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Spoilerific heads up/warning re: Torment and the Geneforge


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For a few years, I’ve preferred to play Geneforge games specifically on Torment because it felt like the most “gritty” way to play. You’re some untrained schmuck and you usually get dumped into some backwater wilderness with fire-spitting velociraptors, genetically altered ape-leopards (and normal apes and leopards are already strong enough to tear someone’s arms off), and eyeless worms that spit acid all over you. 

 

Even with canister modification, it “made sense” that my creations would be a bit “funny-lookin,” that with me having no real training or mentorship, my creations would have a disadvantage against the battle-hardened rogues that had survived by the laws of survival-of-the-fittest. It made sense that serviles hardened by years of independence and abandonment would have the strength to kill me if I crossed them too casually. 

But, with time, battle, months of travel on a theoretical abandoned island, islands, or continent, my creations would grow and so would I, and towards the end of the game if I played smart I could compete and survive. 

Torment in GF1-M feels different. Different in that I felt vulnerable as one might in a Dark-Souls game in that all the Sholai towards the end of the game one- or two-shot my shaper. It doesn’t help that Shapers get 50% less HP than Guardians and 25% less than Agents per point of endurance. I was going to do a semi-loyalist play through but I got so sick of dying to everything I decided to just use the Geneforge just to see if that could tip the scale and make the game less frustrating.

Amazingly, it did not.

After gaining 8 in all primary stats, buffing my melee, missile, and magic - also by 8, I still got 2-shot by run-of-the-mill non-augmented sholai. That’s right. We’re talking endgame level (17/18) player character with a symbiotic cloak, charmed plate or shaper robes, zavor’s ring, fully buffed helix bracelet (that’s +12 endurance total over baseline for those keeping track) and I had to save-load to get out of just the research area in the northeast corner of the map (maybe 3-4 tries until air-shock proc’d stun on a wizard because otherwise I’d get stun-locked or hit with acid and die in one round). Then to cross the bridge in the West Gate area without stealth, another 3-4 save-loads because even the vanilla “stealth sholai” could kill me one-on-one after my character had been modified by the Geneforge into near-Godhood. I used stealth & the spore baton to get to the docks to escape the island because I also couldn’t survive against Trajkov’s minions at the docks. Being a shaper, I was looking forward to having some powerful creations after being Geneforged, but the Geneforge also doesn’t give any shaping skill in this game, so my creations are a little stronger for being beefed up by an improved essence pool, but don’t get any extra base levels. Turns out, creating a full pool of fully buffed endgame creations, they still die in 1-2 hits to everything dished out by sholai on Torment. Which means there’s almost no point to making them, because one AOE attack wipes the party. And when you’re save-scumming just to keep creations alive past the second round of a fight - after being modified by the Geneforge, fun has reached an all-time low.

In short, my experience of “endgame” Torment mode in GF1-M was that everything killed me in 1-2 hits regardless of my build, and for certain sholai, even regardless of being Geneforged. It was absolutely the case that pre-Geneforge, enemies that were too low in level to give me experience or only gave 1-2 experience could still spray my party with acid and kill 80% of my party in 2 rounds on Torment. It was often the case that my own “team” got me killed. I would charm an enemy, or an ally who was not charmed (say Goettsch attacking Sholai assassins in the great temple) would use an AOE attack that applied acid and took out most of my health, and I would be stuck trying to heal, run away, or cure acid (but not able to do all 3), and if I could only do 2/3, an enemy would inevitably kill me before the next round was over. It would have felt “fair” if enemies had friendly fire, but they are immune to their own friendly fire, they are immune to your friendly fire when charmed, while you and your Player Character get absolutely torched by everything.

If you are playing torment as a shaper looking for the tipping point where you emerge from your vulnerability and can consistently survive and compete against enemies with intelligent strategy... my advice is “stop.” The way stats work in this game, even after Geneforge use (which in terms of skill points is roughly the equivalent of getting boosted to level 40+ in a game with level cap 20), using essence shield and buffs, you die almost instantly. There is no tipping point and that fact (that you never reach a point where you approach equality with your enemies) effectively broke the lore and immersion of the story for me, even understanding how difficult torment is supposed to be. I could still win a loyalist play through on torment, I have the leadership to kill Trajkov without a fight, can destroy the Geneforge, get out with stealth, and complete the game. But at this point... I don’t really care to do that. I think I probably killed my enjoyment of the game for a few months finishing it on Torment, and I’ll go through again on Normal or Veteran sometime and enjoy a more regular difficulty curve - one where I actually get to enjoy the feeling that my character has become a somewhat competent shaper by endgame. 
 

