BioForge (1995)

BioForge (1995), directed by Ken Demarest, script by Jack Hermann, developed and published by Origin Systems Inc.

Sometimes there's one design aspect that can destroy a game. If that one piece of design is pivotal enough, it can be enough to render even most interesting of games into a terrible experience, that makes most people turn the game off, never to return to it again. BioForge has this exact flaw, which especially in these modern times, causes me to just stop playing it and opt to watch a playthrough of it from Youtube because it's better that someone else suffers playing it.

This design flaw is the controls of the game, which also translates to the combat system of the game. But more of that later.

You wake up from a prison bed, guarded by a droid, that keeps injecting you with meds in order to keep you in that bed. The best course of action is to beat the robot up so that it doesn't only stop keeping you and your android body down, it also crashes to the security filed of the door, opening you a way out.

This is probably a good time to mention, that you've lost your memory as a result of experiments done to you. So not only are you a prisoner in some sort of a facility, you have no idea who you are and why these things have been done to you.

The cell next to you is inhabited by a raving lunatic, who has just lost his arm. If you've read the manual, you know that the dude is a former head of security at the base you are in. Mastaba, the insane doctor running the show has made an example out of him as well, turning him into a crazed, blue-skinned human/machine hybrid.

After you get out from the cell block, a couple of immediate dangers jump to your face. First off, there's a looming nuclear disaster, as the reactor core is going to critical. And then there's a group of soldiers closing in, surely aiming to capture you.

Throughout the game you find logbooks and other computer entries painting a picture on what has been going on in this remote base called Daedalus. Not only is there a deranged technology obsessed sect called the Mondites, but there's also a threat of the ancient alien technology, which looms over the archaeological site of the base. And after you've taken care of those little dilemmas as well as found out who the heck you are, it would finally a good idea to get the heck out from Dodge

The game itself is pretty atmospheric, blending in pre-rendered 3D-graphics and low-resolution mid-90's bulky real-time 3D models, which look surprisingly good all things considered. The script is more than serviceable and even the voice acting is good for its time.

Despite all this, I just can't get around the controls. Once upon a time, I was able to grit my teeth and play the game through, but now I just can't bear to play with the terrible tank controlled protagonist. I would be able to muddle through the game with tank controls if not for the combat. That terrible, clunky tank controlled combat, which is a nauseatingly cumbersome experience even when you play the game in the easy mode.

Like I said, sometimes it doesn't take more than one design point to ruin a game and for BioForge it is the terrible controls, which would make me rip my hair if I wouldn't already be bald. BioForge is a game I want to like, but can't get myself to play, because such a pivotal aspect of it is so terribly designed. I'm sure there's more bad design in it, but the controls are so bad, that they just overshadow everything else that might be wrong with it.

The thing about tank controls is, that it's terribly hard if not impossible to translate them into a fluid motion. This doesn't only manifest itself when you try to precisely steer yourself towards something, it positively shines during combat, when you try to aim your fleshy little android towards the enemy you are trying to hit or shoot. Even in the easy mode, you need to go through some battles a couple of times, as you might even end up shooting yourself instead of the enemy. On melee combat, you get hit only, because you are looking a bit in the wrong direction.

Like I said, I could forgive the tank controls, if there was only adventure gaming involved, as that rarely requires precise movement controls. When you tie combat to it, the matter is entirely different. This isn't even close the similar case that the original release of Grim Fandango was with its inclusion of tank controls, far from it. Not that I liked controls in that either, but at least there was no deadly combat in it

BioForge is the kind of a game, that exists to be remade or remastered. As it is now, I'd recommend it only if you are far more forgiving about bad controls. Otherwise, I'd recommend you to wait until the end of days if someone ever does do a remaster of it.

But if you are a glutton for a punishment and opt to try it yourself instead of watching a YouTube playthrough, you can get BioForge from GOG.



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