LGR – BioForge – DOS PC Game Review

LGR – BioForge – DOS PC Game Review

[typing] Aw, man, I can’t help it. I’m always so drawn to this one,
even though I know the truth about it. Bioforge, developed and published by
Origin Systems in 1995 for MS-DOS PCs. I freakin’ LOVE this box cover with its alien-looking x-rayed hand
glowing like something out of Fallout. Then you see… “Take the starring role in
ORIGIN’s latest Interactive Movie.” Ugh… “Interactive movie.” Not exactly a term that’s thought of fondly nowadays and it wasn’t always back then either. We have full-motion video games to thank for that. But yeah, they were really pushing the interactive movie
thing on everything from the box to the advertising. Part of this was because they used
something called a “flock of birds” suit to capture the animations for the characters in-game, resulting in a motion-captured performance
for gameplay and cutscenes. So that means that Bioforge was one of the pioneers in the usage of fully texture-mapped skeleton-based
characters via motion capture in video games. Pretty neat if you ask me. Inside the box, you get the game on a single CD-ROM, a play guide which features all the controls
and a short walkthrough of the first area, an install guide and reference card for technical stuff, a sneak preview of BradyGames’
official guide to the game– and a Field Personel File, which features a ton of information
that you’ll find in the game but in dead tree form. No shortage of awesome physical stuff inside as one might expect from Origin, and I approve whole-heartedly. Bioforge begins with a beefy intro flick explaining the story thus far
without explaining anything at all. It’s purposely vague since this is an amnesia story where you’ll slowly unravel the details
through reading discarded diaries and such, taking a note from Origin’s own System Shock. Not the only similarity either, since most of the plot revolves around
dark sci-fi weirdness in space, filled with killer robots and
misguided scientific experiments. But it branches out into its own unique narrative and is a different type of game entirely, hinted at by the absence of any main menu. Select your combat difficulty and they game starts straightaway with not
so much as a single indicator of what to do. In fact, there’s no HUD or visible UI at all, save for some optional status text that
sometimes pops up at the bottom of the screen. It’s just you waking up with no memory locked in a room with a floating
nurse-bot of suspicious intentions. And thus begins the first of many puzzles: how to get past the robot without getting zapped then how to get through the door
without getting fried on contact. [electric shocks and man screaming] There’s actually a walkthrough for
this area in the included play guide, but it’s easy enough anyway and
serves to teach you the basics. Normally, you’re just walking around when playing, but if you press C, you enter Combat Mode, when everybody is kung fu fighting. Kick or punch the droid into the door to kill it and the force field then pick up and examine the items in your room. A hunk of meat can be placed in
your inventory for future munchies, and a log book provides you with a little backstory. Bring up your wrist-mounted data pad which provides access to your inventory, vitals, journal, and options menu. Oh, and this is one of the earliest games
I remember to include proper gamma settings, which isn’t really important, but it amuses me. From here, the world is your
dystopian, cyberpunk oyster, with your goal being to find out who you
were before your memory was wiped and you were turned into this
freaky awesome cyborg thing. And to make this identity quest a real challenge, every other choice seemingly
results in your grizzly death. It actually reminds me a bit of the feeling
of playing so-called cinematic platformers like Another World and Flashback and Blackthorne in that it’s a crapload of trial and error mixed with making careful
and specifically-timed actions. But obviously, this is no 2D platformer, instead taking place in a 3D environment, with 3D characters walking around a pre-rendered 2D background. Running into the next room
or even to the next camera angle often results in a puzzle of some kind appearing, whether it be action-oriented or logic-based. It’s entirely possible to screw
things up beyond repair, too, so saving often and in separate slots is a must. Another reason to save a lot is
because health is a constant issue, since you hardly have any of it and there a precious few ways to restore it, with your suit quickly running out
of energy when trying to heal you. Although the fact that your guy gets bloody and
walks with a limp when hurt is an awesome touch, it happens far too easily. What makes this even more
challenging is the control scheme, infamously referred to as “tank controls.” You can rotate left and right, walk or run forwards and
backwards and step to the side, but it’s all done from fixed camera angles
with your character as the point of reference. This was seen previously in Alone in the Dark, and in later games like
Resident Evil and Grim Fandango, and I don’t have a problem with them in theory. In fact, they work pretty well for this kind of style. But what I do have a problem with is that you’re often fighting with the
camera angles to do what you want, which leads to things as simple as
walking through a door becoming an ordeal. Beyond that, the combat in the game is atrocious. It’s slow, unresponsive, and vague, and I’d recommend playing on
the easiest combat difficulty to make it slightly less irritating. Keeping in line with being a virtual actor, you have total control over your
characters limbs and movements through a combination of the arrow keys,
the numpad, and the Alt and Control keys. For instance, holding down control
and pressing the numpad keys will result in a number of kicks playing out. Holding down Alt will give you some
punches and defensive options, and moving around with the
arrow keys while this is happening will drive you crazy. It feels like you’re passively giving suggestions rather than directly controlling your character, and that’s just the melee combat. Getting into a firefight with blasters
is also nothing short of silly, and the only way to make this work is by
taking advantage of the world around you. Shots can be bounced off certain walls, which is actually pretty neat, and if you place your guy *just* right, you can shoot around corners, but both of these take a bunch of time to get right and are pretty annoying actually, so, you’ll just want to run past everything when you can, or use the sidestepping exploit
so that enemies ignore you. That’s the bad stuff though,
and thankfully there’s some notable good. Bioforge is a game that
instantly pulled me into its world through its visuals and sound design, then kept me hooked through its
narrative and copious journal entries. The amount of stuff on offer to read here is staggering. And yes, you WILL need to read it
in order to solve many of the puzzles, since the answers contained within
are randomized each playthrough. Beyond that, it’s just a threatening and
somewhat creepy world to explore, and I love that! There are many locations where I can’t help but stop to admire those pixelated low-poly models and listen to the eerie ambience. [wind howling] It’s a world that constantly makes me
want to trudge onward and see what’s next even though I often regret
that decision soon after I make it. Like with this stupid timed bomb puzzle where you have to float around using an alien artifact, hop over a bunch of platforms, make a run through enemy fire, then carefully drop the bomb at a door
and run away before it explodes, all within a handful of seconds. Screw that entire hair-pulling sequence. It barely works and it’s dumb. Yeah, Bioforge still gets me all
mentally aroused when I play it, as long as I put myself in that mid-’90s headspace of “Whoa! Computer games are cool! I like computer games and this one is different, so that means it’s great.” The chunky software-rendered graphics are something
that I’ve come to enjoy again in recent years, too, if only because of the huge
amount of imagination needed. It helps keep my brain young
or something, so that’s good. And I do enjoy this style of action-adventure game, so it comes very close to scratching many geeky itches. The problem is, instead of only those
nostalgic spots to scratch in pleasure, I end up with infected sores from the awful combat and increasingly unforgiving action-puzzle sequences. I can easily see why it’s well-remembered, but at the same time, I can see why it’s
something that incites mass rage quits. I respect it quite a bit from an
artistic and programming standpoint, and I really do think that they
were onto something great here, but it falls short of being great
due to so much of the gameplay itself. And they seemingly knew this, since there was a planned update
called Bioforge Plus set to come out featuring a better energy source for health, better weapons and improved combat. But poor sales prevented this from ever coming to light. Still, at the very least, I’d say
it’s worth trying out what we did get through the version on GOG.com, and if you’re into collecting, it’s a really neat box, too. But yeah, just know what you’re getting into and be prepared to forgive a lot of awkwardness. [flute playing] If you enjoyed this video featuring
cyberpunk forks and flutes, then you might just enjoy more LGR. New videos arrive every Monday and Friday, so subscribing may prove beneficial. As can following on Twitter and Facebook, where we can talk about old games and new games and maybe even types of cheese. There’s also Patreon if you’d like
to support the show financially and see videos weeks in advance, among other perks. And as always, thank you very much for watching.

