals, and he has to try a little more every time to keep from cracking that little puke Todd across the face when he, like clockwork, refers to his newly crafted magic staff as “gay”, and yeah, he just got the news that management just… doesn’t know when the actors are gonna get paid(!), and rent’s coming up, and he may have to suck it up and go to his brother for money again, and he knows, he just knows what Cole’s gonna say: Well, look at Mr. Big-Shot actor, bumming off family again! The arts not doing so hot in this economy? Well, he IS a “Big-Shot actor”, and he’s gonna put his all into his performance like he always does. He looks right at that big balloon Lizalfos he had to paint over to be the “Dragonlord”, points his silver party popper at it and, imagining Cole’s stupid, porky face, shouts, “My staff is returned to me, fiend! You will not find me so easy to defeat this time! Taste my Judgement Arrows!” Getting back on track, the menu screen is so far, so standard. Like Mutagen, it has the monster matching minigame, and like Mutagen’s, it’s not worth doing; the original titles had the ordinary creation sprites walking around the screen to match, and they were far more visually distinct (and entertaining to see bumble around) than the fyora-esque embryos the remasters use. Looking closer, it seems the embryos are of several kinds of creation, but I digress. Instead of having the cursor trail ooze behind it as it moved, the poor thing now sprays noxious gas, and the menu options sneeze particle effects whenever you mouse over them. Running the cursor over them in a line, the options don’t quite finish their animation by the time the next one begins. I roll my mouse up and down the list for a bit, trying to see if I can cause any noticeable framerate issues doing this. In the next post I’ll actually click New Game!
  4. Conclusion (I can’t think of a quirky meme name because I never found that better joke) This took a while to write because, among other things, I had to keep picking past my own points without trying to refer to the feelings of the Geneforge playerbase by using phrases that invoke any kind of consensus on issues I personally had. I never look outside of my rock as a matter of principle, so I truly don’t know the playerbase’s overall opinion on Geneforge 1 – Mutagen, let alone how they all feel it compares to the original Geneforge. This is an overall dissembling of my own feelings of my own experience of the game, so keep that in mind. I also had a merry time scrubbing out all my expletives, so forgive the occasional scrumbler. My feelings on Geneforge 1 – Mutagen are complicated, to say the least. This may be the most frustrating experience I’ve ever had playing a Spiderweb game, for one. Not because it’s hard (it is, but that’s not the issue), but because… for quite a while I just didn’t have the right words to truly convey what was bugging me about the combat, with the best I could come up with being “combat encounters are unfair”, which, well, no schist, Sherlock, it’s an RPG; if it were “fair”, my semi-functional Homo Sapiens brain would break it in half in an hour tops, and it’d probably do it out of mingled boredomand spite. Things like large groups and inflated health numbers are the easiest ways to make combat difficult, and enemies that can heal, a thing the player can and almost certainly will do, are one of the things I hate dealing with the most, despite the fact that they’re functionally identical to enemies with a large health bar if you can consistently out-damage the healing, with the added benefit that they’re wasting a turn doing so. The game being “unfair” couldn’t be the reason for its occasional spikes of un-fun bullsun, so I was stuck for days trying to shake a coherent reason behind my irritation out of my brain, until the newest Shammy video was posted and put a concept into my head that I could work with: “unfair” versus “cheating”, an unfair fight being one where the player is put in a deliberately unfavorable match-up in defiance of conventional game design and difficulty curve, and cheating being exactly what it sounds like, the game outright breaking its own rules, typically to add difficulty. Cheating, in the case of Mutagen, is what I’ll use to refer to things the game does with all or just some its enemies to varying extents that you are literally incapable of doing. In no particular order, this includes: not keeping track of SE/Essence or ability cooldowns, allowing enemies to spam spells and abilities endlessly; having more than 8 AP per turn (which the player hasn’t been able to have since Overthrow) and/or having two turns per round; healing or buffing at the start of their turn without using AP; ignoring or “Evading” the blocking zone when running away at low health but explicitly not Terrified; not being subject to friendly fire on higher difficulties; creating or otherwise spawning in additional enemies; and last and certainly least of these, using attacks or moves the player or their creations don’t have access to. That last one is almost not worth mentioning, honestly: moves the player literally has no access to in their party are functionally cryptids in this game specifically, and my premier example from the previous games, the spell diamond spray, is a borderline example at best since you’re able to buy, find and in at least one entry craft wands and crystals with the ability, but it fills the admittedly vague criteria I set above regardless, so there it is. If you’re not asleep at your computer, you may have noticed that most of these examples of cheating, cheating pumpkin eating were present in most of, if not the entire original series, and passed with little to no comment from me whenever I encountered them. So what makes those cheats broadly inoffensive and the rest a poor match-up against receiving a sounding from a Reaper Baton? I can only make guesses at this point because being more concrete would require delving into this game a fourth time in a row, and I’ve been playing for three weeks straight and at this point I’d prefer the sounding instead. First, I should explain that some of new things are also fine, and some of the older stuff only got grandfathered in, and even then still sandpaper my ghoulies. The problem children here are the two turn per round thing, the block zone evasion thing, and in certain cases the enemy spawning thing; the capital ‘S’ Spawners used to get a free pass for this, since that was their whole thing, but now they can attack, which also steps into the “using ability without using AP”, uh, cheat type. That little aside actually demonstrates the problem with these problem cheats: not only are they themselves problems, their presence amplifies each other’s terribleness and makes the previously acceptable earlier cheats worse which each one present. Spawners spawning was just their move every turn, but now that they also attack immediately after, it’s a problem for me. Most Clawbugs seemingly having enough action points to attack twice per turn was an infrequent feature in previous games, and Mutagen’s additions of a buff move and a cone attack are a welcome addition to diversify its movepool; it’s less good when, due to a lack of cooldowns, those are all it does, totally forgoing its basic attack in favor of spraying poison/acid every single turn with occasional breaks to rebuff. Shades and Stealth Sholai having more AP was a reflection of their out-of-combat speed even in the original, but having two turns per round is horse water, and a crime against playability no matter what enemy has it, and getting to say “no u” to a literal game mechanic added to stop things from running away from their melee opponents is a design decision Jeff must’ve picked up on a day trip to Bizarro World. Certain Sholai enemies having a dazing leap attack is one thing, but literally always following up with a spammable AOE attack I’ve never seen outside of those enemies, and beginning the next turn with a cleaving melee attack that also hits the party member(s) immediately next to the Sholai doing the move is another thing entirely. That’s just the cheating, though, and while that’s a substantial part of why this game’s bad moments are hella bad, they’re still only a part of the issue. Another part is the unfairness, which is actually less of an issue than the name implies. As I mentioned before, unfairness, especially in an RPG, can actually be a good thing, with certain aspects even seeming necessary to give a player variety and challenge in the genre. Some parts of unfairness, however, I hold to be simply long-accepted game design that doesn’t necessarily have to be there. How stealth areas typically work is a fine example: I enter an area where groups of mid-to-high-powered enemies patrol, either on set routes or in random directions. Having just entered, I have no idea how the patrol moves, how many patrols there are, what the zone layout even is, if what I’m trying to get to is blocked by a stationary, undodgeable enemy or group of enemies, or if getting through even clears the zone, forcing me to go through it again to get out. Add to that that