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Okay, I made it through on torment difficulty Shaper and saw  some of your problems. Some tricks I've used that help:

 

1) My character was named Hindmost after the Larry Niven Pierson puppeteer leader in the Ringworld/Tales of Known Space stories that leads from the rear. Let your creations be up in front to attack and shield you.

 

2) Use dominate to charm Sholai and battle creations that you are fighting so they can take the damage.

 

3) Spread out you party against area attacks. Goettsch is different and that you want to be out of his area attacks against enemies.

 

4) Use creations that have area attacks with no cool down period and searing artilas are brutally effective.

 

5) If you used the Geneforge, then you have the essence pool to make 6 or 7 highest level creations and you don't care if they survive. 

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It sounds like the experience you are looking for is what I balance Veteran difficulty to be. Torment is meant for players who really, really want a total min-max challenge in these games.

 

Shapers are meant to be fragile cloth-wearers. They are supposed to hide behind their wall of monsters. In return for their weakness, their creations can become amazingly powerful fairly quickly.

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@Randomizer @Spidweb

Thanks for the replies - I agree, it does sound like I’m looking for more of the Veteran play through experience! I have enjoyed min-maxing for torment in the past but was surprised that in this build, after getting through the game as a shaper (min-maxing pretty well I think... buying the servile skill upgrades, getting all the servant mind base stat upgrades, as many sarcophagi upgrades as possible except for sealed lab, helix bracelet, zavor’s, admittedly I didn’t get Danette’s Belt if it’s in this game - etc), it was a surprise to still die in 1 or 2 hits after using the Geneforge. The fact that my shaping skills were not enhanced by the Geneforge (is that as intended? The lore says the Geneforge is a combination of all canisters so I was expecting some creation/shaping levels, but the only buff creations get from the Geneforge is the player having a larger pool of essence?) left me feeling underwhelmed using creations as anything other than a couple turns’ worth of meat shielding to deal more damage myself with spells.

To be clear, I did get through the vast majority of torment approaching fights very slowly, using buffs, mental magic (especially dominate with high-level ur-glaahks), learning to stay out of charmed enemies’ lines of fire, and ample application of the “acid” status effect. Searing articles are incredible. Charming the claw bugs to clear the Ice Walls spawners is absolutely required, and satisfying when it worked, but took about 30 “tries” before I could get to an attempt where my party of ur-glaahks and drayks reached the spawners without melting to an acid spray in a tight corridor and landed charm effects once I reached the spawners.

In many parts of the game... the intense difficulty “works” really, really well. Can be brutally difficult and with great setups, you can win these awesomely challenging fights. 

I learned by experience that between acid and making the super-powerful enemies fight for you, torment is very winnable even with a glass-canon shaper.

Thanks for taking my feedback. I guess I’d say - if the endgame is supposed to be such that you die in a couple blows to just about anything, then it’s working as intended. I think it’s not totally unreasonable for a player to think that after being Geneforged to God-tier stats, even a shaper should live past 2 rounds of hits from a single endgame spell-caster, but it is Torment difficulty. Based on my experience hiding behind a wall of monsters works much better early game (before you run into too many AOE-capable opponents), against melee opponents, and with a lot of save-loading. By late mid-game to endgame, I don’t see a way to win with creations other than getting lucky with acid and running away, or getting lucky with “dominate” rolls from ur-glaahks at the beginning of fights. If your glaahks lose the speed check and take an early hit or you aren’t hitting 60-75% of your early attempts to cast “dominate” in any group fight (and I realize it’s possible to draw enemies away 1 at a time... but that is an annoying way to play the whole game), you need to reload because you will die. I’m not sure if that’s the “amazingly powerful” that you’re describing, or if that’s achievable with smarter skill-point allocation.

