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File:Geneforge2SplashScreen.jpg
"Who has the courage to allow themselves to be rewritten, remade?"
—Shaping journal, Geneforge One

A series of 5 Role Playing Games for Macintosh and Windows by Spiderweb Software, which is more or less the brainchild of Seattle-area programmer Jeff Vogel. The games revolve around Shaping—the most prominent form of magic in the game world—used to make creations that, in theory, obey their creators absolutely. The masters of Shaping—Shapers—have absolute control over the known world. Occasionally, a creation will go rogue, but the majority seem to be happy with their lot. Naturally, it all Goes Horribly Wrong.

In the first game of the series, the player is a new recruit sent away to finish their training. Instead, they wind up on Sucia Island, which was abandoned two centuries ago and declared Barred by the Shapers. The player must then decide how to respond to all the creations living outside of Shaper control and forbidden technology lying around. In the second game, the player starts out as an apprentice Shaper who discovers that the forbidden technology and independent creations have secretly found a foothold on the mainland. Each subsequent game follows the attempts of human and creation rebels to overthrow the Shapers and the attempts of the Shapers to regain their old level of control. In every game, the war and chaos escalates.

It can be purchased at the official website, here. The series is also available for sale on Steam.


This game provides examples of:

  • Action Bomb: Pyroroamers do this automatically when killed. Unstable creations, wingbolts, and rotdhizons in the later games also explode on death, though it isn't their main purpose.
  • A God Am I: Abuse of canisters can trigger this in the PC. Don't ask what happens if you actually use the Geneforge.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: One of the subtle differences between the Shaper PCs in the first three games and the rebel PC in the fourth.
  • All in a Row
  • Almighty Janitor: the first two games have you fresh out of Wizarding School, the third has you still in it when almost everyone inside is massacred, and the fourth makes you a new recruit into the rebellion.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: averted with most species, but Gazers/Eyebeasts definitely fit. They look upon other sentient beings primarily as food, and even the other rebel creations rarely like or trust them.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: a consequence of differentiating otherwise identical characters via Palette Swap. Interestingly, their appearance in-game may not match their description.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Quite a few of the character models, allowing them to be used for both males and females. (Others are just always male or always female--only townsfolk get different models for different genders.)
  • Amulet of Dependency: Canisters provide the user with a substantial power boost, writing magic and shaping abilities into the user. Side effects may include emotional dependency, cravings for more canisters, lack of empathy, uncontrollable temper, and feelings of A God Am I.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Taygen in the fifth game, down to the concentration camps and plan to exterminate all creations (Even serviles). The fact that some people consider his side the best should give an idea of to what degree Grey and Gray Morality applies in this series.
  • An Economy Is You: Averted. Merchants explicitly only show you what you might be interested in and some you can't trade with at all because they only have things useless to you.
  • Anti-Grinding: Once you get too powerful, you start getting very little experience from killing weaker foes.
  • Armless Biped: Glaahks and podlings.
  • Badass Bookworm: Every Shaper.
  • Badass Long Robe: Shapers again. This potentially applies to serviles, though NPC serviles are rather less intimidating. Lampshaded by the description text for cloaks and robes.
  • Barrier Change Boss: A few minor bosses.
  • Big Bad: Trajkov in 1.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Zakary and Barzhal in 2.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The first game's best ending. You defeat Trajkov and destroy the Geneforge, and are hailed as a hero, but your excessive use of canisters (which occurs regardless if you used any at all) causes your body to mutate into something not fully human, and while you're still considered a hero, you're forced to remain out of public eye. Also, the Shapers forcibly bring the Awakened, Obeyers and Takers back under their control, and the future Big Bad Duumvirate secretly steals the plans for the Geneforge, setting up the events of the future games.
  • Breaking the Bonds: Khyryk in the fourth game, when captured by Monarch.
  • Breath Weapon: Fire for fyoras and drayks, electricity for drakons and kyshakks, acid for roamers and artilas . . . Really, there are quite a lot of examples.
  • Bonus Dungeon: Every game, and they're not pleasant.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: Shaping, Shapers, reShaping.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: In the sense of an already darkly comic series becoming bleak enough to suggest a Creator Breakdown, ultimately culminating in the entire series being nothing but the final memoirs of a long dead era.
  • Closed Circle: The first game. You're on an island, and you have no idea where a boat might be. Later games often limit where you can travel with impassable checkpoints and gates. Some can be passed at a certain point; some are just walls by another name.
  • Color Coded for Your Convenience: If it's red, it's probably going to spit fire at you. If an upgraded Palette Swap is blue, expect ice.