random patrols, or even the set ones if the pathing gets borked enough, can send individual members scattering in very different directions temporarily as they try to get back on track, sending them to your hiding spot or presumed safe route, screwing your stealth run through the zone and leading to a fight, and possible death depending on the zone. Even if you spend time studying and noting the movements of the group(s) you can actually see without them seeing you, that does nothing for you against the rest you can’t see from your narrow slice. The only way to know these things is to repeatedly run headfirst into the zone, possibly dying and definitely defeating the point of a stealth section in order to learn it, and then quick loading to do it for real. The series in general has a big reliance on learning critical information through supposed failstates, I find, with the game itself and the people who play it encouraging saving and loading your file to find if you can handle a zone or encounter, if one build decision or item choice is more your preference than another, or even to reset RNG in your favor if something stinks of BS. It’s to the point where I, a not game developer, struggle to think of any sort of alternative, shocking as that may sound. It’s not as if it’s a result of building on the skeleton of the game’s previous iteration, either: getting to Ascended Sessina requires going through or around a single, wandering patrol of Clawbugs and their herding Vlish, and in two of my three runs, I entered the zone just far enough to prompt the text box warning me of the patrol, only to immediately enter combat mode because they were either right in front of me just off screen, or to the side of the entrance invisible to my view because I hadn’t filled in any of the map yet. This is a mid-game area at least, nestled in the early game and perfectly unlockable with high enough leadership and mechanics, so there was no way in hell I was going to be able to fight the patrol, so I invariably died and reloaded an autosave in hopes of better RNG for the patrol’s starting location. After that I get the quest to slay the C***atrice and in my scuffed, jack-of-no-trades run immediately ran into an even bigger unfairness spike in the form of the Battle Beta patrol, with all the charging, dazing, stunning, and riposting I hope I got across in the first post, along with spraying Clawbugs and Artilae. Attempting to sneak was a total failure because not only did I not know where I was sneaking to, meaning I got spotted and died, and also could barely gauge how close was too close with party members I could barely position outside of combat mode (which screwed up my timing), meaning I got spotted and died, but when I did sneak past the first patrol, I immediately ran into the second patrol, meaning I got spotted and died. Just going for combat led to both groups coming for me, which lead to me finally saying to hell with it and cheating my way to dubious victory, and even then I got blindsided by the frozen alphas because I just didn’t see them; they were in a part of the map I didn’t fill yet since I was busy trying to survive Cock-and-Trice torture to see the sights, and I thought the mind-captured rogues mentioned by someone earlier in the zone were the patrols I already killed at that point. In my second run I managed to sneak past the patrols after a handful of deaths, and was even able to sidle away from the Cockatrice enough to free the Alphas, but on the third run things got bad. Sneaking past the first patrol was inconsistent because of trailing Clawbugs, so when I finally managed it, next to a wall blocking my view of the rest of the cave, I immediately saved, and tried to head south to the locked door only to discover my guardian had a favorable run where the patrols lined up in such a way that I had a clear shot to the door. This time, however, the second patrol was just arriving when the first was due to come back in a matter of seconds, leaving me stuck in an inevitable fight I would invariably lose. With my last back up save being in Kazg two hours ago, and my autosave bringing me back to the beginning of the area to do all over again, I decided to lose; I died there a round dozen times, and I was so sick of the sight of that screen that when the octupled-up sprays of acid and shoulder checks missed enough times for me to get to the door and finish the zone I dropped the game for a day and a half. An admittedly poor decision ran up against what I literally had no chance to know beforehand was a fatal error, and I had to rely on a staggering amount of luck to get clear of it. I had several of these rough patches per playthrough, though the aforementioned example was a notably bad one for my third run, but while I still hated all of them, I can at least say they were infrequent, unlike the endless trap hell that is the inventory screen. I genuinely cannot say which between the original’s and mutagen’s is worse. I booted up G2 to check it out because I’m still not going through Sucia a fourth time, and while blowing past the weight limit every other zone because I am a magpie with a bucket on their head, grabbing things from my inventory and putting them on the ground was a two step process where I picked things up and put them down. In Mutagen, while I had no weight worries (unlike real life 😔), my actual inventory was often entirely filled with the wands, crystals, pods and spores I needed to deal with the otherwise unmanageable combat encounters with what felt like too many enemies doing too many things per too many turns per round. That meant things went in the junk bag, which I couldn’t take things out of unless I was in a town, for some reason I doubt I’ll get, and seriously doubt would be satisfactory even if I did. Even transferring things out of it while you’re in town is a hassle if you still don’t have inventory space free: you need to pick up the item and click over to the ground or container tab to drop it in a spot on that page. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s tedious enough that it’s the thing that finally pushed me to make this topic in the first place, so there. Even worse is that the bad qualities don’t have the decency to suck in a vacuum, but instead hurt its actually good qualities, too: when you’re dumping things in the Junk bag with ctrl click, an otherwise a great and welcome QoL tool, you may accidentally junk an item you wanted in your inventory, but you can’t retrieve it until you go back to town. A Sell All button is a great add, but you can’t sell individual items in the bag, so if you forgot to remove that item you wanted, or were just keeping things in there because you just don’t have room in your 25-space inventory, you get to piss off and finagle with your crap until everything you don’t want sold is left somewhere else. Some items are changed for the worse, too: namely, Shaper equipment is now a non-stackable, singular item, and the quest to collect them doesn’t even check the junk bag for them, which means when you come across them, you have to junk them, go to town, make space in your inventory somehow, move a maximum of 25 sets of equipment into the inventory, go to the Junkyard, trade in the equipment, go back to town without getting spotted and attacked by Vlish if you don’t feel like fighting them with fewer items than you otherwise would have, and put your items back in your inventory so you can get back to your life. Instead of a decent alternative to the shaper records quest (which you can bet are still stackable), with a somewhat rarer item giving you more coins per item, the quest becomes entirely not worth the bother Don’t worry, the glorious horseshoe magnet I have for a brain does have a fix for this: either the equipment and future items for quests like this become stackable again, the quest checks for the items in the Junk Bag, or the quests are removed altogether, because I can’t imagine anyone actually doing them if they knew what they were getting into, having seen how it works here in Mutagen. I could go on, but this topic has been 10,000 words of some drip who last posted here half a decade ago coming back to mald about things that at the end of the day aren’t even considered deal-breakers. The cheating enemies put me in a home, ruined my credit and killed my boat, the battle creations had the G2 Parry, and my inventory screen was designed by the Takers; I still played the game three times and got all the medals I cared about, and even across three playthroughs, the overall playing of the game remained largely enjoyable, with the Mutagen-exclusive story content being memorable for the right reasons, so in the end, I really should only answer these questions: Is Geneforge 1 – Mutagen worth playing? Yes. Does it render Geneforge obsolete? God no, but then, I don’t have a mac; if your computer is literally incapable of running G1, or you have a pathological aversion to bright green GUIs, then by all means, the king is dead, long live the king. For me, I’ve said all I cared to say. Thank you for coming to my TEDTalk, and see you when the 2 remake grinds my gears.
