Geneforge 2 – Infestation


Review by · June 1, 2024

Geneforge 2 – Infestation is akin to pulling on a set of warm, comfortable clothes that you’ve owned for years: old-fashioned and a little rough around the edges they might be, but you enjoy their familiar embrace or the warm memories they trigger. The game evokes similar memories of CRPGs at the turn of the 21st century, played in darkened rooms with buzzing Pentium II chips and blazing CRT monitors. Geneforge 2 – Infestation is a sprawling CRPG boasting an unusual take on fantasy/sci-fi themes, solid progression systems, and a well-written, open story. The title stands proudly amongst its own Spiderweb Software cousins like Avadon, even with its nondescript graphics, forgettable sound, and clunky UI, making good on its intent to bring classic PC roleplaying into the current age.

First, a disclaimer: Geneforge 2 – Infestation is rooted in an older RPG design ethos. The aesthetics, whilst given an additional sheen and enhanced resolution for the modern user, are utilitarian and sparse. And there is very little hand-holding. The game respects your diligence, assuming you read through everything carefully and leave no stone unturned on the world map. Although this remaster of the 2003 original does add a lot of new content and refines some systems, these fundamental approaches have not changed.

It’s a good thing, then, that the narrative in Geneforge 2 – Infestation offers so much originality and player choice. As an apprentice Shaper, a powerful group of secretive mages, you must support a more experienced colleague in visiting a distant colony. Shapers can create different living tools and creatures from their magic, who serve them and provide both combat support and day-to-day utility. These powers elevate them above the common humans, who often view them with fear, awe, and supplication. It soon becomes evident that the colony has split into various factions, each with their own view of the status and use of Shaped creations. Throughout the game, questions around identity, servitude, and the responsibility of sentient life further draw the player into the world, and the story offers a level of reflection and thematic identity that some of the best narratives in the field achieve.

Geneforge 2 – Infestation‘s world is very open from the beginning. Most (if not all) areas are available for exploration after all the factions are identified, with the main narrative beats woven into this journey. The narrative is well written and presented throughout, and there are many ways to approach it. For those who have played the first game, some nice callbacks and lore connections further deepen the world of the Shapers.

A screenshot in Geneforge 2 - Infestation showing dialogue is presented in text boxes and features a few rare character portraits.
A portrait of an NPC. One for the spotter’s guide.

Exploration occurs on an isometric map with a fixed zoom level in real time. As Geneforge 2 – Infestation takes place primarily in isolated mountain valleys, graphical assets extend to various biomes: prairies, mountain passes, crystal caves, and such. Visuals are very basic, though, with changes in color and textures for each tileset as the main point of difference in each area. NPCs and creature sprites are similarly minimal and suffer from being quite small, so it’s difficult to make out much detail. Very few enemies or NPCs look distinct, and I struggled to remember how a single important character looked aside from the few that have portrait images during dialogue. However, well-written text pop-ups, which occur at key location points and when meeting important NPCs, bolster the underwhelming visuals. The writing here is expansive and often gives you clever tidbits about a certain area or clues as to what to expect from a character. There are few musical pieces outside the main title track, and ambient sound effects are mostly a very bland window dressing for the main story.

Limited aesthetics aside, the world of Geneforge 2 – Infestation differs from the usual fantasy settings and lore so many RPGs riff around. There’s a sparseness and desperation to the world and the inhabitants that serve the story well. For most of the narrative, you’re also the only main PC. Although you can create creatures to serve you in battle, it’s not a party-based RPG. There are no group dynamics or relationships to build.

Geneforge 2 – Infestation‘s character progression system allows you to allocate points to key attributes, such as Strength and Intellect, to determine basic abilities and builds at each level. You can allocate further points toward combat and magical/shaping skills, as well as additional technical skills such as lockpicking and leadership. A character with higher Energy, for example, can use magic more often. If you elect to focus more on Essence, however, you can create powerful, Shaped creatures to support you in battle. Equally, you could completely forego the magical elements and focus on a melee warrior specializing in high damage outputs and damage resistance. All the systems work well, and Geneforge 2 – Infestation is balanced enough to offer different tactics and opportunities for different strengths in exploration and combat.

Screenshot taken from Geneforge 2 - Infestation showing a game environment overlayed with a character info window.
Looks like our Esther is a balanced melee/magic wielder from the build.

The creature creation system is noteworthy. You start with some basic templates for the types of creatures you can create. These templates offer basic ideas as to their use, from ranged creations to melee sluggers, or creatures with elemental attacks. You can customize each creation in several ways. For example, a fire-based Fyora creature can maximize ranged fire damage. Or it could focus on better melee attacks and a larger health pool. There are additional active and passive ability choices, and they all increase the tactical options available.