Things I could’ve done wrong:
1. I put points into fire shaping and magic shaping. I needed overloading fire creations to burst certain enemies (i.e. thahd shades in tombs to clear them early and min-max my stats). I needed magic shaping for artilas and ur-glaahks. My own “dominate” spell hit roughly less than 50% as often as my creations could land the spell successfully.
Maybe I needed to invest exclusively into one school? If that’s the case, I think magic shaping would be the only way. My biggest disappointment of the game (besides drayks having the same visual asset after getting such a cool art upgrade) was that drayks, these apparently 20-foot long, near legendary, forbidden creation behemoths of scales and fire... had exactly the same skills as fyoras and as a shaper with leveled fire shaping... still died almost instantly to everything, and that cryodrayks just seemed objectively worse (same stats/level/HP, more expensive, worse skills) than regular drayks. That goes double when the canisters of create drayk are much less accessible in GF1-M than the original GF. I don’t think it would be reasonable to expect to get through torment investing in battle shaping at all (except by hoping for a lot of luck spraying acid with iron claw bugs and it would take so long to get that creation/would cost so much essence compared with searing artilas that it wouldn’t be a good value).
2. Maybe I needed to invest more into “evasion” and “agility” as a shaper?
3. Maybe I should’ve used shielding knife instead of the living knife (that seemed better as it gave +2 STR/END to creations)

 

Again - thanks for hearing my feedback. My suggestion is... keeping listening to the other data points that roll in about playing a shaper on Torment. I was trying to min-max for the entire game and thought I got through the content pretty capably, I just stopped having fun for the last 5-10 hours as I realized that my “endgame” build could beat the game, but I still had to save-scum if I wanted to fight (creations die so fast, even leveled, if they don’t get charm/dominate to land right away), and fighting often gave so little XP it made more sense to start running through areas “skipping” the content that was supposed to be satisfying and fun. I know creations are much more disposable in this new GF series (and I like that... a lot!! Because you get way more variety), but the most efficient way to to clear later areas on Torment is to make a clear path of “green” areas from a servile village to whatever area you need to clear, and to bring packs of artilas and glaahks hoping to kill 1-4 enemies at a time, run back to regen essence, rinse and repeat over and over and over again.  If that’s what the experience is meant to be with a min-maxed shaper... don’t change a thing. If there’s a better way please let me know.
 

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Investing in only one shaping class makes your creations more over powered and have better to hit chances.

 

The third tier creations do more damage than first tier creations, but you lack the essence until using the Geneforge to replace them all.

 

Searing artila with the acid attack tends to be more useful than fire creations and you've seen what the glaahks can do.

 

Cryoas and cryodrayks with frost aura will damage nearby enemies even when they can't attack from daze and stun. The damage is significant at the end,

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I want to chime in here and say that I agree with you, Felix. I absolutely appreciate Randomizer and Jeff's comments, but even with minmaxing and playing a Shaper in the exact way that has been described above I'm finding torment MUCH more tormenting than in other Spidweb games. I thought I'd turned a corner when I could start making some level 3 creations but nope... Any fight that goes past two rounds (which is most of them) is almost certainly a fail.

 

I think, for me, part of it is that GF1M is quite a bit different to the GF I could play blindfolded, and there's a lot more depth and strategy to creations. I'm at the point now where I'm going to start a new save to get my head around everything on Veteran, because it feels very frustrating to have to be picking away at 3 or 4 zones to get enough experience to finish one of them and progress the story. 

 

I'm a bit out of practice with SW games, but in the past I've beaten E1-3, A1-6 (and the remakes), and GF1-5 on the highest settings and this one feels much more punishing and even a little unfair in parts. I'm hoping my opinion changes as I get to play around with the game mechanics a little more!

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SW games have definitely been receiving finer-tuned balance recently, which I think is awesome.  The result is that Torment feels different.  It used to be that it was punishing and terrible for casual players, but if you could exploit the right aspects of game balance -- Vlish, Divinely Touched, Adrenaline Rush, etc. -- it became pretty easy.

 

The fact that Torment is now tormenting, period, is great.  IMHO.  Do appreciate how thoughtfully everyone's been talking about this -- it's nice to hear different perspectives on this, and it's some real food for thought.  I can really see how "Geneforged Shaper getting 2-shot" could feel either thematically appropriate, or not, depending on how you look at it.  (I'm not sure, though, that Augmented Sholai can fairly be called "run-of-the-mill" anything.)

 

But at the end of the day, there are multiple difficulty settings for a reason.  If someone finds the highest setting too easy -- or, worse, they find the lowest setting too hard -- then I can understand the complaint.  But if the highest setting is too hard (or simply too frustrating, as it's sometimes felt to me), there's an easy option.