  • Com Mons: fyoras, available from the start of every game and usually the only creation an Agent will ever make. They're something of a Magikarp in that with their stats maxed out they can take down a drakon, but compared to a drakon with its stats maxed out . . .
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Played straight with heated floor tiles. Painfully averted (in more ways than one) with heat from machinery.
  • Critical Encumbrance Failure: Played straight until you reach encumbrance weight, though the AP deduction depends on how much you're carrying above your normal limit.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Pretty much played straight for the main character. Others may panic and flee from combat when badly wounded, however, and your creations may even attack you.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Shapers tend to "destroy" rogue creations rather than "kill" them.
    • This isn't intended to be euphemistic. Creations aren't considered human, sentient, or worthy of moral concern; "kill" would imply that they're at least living beings.
  • Defector From Decadence: Khyryk in the fourth game, having failed at Conspiracy Redemption. Litalia goes through this three times in the series, eventually taking up Khyryk's cause.
  • Determinator: Alwan. Granted, he begins as a Cowardly Sidekick, but he doesn't stay one. By the fifth game, he's leading his own faction despite having been rendered immobile and constantly in pain.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: The Goettsch ending of the first, obtainable by defeating Trajkov and destroying the Geneforge, but leaving Goettsch alive. The ending plays up much like the best ending, but quickly turns into this as its revealed Goettsch, driven mad by the loss of the Geneforge, gathers whats left of Trajkov's forces and incites a bloody war that lasts for centuries.
  • Dialogue Tree
  • Dual Boss: Several, typically synchronized. Some are even Creepy Twins.
  • Duel Boss: Stanis in the second game--you fight him in an arena filled with devices that stun creations.
  • Easter Egg: Having 8 of the same type of monster on the title screen of Geneforge One (and possibly the others as well) gives you an interesting message that is otherwise unfindable.
  • Empathic Weapon: None are intelligent enough to talk, but a few are genetically engineered and crudely alive. Batons even eat and mate.
  • Emperor Scientist: The Shapers are either this or The Magocracy, depending on whether they qualify as scientists or magicians.
  • Enemy Summoner: Hostile Shapers in the later games can make new creations during combat. You can't.
  • Everything Fades
  • Evolutionary Levels: Actually Justified--a lot of the higher levels of creation were made by messing with the genes of lower-level creations.
  • Fantastic Racism: Humans towards serviles and drayks; drayks towards humans; drakons towards everyone.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Batons fill the niche of guns.
  • Flunky Boss: Frequently.
  • Forced Tutorial
  • Forgets to Eat: Many Shapers.
  • Friendly Fireproof
  • Full-Contact Magic: Casting attack spells uses the same animation as physically attacking.
  • Functional Magic: Divided into Battle Magic (Elemental Powers), Mental Magic (Psychic Powers), Blessing Magic (non-healing White Magic), and Healing Craft (healing White Magic).
  • Fungus Humongous: Spawners and turrets.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: Alwan and Greta in Geneforge Three.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: No one will comment if you make illegal creations.
  • Get on the Boat: Geneforge Three is horrible about this. Thankfully, no boats sink.
  • Global Currency
  • Golem: Part creation, part mechanical.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: So frequently that properly designed laboratories and workshops can be sealed off instantly, even if it means killing everyone inside.
  • Graying Morality: Word of God has it that this was intended to occur over the course of the first game. Arguably, it's more subtly developed over the course of the series, as the rebels got more opportunities to make their arguments (and even took the spotlight in the fourth game.)
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Every faction has its good points. Every faction is also willing to Kick the Dog to win. Many factions are willing to go even further.
  • Happy Ending Override: Each sequel opens with the war and chaos being bigger and bloodier than the previous installment.
  • Harder Than Hard: The Torment Difficulty is Nintendo Hard.
  • Healing Potion: Pods help the PC only. Spores help the entire party.
  • Heroic Willpower: Trajkov in Geneforge One and Litalia in Four and Five manage to avert With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The Takers, as the series progresses. The narration will make sure you don't miss it.
  • Hide Your Children: Since Geneforge is the sort of game that lets you kill innocents if you want to, you won't find any humanoid kids -- aside from a couple of serviles whose descriptions indicate their youth. However, you will find packs of drake children in some of the games (though they look the same as adults). Since they haven't learned to be civilized yet (picture an angry toddler in the body of a dragon), you may actually HAVE to kill them in order to avoid becoming their dinner. One also has to consider whether sending newly-made intelligent creations (drakes, gazers, etc.) into battle is equivalent to employing child soldiers. What Measure Is a Non-Human? is probably in play.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism
  • Inherent in the System: The consensus in-game is that now that there are Creations who can themselves Shape, it will never be possible to keep Shaping under control again like it was hundreds of years before the first game. Unless you're a member of Taygen's faction, anyway.