And there is plenty of tactical combat in Geneforge 2 – Infestation, which uses a simple turn-based system with grid movement once enemies are engaged on the exploration map. There is no visual turn order, but combatants act on their agility. Abilities offer the usual array of offensive melee/magical attacks to defensive buffs/debuffs without much pizzazz. Enemy behaviors do present a decent amount of challenge. When first encountered, some creatures run away from you and try to lead you into ambushes or toward turrets or mines. It’s also not unusual to have further enemies coming at you in waves once your presence is detected. Enemy AI is clever enough to keep ranged attack creatures at a distance and cramp your party with tank-like beasts in such a way as to make movement challenging. The AI also doesn’t hesitate to continually debuff you, making many battles a test of target prioritization and resilience. Combat is challenging on normal difficulty, and every encounter will need some measure of thought if you don’t want to over rely on precious healing resources. Unfortunately, combat selection and targeting are fiddly and often result in miscued targets or accidental movements. It happens enough to become annoying, and in some high-stakes fights, it can be the difference between winning and losing.

It’s in the combat where the systems link most with the narrative themes: have you dedicated yourself to empowering your main character, spending on top equipment and unlocking combat abilities? Or have you raised your Essence to allow you to create multiple creations to serve you? Have you gone for a few, powerful creations, or a swarm approach of weaker creatures? It’s a great twist and cleverly showcases the power and control of the Shapers. The act of Shaping emphasizes both the incredible power, and the potential inhumanity, of the Shapers’ culture. There was something quite chilling about having three or four nameless creations, who had served me loyally for several hours, only to discard them immediately once I encountered a new problem that needed new allies. Or, as I came to see them, new tools. Perhaps another gamer would see them differently and resist the compulsion to create and destroy forever, but I also think this is a fiendishly clever way of bringing the themes of the narrative into the actual physical choices made.

Geneforge 2 - Infestation combat involving the main character and an enemy in a urban dwelling.
Just another house call, Shaper-style.

As you can imagine for an older-school RPG, Geneforge 2 – Infestation is not a short game. The main story, involving factions at different ends of the world map, takes around 50 hours to complete on normal difficulty. It’s also perfectly feasible to simply explore interesting map points and ignore the main plot. There’s plenty to do, for sure, and the game offers many incidental quests, as well as crafting and reputation systems, for those who like to find and do everything.

However, despite a quick-travel system, losing the momentum of the main story quests is easy. There are quite a few moments whilst traversing a random location, looking for loot, where you will meet a character at a camp or a bunch of enemies that conclude a quest point you’d forgotten about for the last dozen hours. To get the most out of Geneforge 2 – Infestation (and any game in the series, truthfully), be prepared for a level of emergent story-telling and a willingness to explore for the sake of it. The game does not have many quests or plot points that only take place in a given area. There aren’t any map markers or quest arrows, either. It pays to remember that reading the descriptive pop-ups is critical. Dialogue and descriptions often offer all the clues you need. And all you’ll get.

Geneforge 2 – Infestation brings to life comfortable RPG memories of clustering around your CRT monitor in the small hours, deciding to investigate one further map area for that clue or NPC you are looking for. The game provides an engaging world with a unique setting and outlook despite its graphical and UI foibles. Slipping back into this level of retro comfort will be easy for a core part of the game’s audience. For the rest, the frayed edges and old holes might just be enough to put you off committing to this particular brand.


Deep story with intriguing themes, creature creation aspect is novel, very open world with lots of player choice.


Graphics, sound and animation are very basic, narrative structure sometimes loses momentum, user interface clumsy in combat.

Bottom Line

Geneforge 2 - Infestation updates a classic RPG fix from the turn of the millennium, with the good (and not-so-good) parts of its heritage intact.

Overall Score 78
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Mark Roddison

Mark Roddison

Hi, I'm Mark! I've spent most of my life in the education sector, but away from this world I like nothing more than to slip into a good fantasy or sci-fi setting, be it a good book film, TV series, game, or tabletop option! If it is a game, you won't find me too far from the turn-based games. From Final Fantasy, to Shadow Hearts, to Baldurs Gate, to the Trails series, all have me hooked. When not indulging in cerebral turn-based nirvanas, I enjoy soccer, fitness, and music where I tutor keyboard and guitar professionally, as well as having an unhealthy obsession for progressive metal as well as some 80s synthwave. I nearly forgot I also have a lovely wife and little boy who also make great co-players! :-p