  5. Mutagen Run 3: I’m Agent into dust with every death. Please, put me in a home. Guardian is a weird class for me. I like it, but I’m terrible with it, as my previous run shows. Agent, despite being the class I give the least thought to, tends to be the class I do my best work in, having done all my previous Torment runs with it or Infiltrator. Torment Agent in Mutagen, however, starts with me getting dunked on by the Thahd in the tutorial, forcing me to reload the autosave because I didn’t bother saving at that point, giving me a nice teaser for how the early-game at least was going to go. I did my due diligence this time at least and did all the quests in and around town except Watchhill and the School. Not being one to learn from the consequences of my actions consistently, however, I immediately headed for the school. The woods were shrug-worthy for Torment in that I only died three times, but the thing that really held me up was my Fyora dying every combat encounter, forcing me to head back to town restore essence and make another critter. Not helping was the fact that my control of the creature was shaky, and any amount of damage was likely to drive it rogue if it wasn't just killed. Still, I made it into the school, and this section of the run is, well, how do I put this… OH GOD OH NO IT’S BAD 19 YEARS 19 ******* YEARS LIFE IS A NIGHTMARE NEVER BELIEVE IN ANYTHING …would be a brief summation on my thoughts on the Ruined School. I was there for Three Hours, just so we understand each other. Every battle was a drain on my actual, physical health. Every pod, every crystal, every point of essence, every fyora, dropped into the macerator with almost nothing to show for it, all my coins bled out of me at the shops in Vakkiri and eventually Ellhrah’s Keep to have enough supplies for one more battle, only to walk headfirst into five in a row. Every death a punchline Jeff himself cracked at my expense to a roaring crowd of thahds and a single artila. Deaths ten to fourteen assured me I wasn’t fighting Rawbone anytime soon, so clearing out the rest of the school was paramount. One school and four deaths later, and I was back in front of the big, stupid, ugly, loud Rawbone, and after the greatest game of Geneforge 1 – Mutagen I’ve ever played, minding all my meters and timers, blessing when appropriate, dazing whenever things even thought of getting complicated, healing whenever I fell below 70% health… Rawbone dodged a daze at 30% health and two-tapped me. “This is hell,” I said, “I’m in computer game hell for all my years of emulating DS titles.” And in the next attempt I crit him twice in a row and beat him in eight rounds. The duality of man. After that dip in the deep fryer, I’m surprised to hear myself say that after the school, the run became… easy? Easier, sure, the early game was always going to be an industrial solvent bath due to having so few options, and things would get smoother as soon as I got my hands on some canisters to diversify my move pool, but things were almost indistinguishable from the previous runs before long. The only paltry differences were that I knew to avoid certain areas until I gained a few more levels than normal, and that either I or my beloved pets occasionally vanished in the span of a blink, replaced with a previously unseen enemy with “Leaps!”floating over their head. My creations didn’t even go rogue so often anymore, once I started gaining levels in earnest and got a few points of magic shaping. Artilas were decent for a while, but died quickly, vlish were a solid upgrade once I got searer for acid damage, though they also died quickly-- I should just point out that I eventually stopped becoming attached to my creations when it became clear they would not survive the zone I created them in. All that mattered the moment I reached Kazg was getting the ultimate survival tool: essence shield. Sure, joining the Takers to fight the good fight was more important, but I wouldn’t get there if sudden deaths kept occurring like this; I never put points into Endurance, so my only boost there is from a canister. I head south to the ruins to get smacked around by alphas for a bit before I get my prize, and like that I’m nearly all set for the rest of the run, save for airshock, a game changer all its own. I clear the whole northeast quadrant the second I get the amulet, having a merry time gibing various Sholai and swiping items and canisters. Some areas were frustrating, though: the icewalls were still a slow grind once I got to the spawners, hacking and blasting through creation after creation, at one point getting pincered by a group from another part of the map coming up behind me. Miserable place, but I actually cleared it this time and got to do the comparatively enjoyable West Workshop, unlike the Guardian run. The Uroboros quest was also a sticking point; not fighting her, mind, that was a breeze now that I had the Leadership to pull a fast one on her. Getting to her was a problem this time; no matter what I did, I couldn’t find a safe route through the mines to the spore box that turned them off, which baffled me since I went the exact same route in the Guardian route two days previously and cleared it with minimal issue. Why couldn’t I get through the mines? What did I do the first time, that I’m not doing now? I had to search to discover that mines being different colors didn’t differentiate the power of the mines, like I had assumed for literal years, but that purple mines could be set off by creations, as opposed to green mines which could only be set off by the Shaper. Was there a dialogue I missed that explained this? Whatever, I sent a bomb disposal Thahd and went on with my life, getting to Trajkov and getting orders to retrieve the gloves from one of the antagonists of all time. Western Wastes sucked. The Clawbugs here are somehow less enjoyable to fight than the meatheads at school, there are spawners to replenish them, and they have pylons to support them. My Cockatrice barely did damage to the ghostly construct bugs, and I was too occupied healing me and it of damage and acid to make any real headway, especially since when I did attack, I somehow had a 60% or so hit chance against the bugs (who were 3-4 levels lower than I) and the pylons (likewise, with the added bonus of being a mindless, crystal structure literally ROOTED TO THE FLOOR). Wound up breaking off when the cockatrice died, restoring my essence in Kazg because essence pods manage to be vanishingly rare yet barely effective from mid-game onward, and heading back with glaahks instead, which still did crap damage, but there were two of them and they stunned, so I could actually make progress. Before I hit the valley, I remembered that I didn’t do the sealed lab yet. I didn’t bother in the solo run because getting stunlocked by seven enemies for five rounds in a row the first time I tried was an effective deterrent for additional attempts. At my level, and with airshock, this place is mostly painless. I even manage to talk down Zavor since my leadership is so high, though I don’t get any experience for it, or his ring for that matter, so YMMV for how much this is worth doing. Killing Tek can’t be bypassed, in any case, but can’t justify replacing the Guardian Claymore for his dirk, even with the armor bonus. The Valley of the Pagans was as chill as ever, except for when the law of averages finally caught up with me and I finally got Terror status for like 8 turns. My ur-glaahk, bless its heart, fought the good fight while I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, warding off two ghosts as long as it could, tragically falling before I could take back control. I avenged it immediately after, but the world feels a little hollower now. I headed back to Kazg to recover, and dove back in, clearing it without any further difficulties. Onto Spirit Halloween, where I’m looking for the Secret and also