90 thoughts on “LGR – BioForge – DOS PC Game Review

  1. Gotta love the charm of those old games along with the sound blaster 4 operator FM sound.
    A couple worthwhile weird/obscure 90s games you might wanna check out – ZPC and Blue Ice

  2. It really was my first and last original game I´ve ever bought. It was a blast back with our first family p90 Computer. I remember that 1MB cost 70DM which would be around 50 Euros today. SO our first setup with 550MB HDD, 17" Eizo, HP 690C, QuadSpeed CD Rom and 16MB Ram along with a Pentium 90 was around 9.000 DM when I was 13. That´s mindblowing 6500 Euros today, with a technology that was obsolete almost 2 years later.

  3. I miss the naivitee of 90's games. At a time before CD burning and the internet when each game (even the not so great ones) were a treat to taste slowly. Nowadays we are bombarded with entertainment, sometimes of objectively higher quality. That's why point and click adventure games dies. Because "why the hell should I waste so much time on a puzzle when all these pretty games can give me instant gratification. Who cares if the fact that there is so much handholding that they are actually more on rails than even BioForge"

  4. Honstly, this looks like a game that would really benift from a reboot. Vastly improve graphics, and just slightly tweak game play (keep it movement and combat slower compared to modern games, but not restricting like a modern horror.)

  5. Yeah, I was one of the rage quitters of this game. I played thru a bit… and I was like… ahhh… nope… I will play Doom now

  6. I used to have this game called the journeyman project turbo…have you ever played it…it reminds me a little of this

  7. FMV is the way to be. Those who didn't embrace the next level, are why we are forever lost in the non-volumetric video wasteland polygonal nightmares.