  • Insurmountable Waist High Fence: Over and over.
  • In the Hood: Shapers are commonly illustrated with faces deeply shaded by their hoods, sometimes to such an extent that only their Glowing Eyes of Doom are visible.
  • Item Crafting: An early form appears in Geneforge Two, and the next three games feature a complete system, as well as what amounts to Socketed Equipment without the sockets.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: Geneforge One, Two, and Five have one for Refusal of the Call. Five gives one if you anger every faction. Every game also has a shorter version if you die.
  • Joke Character: There is a hard-to-get canister of create ornk (a pig-cow hybrid) in every game.
  • Karma Meter: Combined with Relationship Values for factions instead of individuals.
  • Kill All Humans: Unintelligent rogue creations, plus insane intelligent ones.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: The PC. Sure, there are some things that NPCs will get pissed off at you for stealing... but the game tells you which ones they are. In fact, when you open a cabinet or something, the game automatically has you take all money inside and puts it in your event log. Unless it's marked as Not Yours, in which case the money just sits there with the letters "NY" in the top right-hand corner.
  • Lego Genetics: Not horrible, and often avoided with creation research, but present.
  • Lemony Narrator: Because of the snark.
  • Limited Sound Effects
  • Locked Door: Occasionally. Some locks won't open even when you use the max mechanics skill of 30 on them... then, if you've cheated, you will find that some of them still won't open even when you use the maximum-strength Unlock spell on them, which is the equivalent of trying to pick the locks with a mechanics skill of 210. You will wind up having to use many of the game's lockpick equivalents on these things of you don't have the keys.
  • Luck Stat
  • MacGuffin Title
  • Made of Explodium: Just about any power spiral or complicated piece of machinery is prone to exploding. It gets several Lampshades.
  • Magitek: Or possibly Magic From Technology.
  • Mana: Two types, energy and essence. The former is used solely for spellcasting. The latter is also used in many spells but is mostly used to make and strengthen creations.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Shanti in Geneforge Two. Definitely a Player Punch.
  • Missing Secret:
    • The unopenable door in the end of Geneforge Two, plus many small things.
    • The most prominent example would be Nodye Coast in Geneforge 5, everyone talks about it and describes it as a perfect, peaceful Utopia where all is well, even the map itself hammers this in by showing Nodye coast having more cities than the rest of Terrestia combined. The problem? It's impossible to get there, even with cheats. Councilors will constantly use a bait-and-switch technique by saying they'll give you a pass into Nodye Coast if you do a favor for them, and then after you're done, giving you money, weapons, fame...but no pass to Nodye Coast.
  • Money Spider: Thahds and battle alphas. Most other foes drop appropriate items.
  • Mook Maker: Spawners, a creation that can Shape a never-ending stream of weaker creations.
  • Multiple Endings: The number of endings is huge, mainly depending on which faction you helped and your hidden Karma Meter, but there are also some minor changes that depend on small plot points. Almost all are Downer Endings or Bittersweet Endings.
  • Munchkin: Since the Shapers and Rebels in Geneforge 4 often force you to choose between their quests and their respective rewards, wringing the best loot out of both of them has been elevated into an art form. The PC can also discuss this trope if the player wishes.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Servile cultists (with names like Unending Purging) and occasionally canister addicts (like Monarch).
  • News Travels Fast: If you give an opinion or do something else to change your reputation, everyone will know about it instantly.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Averted to the point that the damage done by an early threat can remain a plot point and source of conflict long after it's been defeated.
  • NPC Amnesia
  • Numerical Hard
  • Omnicidal Neutral: An option in the first two games. Don't try to do this in the fifth, it doesn't work, but it should be pointed out that in the first two games it's actually one of the best options in the results. The first game doesn't really use the sanity meter, but if you pull omnicidal neutral in the second with a minimum canister run you can have pretty much the only ending where the council respects you in any of the games. Best option for you or the pragmatic choice, depending on viewpoints.
  • One Size Fits All
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Parry in the second game can make you almost indestructible.
  • Optional Party Member: Alwan and Greta
  • Organic Technology: Doors, control panels, weapons, and much more.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Drayks and drakons.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Some are the spirits of the dead. Others are creations. Still others are spontaneously created by high concentrations of magic.
  • Pamphlet Shelf
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Anyone who can Shape is an army.
  • Phantasy Spelling
  • Phlebotinum Overload: One way Trajkov can be killed in Geneforge One. You can also kill yourself this way.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Khyryk in Geneforge Four.
  • Player Mooks: Your creations.
  • Plot Coupon That Does Something: The canisters and Geneforges that frequently drive NPCs insane also affect you.