a better joke. The water’s nice, though it took a few pulls to get anything meaningful out of it. Freed a prisoner, killed a witch, learned a secret, and got the crazy idea to head into rooms I’m not supposed to enter. I’m probably strong enough to handle it, right? Three deaths later, I decide to wait until my run is clear so I can use showmeall to see where all these ghosts are coming from, and also have enough levels to actually hit this priest. Till then, I headed for the Great Temple. Going through the Sentinels means dealing with Huestess, and while the area’s fun, getting through it requires getting marked to kill Goettsch, which means an automatic fight I can’t hope to win at my level. With the island being pretty much entirely explored at this point, I’m pretty much at the end of my ability to gain exp. Seeing as it’s iffy as to if I’ll make it to even level 17, my best bet is to brute force the beef gate Gogogo Magician () left at the City. After getting bumrushed a dozen times in a row by betas, and my glaahks dying to vlish, I manage to chain enough airshocks together to eke out a victory and a clear path to Goettsch. Aaaaand that’s it! After this is just a smattering of text boxes, skill checks, and mine defusals to the ending. I swipe the gloves, do an errand for Goettse, and head back to Trajkov to let him use the Geneforge, and then destroy the Geneforge since he won’t let me use it. After that I set sail for the mainland and the silver and gold medals. Really, the only medals I don’t have are the Pacifist one, which I won’t do on the grounds of I’ve played this three times already and also I like to have fun in my games, the idle one with the start screen, but the fyora embryo things are so samey and spawn so fast that I just don’t feel like it’s worth my time doing it, and something called “royal sampler”, which I can only assume is joining all three factions in one game, which is something for the next time I play this in what, three years? The ending is noticeably different from its original presentation. I remember the original Trajkov ending being perhaps the most idealistic in the game; sure there was a brutal war to overthrow the Shapers, and the Takers exacting their long awaited vengeance upon oppressors both human and servile, but the world emerged from the crucible superior to its previous status quo, with the serviles free, society normal, and you looking out over the world you helped create and thinking you did good. In Mutagen, things are a lot more borked, to turn a phrase. The serviles are still free, but from what I saw, shapers still came down to Sucia for some reason, and the Awakened are still there. Also, Thrakerzod seemingly didn’t make it off the island; I brought him the goo (which after how this ending made note of it, might be a starter or main ingredient for a Geneforge?), and I didn’t do anything to him myself, so what went down? Trajkov the sailor man also doesn’t make for a stellar king either, at least of the Shaper empire, the learning and skill of the age brought to an end due to his gene-warped mind. In the end, you look over ruins, satisfied that your gamble worked out for you specifically, because while Trajkov is king, you’re his right hand man, with all the power and prestige that implies. It’s… fine, in terms of how the world ended up: what turned out to be the Shaper Golden Age has ended, replaced with centuries of rule of a half-mad god-king and sadistic Takers, but slavery is abolished, so uh, you take your good with your bad. This run predictably took the longest, but that may just be because I took a day off of it near the middle. I also find myself searching for things to say about it that I didn’t touch on in my previous two runs. I might have a conclusion post wrapping up my final thoughts, but that’s a definite maybe, and not for a while regardless.
  6. Thanks a lot! I'm already deep in the weeds playing Agent at the moment, since that's my go-to Torment class, but I'll be sure to try it out when I replay Mutagen eventually. ...May not be for a while, though 🙃
  7. Run 2: Obeyer Guardian took his Normal Pills Fooled you, I’m doing a Normal run first! This time, I actually looked up some information on how the game actually worked, including everything I could find on hit chance. Chiefly, that it was based on level (and presumably was lower when attacking enemies of a higher level), and that wands and crystals had somewhat higher accuracy in exchange for no longer getting a damage boost from your missile weapons skill. Normal difficulty describes itself as starting off easy, but ramping up near the end, which I took/hoped to mean the endgame would be identical to Veteran’s, save for friendly fire, which I’d still behave was a thing because I actually like that mechanic. I felt the difference between Veteran and Normal immediately, breezing through the school and Watchhill with ease, especially since I learned from the first time and put my points in Leadership and Mechanics almost exclusively up to that point. My plan was to do a Guardian with blessing magic and maybe magic shaping, until I came across the guide for Torment Solo Pacifist. “Seems like a great way to hate Geneforge even faster,” I groused, until I saw that each of those achievements had half a percent of players completing them. Seeing that I had yet to create anything, I decided “I Walk Alone” would be my goal, along with the new low canister use Obeyer ending. And it was rough: My only crowd control came from crystals, wands, and the spray baton, which is sick as hell and a welcome addition to my arsenal. Less welcome was the tranquil baton, a non-indicative name because I wouldn’t call fleeing out of range of my shots and forcing me to run them down particularly tranquil. Terror is my least favorite status for that reason, even in the earlier games; sure, when they’re stuck in place, it’s fine, but they almost never were, and they they don’t freeze in this game, just run in seemingly random directions, trending away from me, and I need those action points for using items to heal and apply other, more useful statuses. The least welcome thing in my arsenal was the inventory I put everything else in; seriously, a six by six grid? Who's with me? I go for Obeyer because if I’m doing three runs, I’m doing the low canister one on Normal, and loyalist runs go best for you in those. I feel rancid doing it in G1 especially, so in penance the revolution will Torment me. Still, I reach a hurdle: during my time in Vakkiri, thanks to force of habit and just not being one to go out of my way to be a pillock, my interactions were broadly inoffensive, trending towards supportive. I decided to just rob the place as normal, opening the doors with living tools and gaining just about everything that wasn’t learned jaffee’s knowledge (which I’m sure will be very useful for my character) and left for more exp and dialogue opportunities to appear more loyalist. Turns out I’m too woke, however, and that second thing failed. By the time I left the greater Kazg area and circled around back to Pentil, I probably could’ve joined the Takers. With nothing to show for my efforts, I headed north, unfettered by any faction, to face Goettsch-- oh hey, this Durian guy can put in a good word for me with Rydell! I immediately head back south and joined the Obeyers. gaining keys to doors I already opened and knowledge of skills I wouldn’t use (Jaffee gives a level of fyora. Fascinating.). Still, I have new marching orders: Find the Geneforge and destroy it. One atypicality of this run is that, even on Normal, there were some areas I simply couldn’t clear, or sometimes even traverse without dying no matter what I did. Places like Diarazad, the West Gate, Patrol Bridge, and to a lesser extent the Western Wastes were places I did nothing but die; I was swarmed by too many enemies in unfavorable configurations to even