  8. oh man, i had this on cd-rom and could never remember the name. i remember the gameplay was pretty bad though.

  9. dude I love your channel , I live for these strange old video games. you and Cinemassacre should do some work !

  10. Wow I’ve been trying to remember what this game was for years! It ran terribly on my PC back in the day but I still recall that damn starting prison scene.

  11. I simply ADORED this game and finished it without a guide. Took forever, as a kid, but well worth it.
    Also – boo for playing on easy combat. Hard makes every repeated move slower, forcing you to mix things up.

  12. Does anyone know what happened to the `Collector's Edition` app on Android? And does anyone know what happened to the sequel for this game?

  13. This is one of my favorite games of all time. Probably in my top 10.
    It was so deep and complex, beautifully designed and well-acted (mostly, it's a 90's game after all😏). Contained an amazing combination of multiple game-genres and innovative story telling, enhanced by very decent visuals and smooth movememnt.
    Love it. Simply love it.

  14. Around this time I was 9 years old playing Bioforge and Crusader: No Remorse, two games a 9 year old shouldn’t be playing 😂

  15. G'day LGR, reckon you could review FADE TO BLACK. I loved that game when ported onto the PSX. Hella hard game that was 👍

  16. I was specifically looking for this game review. Thanks for covering it! When I tried playing this as a kid, I found it too scary and didn’t really get anywhere lol

  17. NEVER had the money or the PC to play this game.
    Was still playing CIV……
    Glad I did NOT upgrade!!!!!!!!!! Awful.

  18. Liberated a jewel case version of this for $4aud on Friday. Always remember this nearly getting game of the year back in '95 – how time flies

  19. I remember playing the demo in the '90s and only played the full game a couple of years ago. It was a huge exercise in frustration and annoyance but somehow it still kept me playing until the end.

    I reckon it's ripe for a remake.

  20. Love the game so much, it's a really great piece of sci-fi goodness. Also, I personally think that tank controls are demonized beyond measure, they weren't that bad.
    Edit: Shit! Now I'm really upset that we didn't get to enjoy Bioforge+!

  21. Man I loved this game. While I was waiting for it‘s release, I wrote a little diary from the perspective of the protagonist being transferred to the planet. :p

  22. Geez I remember buying this game used and my mom drove me over to post office to get it. That was about.. uhh 23 years ago, damn

  23. Not gonna lie, I used to own this game. At the time, the combat didn't register as awkward to me because many games for that time had, in my mind, a "learning curve". While it can't be denied that the combat, looking at it now, is awful, when I was younger, landing a hit was soooooo satisfying.

  24. Can't believe I only discovered this review now. This was one of those weird, out-there kind of games that I treasured as a little kid. Weird, lonely atmosphere. Creepy minimalistic music.

    I played it with my best friend for hours on my Dad's Compaq Pro Linea CDS 33Mhz SX. We took turns being backseat-driver while the other battled with the janky controls, the awful hitboxes (before we even knew what those were), and raged at the impossible puzzles. It took us months to finish it even though we played after school several times a week.

    "A hunk of MEAT!" was an in-joke we'd utter for years. Good times.

  25. Oh man, the 3D models walking around in a pre rendered screen that is just a image. The times, the times they are a changing. This was a leap in different tech, the atmo man the atmo of this game was incredible, CD-rom titles, loved it, never had the gear to play it proper though.

  26. 8:20 – 8:34 That's called, Nostalgia Herpes.
    With modern medication you can live with it, but, every once and a while it'll flair up.

  27. Bit late to the party but man I loved this game when it first came out. I even loved the combat, I thought the way your opponent reacted to your hits, falling when hit in the head or doubling over when hit in the gut, was amazingly realistic. One of a very short list of games I was ever able to finish. Finished on a cliff hanger too if I remember rightly 🙁

  28. I got this game as a kid on my PC and I loved it to bits… it was awkward and clumsy, but it sucked me in, lol. I don't remember the graphics being that bad though, my rose-tinted specs must be pretty potent. In all honesty, I don't thin I ever completed it.

  29. I buyed Bioforge immediately it came out to stores, i loved it. I played whole game but I never couldn't discover my identity

  30. Bought this game the same day I bought Relentless: Twinsen's Adventure. Relentless was a better game but I was very impressed by the BioForge slick Hollywood style presentation…

  31. I gotta say the voice clip that plays when you get fried by the door is hilarious. You should re-enact it in a future LGR movie, especially if your playing a shitty DOS or Amiga game.

  32. When i was young i had this game. My computer could never run it, but i always stared at it wondering how it would be.

    Guess i didnt miss out on much.

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