 

I've made that choice, sometimes, with a few past SW games, and turned down the sleep number.  Not that Torment was unbeatable, but just that I found I had more fun on a lower setting.  And i remember that feeling of, ugh, I've always done Torment, do I really have to swallow my pride?

 

For me, at least, that was easier to swallow than a finite-quantity consumable item 😉  My min-maxing runs deep, but it turns out my achievement-seeking doesn't.

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Jeff said in his recent Reddit Q&A that he plays on normal difficulty. He has beta testers for harder difficulties, not many of them, but they figure out exploits to get through and then Jeff removes them.

 

Avernum 5 was the game where Jeff wanted more than a save game before or during a difficult fight. He wanted to know how the beta testers were getting through the fight which wqs the elimination of having augmentation and essence shield to increase health. Then there were the limits in summoned creations in Avernum, Avadon, and Queen's Wish where players could keep summoning creations until the fifth was over, there was no more screen space to put another, or you ran out of spell energy.

 

But Jeff did change higher game difficulties to have different abilities and not just multiply all stats and let the players face a battle of attrition to see who could outlast the other.

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1 hour ago, Randomizer said:

Then there were the limits in summoned creations in Avernum, Avadon, and Queen's Wish

Give me back my Avernum 3/BoA vampires please!

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I'm really happy with the current state of our difficulty system (as seen in new Geneforge and Queen's Wish). There are basically 4 sorts of people who play our games, and each difficulty caters very well to one of them. The difficulties are distinct enough that they're basically 4 different games.

 

There really are people who play these games who insist on achieving maximum efficiency with their characters and being destroyed if they don't, and Torment is for them. Veteran is the Serious Gamer/Actual Challenge setting. It is quite tricky. I don't play it.

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1 hour ago, Spidweb said:

It is quite tricky. I don't play it.

Yeah we know, we've seen your streams of your playing... :p

Edited by TriRodent
I can't spell your...sigh
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1 hour ago, Spidweb said:

I'm really happy with the current state of our difficulty system (as seen in new Geneforge and Queen's Wish). There are basically 4 sorts of people who play our games, and each difficulty caters very well to one of them. The difficulties are distinct enough that they're basically 4 different games.

The Man stated it best. I like the levels the way they are. I don’t play torment because I don’t want such torment from my pastimes. I play through the classes and factions on normal and then play my favorites on hard/veteran. I end up with Civilization type hours of play time on SpiderWeb games - and mostly complete the games I start as opposed to Civ games.

I am a big fan of the iPhone cum PC crpg Exiled Kingdoms, but there casual is a tad too easy while normal is a tad rough. I like the balance in game play styles Jeff offers. 
Others may differ.  It’s all good.

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A question directed at those who've done Guardian/Agent playthroughs...is it possible at all to clear every zone as a solo PC on Torment, i.e. requiring a bit of combat?

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I did a solo Agent and Guardian play throughs on Torment difficulty. There are some nasty areas, but if you go through in a different order than playing with creations then it isn't as hard as you might think. It helps to join the Awakened to get the training from Swan in Ellhrah's Keep.

 

Play to your strengths. An Agent relies on spells and a Guardian relies on weapons to get through most fights.

 

Some zones are easier with enough leadership to recruit NPCs or avoid nasty fights like at the Geneforge. However I did do one where I waited until the Sealed Lab to get my first free point in Leadership, then got the Girdle of Leadership, trained in Drayk's Vale, before putting a point into it and going back for free skills from Leadership of t. This was harder, but still possible.

 

It helps to get Mental Magic in the Tombs and then increase it to 3 as a Guardian so you can use Dominate to charm battle creations in endgame fights.

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I think Torment mode is in a pretty good place, personally, although I would have to say Mutagen is significantly more difficult on Torment than Queen's Wish was.

 

The latest update changed the hp formulas a bit, so characters are a little less squishy now at least (without enemy hp being affected).

Edited by Mechalibur
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In Geneforge 3 and 4, my 100% armor and 100% all resistances made the prospect of torment seem easier, albeit still challenging. Mutagen completely turns the tables however seeing how, never before have I ever been consistently bested by tier 1 creations, such as fyoras and thahds. It helped in G3 and G4 that I could at least land my melee attacks consistently..

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