attempt fighting them because no matter how crafty I was with discipline wands, airshock crystals, and one of the few spells I had, essence shield, the law of averages meant I would eventually get stunned, dazed, terrified, or slowed into missing a turn, and the double-attacking and sometimes double-moving enemies would have all the time they needed to erase my health. Places like the tribal woods and icewalls were hideous because of the spawners all bunched up in one spot, to the point where I just couldn’t do the latter and missed west workshop. Western Wastes were almost okay, though: the spawners were all spaced out, and I had a good amount of items, so I could deal with them at my own pace, without dying even. Diarazad was the absolute worst of these, though: not only did the enemies there get four attacks to my one, my accuracy against them was around 69%, which in this case was not nice, and got even less so every time I saw it. And when my attacks did get through and I got close to killing them, they started running away, and usually got away because they moved farther per turn, and got two turns per round, and I usually had two more to deal with blocking my path so I couldn’t even pursue them, leaving them free to heal completely and come back for more. After my eighth death where 10 minutes of incremental progress was undone by a lucky stun or crit by the last few members of a huge crush of Stealth Sholai, I finally just cut and run, breaking for the entrance to the shaper crypt, sholai hot on my tail. In combat, I opened the door… to reveal eleventy-billion ghosts, who instantly stunlocked me to death. Broken and embittered, I loaded my autosave and went elsewhere, never to return. The west gate almost easier, in that I traversed it by fleeing the sholai that wanted me dead, because that was an option, unlike fighting them. I could barely hit them, they revealed their Pocket Monsters almost immediately, and three of their friends usually came running along soon after anyway, so running through was my only option, half of it in combat mode because I would be inevitably spotted because I by the time I see these people on my map they can see me because they move roughly as fast as my reaction time. Still, I made it through, picking my way through pylons until I could reach the Geneforge. But wait, aren’t I loyal to the Shapers? Surely it would behoove me to meet the only other (relevant) Shaper on the island? So I turn around and head to Goettsch, who manages to be condescending with each text box. I swipe his gloves in revenge for his attitude, and get to work scaring off some sholai. I convinced him killing a second group wasn’t worth my time, and got the true mission: Slay Trajkov, which I was going to do anyway. On to the Geneforge, allying myself with Trajkov, and going on a quick tour of a bunch of the Sholai controlled areas I didn’t kill my way through. Here I finally face Uroboros, and this time I have the Leadership to trivialize the fight. I beat her in a handful of rounds and spend some time marveling at my genius… enough time for King and Biri to catch up with me, and they wanted to have a word with me. That word, it turned out, was “Burn”. Reload, kill her again, and bomb out before I had that conversation again. For some reason, I think going for the final Cockatrice quest for zero benefit is a good idea, but I’m quickly put in my place by every cockatrice left on the island crashing my game with more particle effects on-screen than I’ve had in every run of the original series I’ve played put together. Recognizing that as a trial my skillset was not equipped to surmount, I left Alonzo to his life and went back to Trajkov instead. I pulled a little sneaky on him, killing him instantly. After I destroyed the Geneforge, I headed to Goettsch to report ‘mission accomplished’ and received my reward: nothing! At which point I told him I broke his stupid pool, killing me instantly. Good thing I save often; Veteran was good for something after all. This time I simply tell him good day and leave with my tail tucked between my legs, with only the thought of him seething upon seeing the dried basin of his hopes and dreams salvaging my bruised ego. That’s the last we see of Goettsch, ever. No mention of him in even the end screen, to say nothing of later entries. I left him alive here; when the Shapers send the, uh, extermination squad containing Zakary and Barzahl, would they find out about him? They don’t speak sholai, and most of them wouldn’t be all that keen to chat with the Takers who’ve so much as heard his name. If they managed to track him down, or if he decided to engage with them for some reason, I can only imagine they’d have killed him. But no one mentions him later on, so I guess it’s canon that the PC killed him. Which still doesn’t explain why he isn’t mentioned in the ending if he lives. Most likely the ending where you leave him alive, kill Trajkov, but don’t break the Geneforge or steal his gloves gives him something. I mean, it’d have to; I’d have given him unrestricted access to Godlike power. If he STILL wasn’t mentioned in an ending like that, I’d be stunned. The Awakened ending has variations based on whether or not you destroyed the Geneforge after you used it, the game wouldn’t just forget to have an ending where Goettsch won, right? I’ve never done it, because I never played Geneforge with a concussion, but maybe someone else did? Even then, we don’t know what exactly happens to him when he loses, which is weird, right? He’s supposed to be the equal and opposite force on the island, Trajkov’s hated nemesis who wants the power of the Geneforge for himself. Just about every Sholai patrol on Sucia is guarding against him specifically, and throughout the wastes you see signs of him covering any way to reach him. Yet, Goettsch feels a lot lesser. Part of it is just because Trajkov is the main antagonist, the guy who stranded you on this island, who’s handiwork you see in almost every area, who’s name pops up again and again, leader of the foreign outsiders stealing your people’s secrets. But I think that last part is key: short of mentions of an older Shaper Trajkov wants dead, and Huestess wanting the same, Goettsch just isn’t talked about at all unless you’re allied with the Takers and can talk to various Sholai, and even then, you just get more of the same: there’s a shaper in the wastes who stole gloves from Trajkov, so Trajkov wants him dead. The gloves he stole are more important than Goettsch himself to the story. Hell, killing him is optional; you can leave him for Trajkov to kill at his leisure. Goettsch is a man alone. His creations are non-entities, force multipliers and extensions of his will. Rhakkus has no loyalty to him, the job he paid her for bribed away if you don’t feel like fighting Cryodrayks and have 3000 coins on hand. He never even contacted the Obeyers, and from what little he gives me he seems like the kind of guy who likes having his ego stroked by an entire town of adoring peons. But no, he just holes up in the temple, a big, sneering bowling pin to topple over or go around to get what you’re actually there for. Functionally, as far as the plot is concerned, he isn’t a secondary villain for when you ally with Trajkov, he’s another obstacle for getting this whole thing over with, no matter your route. He almost doesn’t need to be there; with a little massaging, his purpose in the plot could be fulfilled by one of Trajkov’s crew getting too big for their britches, a particularly crafty rogue he made swiping them to spite him, or a big door Trajkov just can’t open for Shaper related reasons. He’s a rough fight, but in terms of being an antagonist, even my inventory beats him. I guess that’s why he’s never mentioned again: he simply doesn’t matter. Wait, what was I talking about? I tell Rydell the good news, and make for home, but before I do, I talk to that