    • The Geneforge itself. In earlier games, it's the MacGuffin that impacts the story and the character who uses it, correctly or not, including the player. In later games it appears in the beginning, but there's always a more powerful Geneforge under construction somewhere, some of which your player may also attempt to use.
  • Power Born of Madness: Servile cultists.
  • Power Glows: Canister addicts develop Glowing Eyes of Doom and glowing skin of doom.
  • Power Degeneration: Charged creations in Four & Five are significantly more powerful than regular creations costing the same amount of essence, but continuously lose health and die when leaving a zone. A rebel Shaper in Four describes them as basically being Phlebotinum Overdosed.
  • Psycho Serum: The canisters and Geneforges.
  • Quest for Identity: The PC in Geneforge Five. It turns out you are a Protagonist Without a Past.
  • Restart At Level One: The PC in Geneforge Five.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: Giant rats.
  • Schizo-Tech: The setting is a fairly generic fantasy world except for the huge laboratories and complicated machinery necessary for advanced Shaping.
  • Scratch Damage
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The basic premise of the series.
  • Series Continuity Error: An entire continent mysteriously vanishes between the fourth and fifth game.
    • It doesn't 'disappear', it's just not mentioned and the player isn't allowed to travel there.
      • It's barely mentioned in the fourth game, either. Consensus on the Spiderweb forums has it that it's been retconned out of existence.
  • Servant Race: Most of the creations in the game. Most notably, the serviles.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The ultimate ending in Geneforge 5 explains that the trials and triumphs of everyone in all 5 games, including every single decision the PC made, was all just the forgotten records of times long past.
  • Sickly Green Glow: Canisters.
  • Sidekick: Alwan and Greta in Geneforge Three.
  • Sssssnaketalk: Drayks and drakons.
  • Solo Character Run: A popular choice when playing an Agent/Infiltrator or Servile.
  • Soul Jar: Spharon in Geneforge Three.
  • Speaking Simlish: The background noise in towns includes people speaking random gibberish.
  • Stupid Good: In Geneforge 3, Greta believes strongly in the rights of creations but seems less concerned for all the people the rebels are killing. She becomes more nuanced in the later games.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Shaping plays this trope to a T. New creations are traditionally made through experimentation, making one new creature after another with one slight modification each time and recording the results. The first game is about you being stranded on an island where you discover an abandoned research facility that had discovered DNA, and subsequently magical genetic engineering. The series as a whole delivers the message that the process of gaining knowledge gives you the wisdom to use that knowledge, and that simply being given power will lead to abuse.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence
  • Take a Third Option: The Trakovites in Geneforge Four, complete with an ending that's somewhat hard to get.
  • Take Over the World: Shaper Monarch in Geneforge Four.
  • Talking Your Way Out: A major use of the Leadership skill. Often by Talking the Monster to Death.
  • Tele Frag: Khyryk in Geneforge Three. Not a canonical death.
  • The Chessmaster: The Drakon Ghaldring, who created Ur-Drakons to be improved versions, but knowing how they operate, established a society of byzantine customs and heirarchy, in which he consistently plays the Ur-Drakons against each other, and themselves, to maintain dominance.
  • The Dragon: Litalia for the Rebellion in Geneforge Three.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The rebels are frequently as bad or worse than the Shapers, especially the drakons. If you align yourself with Ghaldring in V and help him destroy the Shaper Council, the epilogue mentions that there is subsequently another rebellion against the drakons when they start oppressing the humans and lesser creations.
  • Third Option Adaptation: Every sequel changes the backstory of the previous installment just enough that no ending is ever canonical.
  • Title Drop
  • Tuckerization: See this thread for a list.
  • Tyke Bomb: The smarter creations.
  • Universal Poison
  • Useless Useful Spell: Dramatically averted. On normal difficulty, debuffs and crowd control spells are useful but not overpowered. On higher difficulty levels, they're practically necessary. This is because while enemy damage and durability increase massively, resistance to debuffs goes up only a little, if at all.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Every faction is willing to Kick the Dog to achieve their ends.
  • Vendor Trash
  • We ARE Struggling Together!: The humans, serviles, drayks, and drakons of the rebellion do not get along with each other.
  • We Buy Anything
  • We Cannot Go on Without You: Typically Justified, since your party members are Monster Allies, but not so much in Geneforge Three if you have Alwan and/or Greta with you.
  • Wings Do Nothing: Drayks.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: One of the main reasons for the rebellion. Under the Shapers, creations have no rights and any overly independent creations are supposed to be killed.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The nearly inevitable result of canisters and Geneforges.
  • You No Take Candle: Many humanoid creations. Some intelligent serviles choose to speak this way.

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