Geneforge 5: Overthrow

is the final installment in Spiderweb Software's Geneforge saga, a series of fantasy-themed role-playing games. The Geneforge saga features enriched story lines, open-ended gameplay, and multiple endings, but lacks graphical sophistication or a quality soundtrack. With Geneforge 5, the developers have crafted a strong ending note to the series, but the game's main problem is also its main selling point: it looks and plays like a game released 15 years ago.

The Geneforge saga revolves around the rise and fall of an extremely powerful race of magicians known as Shapers who have the power to create sentient beings to do their bidding. The earlier games in the series deal with the subsequent rebellion as some of the sentient beings were pissed off about the whole being-controlled-by-the-Shapers thing. Geneforge 5 allows you to play as part of the rebellion or an ally of the Shapers. Through your journey, you'll work with different sects, go on quests, choose sides, as well as learn close-combat, magic, and creature-creating abilities.

Geneforge 5 reminds me of Blizzard's series, which divides characters into different class types, features a distant third person isometric perspective, and also tasks the character with hoarding lots of dropped loot in their pursuit of some goal. Of course, holding so much loot will encumber you in combat, so you also have to choose what loot you grab carefully.

Real-time adventure mode switches to turn-based combat mode when you encounter enemies, something that happens constantly unless you opt to avoid them. The combat uses a classic system involving items, spells, and creations as your tools of destruction. In a repetitive pattern, you'll encounter the same poorly animated worms and troll-like creatures in the various dungeons you explore. The AI in the game is challenging and you'll want to quicksave often because you'll likely die several times the first time through an area.

The game allows you to use diplomacy and stealth in certain situations, but as any RPG-fan will tell you, the easiest way to gain experience is to level up through combat and quests. That means you'll get used to seeing that same firebolt animation hundreds of times in a given session playing Geneforge 5.

Various maps let you see which of the dozens of areas you've visited in the game's progress, and a green outline denotes if you've cleared an area. The journal feature is also helpful to keep track of your quests, and the item, spell, and weapon menus are easy to use.