one Agent hiding in the Docks, Arixey. While I helped Thrakerzod obtain some stuff from Yu-La some time ago in both my playthroughs, I didn’t bother performing Arixey’s hit on Gnorrel in my Shaper run, partly because I was doing Toivo’s quest at the time and partly because I couldn’t be assed. This time I was an Obeyer, though, so I may as well kick the Takers while they were down. I head into Kazg, and head right back out when the two champions I just killed were replaced with eight elite guards. I headed back in after healing in Pentil, and carve my way straight to Gnorrel, avoiding farmers but killing everyone else that attacked me, and I took the shot. Unlike the other Leaders, she didn’t get buffed at all, falling to one reaper. I somehow dodged Mr. Eko, so I skipped town without encountering anyone else. I tell Arixey the good news, and she immediately sends me out again to kill Ellhrah. What does everyone have against Ellhrah? Nabb and Ting, Gnorrel, and now Arixey! I, for one, have had it. I briefly entertain the thought of getting my sugar kicked in by the Inner crypt, but when I remembered I had to go through all of Diarazad again, I opted to leave my sugar intact for the next run. And with that, Normal is beaten, ‘I Walk Alone’ is earned, and I settle down for a good few decades at the top of the heap, without a thought spared for any non-human I left on the island. This run was weird. Most of the first run was me running face-first into design changes, exacerbated by my own incompetence. It was pretty harsh the whole way through. This run obviously started easy, but had knifing difficulty spikes on its way to a similar, if slightly easier, endgame, due to either out-leveled enemies that attacked four times a round, or batches of spawners that replaced their broods faster than I could kill them. Without that, I could usually handle even endgame zones with only some bumpiness. It helped that my Guardian was decidedly better built, with a serviceable amount of melee, missile, and QA skill, nothing in shaping but just enough in Healing Craft for a decent essence shield and mass restore, and enough Leadership and Mechanics to see me through with minimal issues with things I plain couldn’t fight alone. Torment is currently ongoing, so I’ll post again when that’s done and dusted.
  8. Anyway, after getting stonewalled by the quiet marshes AND the stone circle because I don’t know how to sneak, I go to the inutile village, and truly new content! I was here before, but I was stonewalled by the brigands because I didn’t know how talk good yet. I managed to kill them with the new discipline wand I picked up in my travels and went ahead to where Sessina lived, and learning of the creation he and his friends somehow made back in the day, the Cocka-- Cockatrice? I’ll admit, I was caught off guard with that one. I was caught even more off guard by the battle beta(!) guarding it. And the clawbugs that seemed to have two turns per round. And stinging artilas were there too, I suppose. You know what else was there? A second group of a battle beta, clawbugs, and stinging artilas that guard the second half of the tunnel. And they head straight for you once you start fighting the first group. Let me circle back to the betas. A battle beta is like a thahd, but with fundamental differences. Battle betas, you see, also leap, and those leaps also Daze, but those leaps also knock you back for functionally no reason. Betas riposte, but instead of having too much goddamned health, they have way too much goddamned health. Also, they hit more than my healing options can recover, and those hits now stun. Being stuck in the southwest quadrant of Sucia and barred from every path out of it by something I literally couldn’t deal with or bypass due to my sub-optimal build, and most of the items sold in the shops I had access to that could help me deal with those obstacles, I had already used on earlier obstacles when my build was even weaker. This run was roughly a week ago from the time of my typing this, so my memories have faded somewhat, but I remember dreaming about how miserable my attempts to get through quiet marsh, stone circle, F***ing. Diarazad. The patrol bridge that would take me to central Sucia where the Workshops are. Nothing. Sneaking? No dice. Booking it? Everything LEAPS! At that point I had a choice, 1) Just try to run through the marshes however many times I have to until I eventually make it through to Kazg and resupply, draining my money almost totally on needed supplies in the overpriced shops there, but also gaining exp in various quests and area clears; 2) Admit my “Generalist” build is too borked to survive mid-to-late game, and restart from the beginning with a proper Shaper build, also wasting eight hours of my life in the process; or 3) healmenow. For most of you, I guess the ride ends here: I reached a point where Veteran using a Shaper was unbearable without cheating, revealing myself as the Cringelord Failson of the Geneforge playerbase. For all two of you that remained, my run at least became smoother. Got to Kazg, talked to Masha, Astrov, and Sage Clois in that order. Went through the mines. Failed to find a way through the mines to the research warrens, despite going to the arena (I just… forgot there was another area past it and treated it like a dead end. Guess I was just distracted by Janus). Went down to the docks to meet some new Shapers (apparently wingbolts existed at this point in Geneforge history? I always assumed they were a wartime development like the Kyshakk and War Trall). Managed to get through the patrol bridge and got myself a control rod (that poor mind). Dug an entry baton out of cold storage, too, but a shade showed up and told me to break it, or a bunch of guys outside would come in and beat me. Feels like high school. And just like high school, the guy isn’t all that smart, since I broke a bit off the top and that was good enough for him. After all of that, I felt ready to continue the Ascended questline to and get more cockatrice canisters. Meeting Yu-La was also a plus of that, since Thrakerzod wanted something from her. So I headed over there and found my quest for cockatrice was gonna take a while, at least until I got DEEP into the research warrens. So, I went to help Alonso get rid of his ex. I had no damn idea how to get through the minefield, so I went ahead with battle and oh boy, was I not capable. Even when cheating my balls off, my roamers still died with alarming regularity, to the point where I stopped giving them the 30% damage reduction buff, because they died just as fast either way, and I wanted the essence for more Dazes (I ran out of D. wands) and essence lances. I managed to get to Uroboros, who I see I can trick into… something, I didn’t know yet. And I wouldn’t for a very long time, since my Leadership at that point was like 8 or 9. So it’s time to fight and she immediately stunlocks me to death. Well, Hell, time to do something else. That something wound up being picking my way past the west gate (as in, fought my way through the west gate, where every enemy carried more enemies in their pockets) over to Trajkov’s and schmoozing my way to his side, getting clearance to go to a bunch of areas I couldn’t before, picking up some plates for later. Now I can make my way to Goettsch, the Gloves, and the big city, babeee!!! The Secret is always fun to go “discover”, and I do it every playthrough. Making my way to both the sentinels (which is always a gas) and the Valley of the Winds (which, uh, gives me gas…? …I’m very tired.) I swiped the gloves, noticing the wire beneath and disarming it, and headed over to Traj-- sorry, I meant over to Uroboros to put an end to that mess. At this point, I’m just strong enough to cheese a win. And with that, and after going through the worst mosh pit ever, netting me a perfectly controlled cockatrice, I finally make my way back to Trajkov… and immediately go back to Goettsch to fight him for Huestess (who’s quest I screwed up by going up through the City first, I think). The fight is a nightmare, the man himself immediately killing my birds even through my terrors, dazes, and stunning gems. I charmed, dazed, and acid-ed everything else in the room, but two-thirds of everything I threw at him missed because of the &@*%ing level difference! Eventually I just had nothing left and had to break for the exit, but he did two attacks every turn, and two turns every round. I was stuck between just using healmenow and breaking for the exit, and hoping for a terror to hit so I could get enough space to shape more cockatrice. I did manage to get a terror, and he fled. Just like that, I was free to recharge, make two birds, and even buff with mass energize before reengaging with Goettsch. It actually went pretty well, taking him down to half health… at which point, one of the cockatrice managed to give him OVERLOAD. It damaged him, sure, but that didn’t really matter when he immediately killed but cockatrice and nearly killed me too. It especially didn’t matter since it only lasted one round. So again I raced for the exit, flinging daze spells behind me. I was at the end of the line, the last antechamber before an exit, when a got another terror on him. I rounded the corner and decided there was no room to screw this up. Three cockatrice this time, essence shield on all of them and myself, shieldsup when Goettsch rounded the corner. And I dropped him! And then everything else on the map went hostile and began to converge on my location. If you don’t play with showmeall, I highly recommended for that alone. Really drops the bottom out of your stomach. I go to Huestass to turn in my quest, and probably receive nothing in return. I take care of some ornks who are just… a really rough go. I mean, it’s not Goettsch, but still, could you imagine if I died to ornks? I’m disgraced enough as it is! Finally, I actually go to Trajkov, and hand him the shredded gloves I “repaired”, and watch him melt into goo. Fortunately for me, his creations disappear, too, and I’m free to use the Geneforge myself! Finally! My stats are competitive! The game is over! After giving Ellhrah a conniption, I immediately head east to clear the docks and set sail for my new Empire. That’s the first playthrough technically done, and with that, it almost seems redundant to say I did the shaper crypt and inner crypt without cheating. It’d be very embarrassing if I couldn’t. Still, that doesn’t erase the fact that my status as a cheating loserbaby was immortalized by the fact that I didn’t get the medal for beating the game on Veteran or higher. Which meant, to assuage my pride, I would have to beat the game again. This time, on Torment. Get ready for that, you know, eventually.
  9. 1 – Awakened Shaper, Veteran (the blind run) Part 1 I wanted to jump back into Geneforge on a nice, even difficulty for my experience level. You’ll quickly see how that worked out for me, but to make a long story short, before this, I used to actually think I was good at this game. I actually began my first game as a Guardian, since I remember liking the playstyle, but the Mutagen-original gate demanded I use the Firebolt Canister, I decided to restart as a Shaper because hey, the character in the opening scrawl is a Shaper, and I didn’t want to be saddled with an ability I couldn’t use (a running trend in my first playthrough is making decisions based on the original game, to interesting results). It had been three or so years since I last played Geneforge, however, and while the plot, characters, and general progression have been branded onto my gray matter over the course of 250 hours of playtime, I forgot a few small but crucial details to the fog of ages. The first roadbump is that I hate playing the Shaper class, and avoid it whenever possible, which is all the time. Quite a few (though not all) of my frustrations stemmed from me making a scuffed melee Guardian/missile Guardian/Magic Shaping Agent/support Shaper, or Generalist for short. My obviously sub-optimal build eventually had enough Leadership and Mechanics to get me through areas and gain some levels with minimal hiccups, which was good, because I was wholly incapable of fighting a fair fight outside of the tutorial. And I mean it: my modus operandi after hitting Vakkiri is to head to the ruined school first to pick up a level or two, as well as a decent belt. I quickly found that the Bandit Woods found a few problems with my plan, and those problems were, in order: Thahds Thahds leaping Thahds Dazing Thahds riposting Thahds having too much goddamned health Thahds eating half my health bar with one hit, holy-- These problems were exacerbated in the school itself, with just as many enemies per encounter in much tighter spaces. Eventually I decided to back off and do some quests around town, admonishing myself for trying to rush into the meat of things. “Take it easy,” I told myself as I read some updated lore, “soak up the old and the new. Shake the rust off and gain a level or two. Then you’ll crush this game in no time.” I did the usual stuff, finding a knife on the ground, unlocking a box, revealing a spy, taking a moment to, uh, marvel at my new ability to be just plain unpleasant to people. Learned a new word, “inutile”, that would definitely come up in future entries. Going up north to talk down some bandits and get Brodus to agree to-- ah, this is where that eventually rears its ugly head. I put most of my points into Mechanics for experience reasons, so I was a point short for the Leadership requirement, and combat-wise I was still working my way up to Rawbone, so I was stuck until I leveled up. I decided to break off from my personal route and go to Watchhill for now, to which Watchhill responded, “Did you forget what Bandit Woods just said? Here, I’ll reiterate: Thahds Thahds leaping Thahds Dazing Thahds ripost-- oh, you’re dead. Also, you don’t have enough Leadership to get Seerula to help you.” If you were there with me while I was playing, you may have said, “Man, you sure are dying a lot.” And you’d be right; I WAS dying a lot, a lot more than I did in the original Tricky. “Guess this game’s just harder than the original,” I’d reply. “Just means I need to get harder.” ‘Harder’ here means brute forcing my way through the school, saving like I had a drinky bird tapping the quick-save key, even battling the Enraged Fyora in the basin, a boss fight all on its own in this game. Finally, I had no choice: I had to fight Rawbone and the Ape Out gang in order to level up. I use my last blessing pods, my last meager advantage to close the gap between us and step forward-- oh hey, he has a dialogue option that gives him wrack status! I love that there are more Leadership options in the lead-up to fights. Being able to wrack or DOT an opponent is always great, a nice treat for those who put their points into that instead of pushing their damage output more. Really, I’d like to see options like this in pretty much all mandatory fights I can’t just ignore or bypass with Leadership or Mechanics. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, I whooped Rawbone’s ass; only took like four tries, and now I have enough Leadership to finish some quests, and get a free point in Spellcraft from the Mind. I’m pretty sure that was Firebolt in the original; talk about an upgrade! Know what else got upgraded? The spawners. No longer do they simply puke up a creation every turn that proceeds to try and kill me. Now they still do that, but also puke up weakening mist, poison spray, and some kind of thorn to also try and kill me, and usually succeed. Last time I was here, I couldn’t even make it to Watchhill proper through the sea of like… 8 rogues, and now, with Seerula by my side, I got far enough in to not make it to the spawner. No matter what angle I approached it from, I’d just get walled by an endless conga line of creations, neither side making any ground until I inevitably missed, or nearly as inevitably get hit by two to three critical hits in a row. “Wow, you’re really missing a lot of attacks,” the hypothetical you opines from the backseat as I die again. “You ought to do something about that.” “Well, I’m still in the pretty early game,” I reply, holding back venom. “I don’t have many options, so I just have to tough it out and fish for EXP after. Then I can level up my skills.” It was about halfway into my second playthrough of the game that I learned that hit chance was tied not to any skill levels, but to Player Level, and presumably the level of whatever I was fighting, meaning enemies with levels higher than I would ever have would be a delight to face in battle. “Maybe make another creation? I hear Thahds are pretty good.” That seems like a good idea, but it turns out the game and I get our Thahds from two very different places, and mine have a side of brittle bone disease with their Creutzfeldt-Jakob. “Be more of a Shaper? Just sit back and support everyone else.” Sitting back and letting creations do the fighting, chipping in with support is all well and good for some people, but I if I knew how to back down and provide support, I wouldn’t be single right now. Regardless, I had more pressing matters at hand, like figuring out how to keep my ungrateful lizard children from eating me. Also, my Fyoras kept going rogue. I had three, and their levels either matched mine or were a level above, because any less and they died almost instantly, typically after they went rogue anyway. Skill descriptions told me that another level in Fire shaping would strengthen my control over them, so I did it as soon as I leveled up, but it also raised their level by one, so it was a wash. Eventually I got lucky and killed the spawner, and compared to that hurdle, everything up to Pentil was almost easy. I even did Spiral Burrow for the Awakened and, while hellish, it was hellish in a grinding, bit-by-bit crawl like the successful school run, and not the same grinding, bit-by-bit crawl and also I die one to six times in every conceivable way like Watchmojo. I get to Warp in like half an hour, and beat it on my second try, and only because the backup swarm of Thahds took me by surprise. The discipline wand was a godsend when I remembered I had it. I was a bit disappointed when I saw that the wand changed from a weapon that deleted rogues to a few charges of Daze. However, I overall like the idea of wands being items like crystals and the blessing rods. I also like having more of them around to find and use to maintain advantage. I would appreciate them even more, however, if they could somehow stack, and not take up multiple slots of my 25 slot inventory. Inventory management wound up being a severe sticking point for me, not necessarily by being the biggest issue I had, but by being the issue I most often had. With only 25 slots, I almost never had enough space for the things picked up and wanted to keep on me, so it went to the junk bag. For some reason, once you put something in the junk bag, you can’t take it out again unless you’re in one of the four towns. You also can’t sell individual items in the junk bag while leaving others. You have to use the sell all option to sell everything, so if you have something you don’t want sold in there, and you’re at a shop that’s out in the “wilderness”, you’ll have to go to town to take out the item(s), and depending on if the towns even have money left to buy your swag (which the later you get in the game, the more likely that’ll be the case), go back to the shop to continue selling. This exact scenario happened to me more times than it really should have, as in it happened more than once. Not helping was that I was usually on my way to a tough gauntlet or from a looting spree which was why I had so many items on me in the first place. I just don’t think the current inventory system works as well as it could. A six by six grid or a junk bag I can freely move my items from and not barring me from taking things out of it unless I’m in one of four areas in the game. Quick edit because I forgot: The change that most boiled my piss between games is how the Tombs work now, the knowledge within only being accessible if you haven't put any points in the stat. Considering my "generalist" build, the fact that I was operating under the OLD rules for the Tombs (you can't get the point if the relevant stat is too LOW), and that I needed those points to be able to get to the tombs at all, I was deeply frustrated with this change. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.
  10. Playing G5 again after a few months, looking out for quests or events I missed my last playthrough. One thing I was certain I missed was the true staple of the Geneforge series: the Ornk Boss. Surprisingly, I found out that it was the basis of an actual quest in Haria-Kel, to recover a modified Ornk so it can be evaluated at the Foundry. ALSO surprisingly, this Ornk was modified by its Shaper to be-- I'm sorry, can you run that by me again? More... intelligent? An Ornk? The food animal? Okay, how intelligent is it? ...Smart enough to get a sense of its ultimate fate (getting cut up at the Foundry), decide that its story didn't end there, and undo its bonds and escape when its handler was asleep? Okay then, just one question: What is the benefit to that? So I go out to the Okavano, and what do I find? A bunch of Ornks... rather strong, feral Ornks. They seem friendly enough, though. I look through the herd, checking for the white patch to identify my quarry. Finally I come across an Ornk that seems... Ornkier than the others. I check for the patch, but THIS Ornk is unusually filthy... I dive for it, but it's too fast for me (what)! It's definitely my target. I make for it, but then it starts screaming. Not mooing, not squealing. Screaming. Words. "Help me! Help me!" The Ornk can think. Now, I ask everyone here today: why this? Why would someone Create this?
  11. Friggin' lovely, let me tell you. It'll be great to play Geneforge with updated graphics, especially when my laptop had a fit anytime i even looked at that graphics mod.
  12. No, no mods; pretty much all of that goes over my head, so I don't touch the stuff in fear of completely melting the game.
  13. Right, so, I don't know how to explain it, but I'm currently assaulting the gates of Gazaki-Uss (Shaper, lvl 46, Battle Creation specialist). At first, it's all good: a Beta and an Ur-Glaahk show up with me, with a few more showing up as I went. They're confused and weak, but my presence strengthens them, more than doubling their health (remember this). I'm making my way to the gate, slaying enemy Betas, Glaahks, and Podlings like a champ, when a few Drayks with supporting Podlings saunter up to me. I right click: about 570 health each. I think, "Right, 'cause that'll work," and send my Creations after the Drayks, backing them up with Essence Lances galore. But the Drayks weren't dead. They weren't even at half health. I check again: 1500 HP and change. Oh god, am I Raditz? Is that what's happening? Am i gonna get taken down by a 4 year old? And then I notice my log: Drayk is strengthened by your presence. Pardon? Someone explain how to fix this, cuz this ain't a soup kitchen.
  14. Well, Ghaldring is an old Drakon, in more ways than one. Being a, let's say series 2 version created by Easss, even with all the serious self Shaping he has doubtless done, he probably wouldn't be quite as megalomaniacal as the latest generation.Also bear in mind that he's roughly 60-80 by the time G5 rolls around (the timeline is remarkably opaque between G1-G3). A few attacks of sentimentality are to be expected and allowed, especially for old war mates.
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