Review – Genesis Alpha One

Genesis Alpha One is a collection of good ideas which can be roughly summarised as a combination of FTL: Faster than Light and the Aliens movie. You play as a captain of a corporation sent out to populate planets in the galaxy. This is exactly my type of game, but unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to its full potential and just feels half finished.

The main goal of Genesis Alpha One is to find a new home for humanity. You do this by jumping from star system to star system searching for a potential homeworld. Once said place is found, you need to deploy a certain amount of crew members who are adjusted to that planet’s atmosphere. You do this by growing plants related to the desired planet. This is where the roguelike elements come in, as every planet is completely random. If you die, it’s not game over yet. You get to take control of one of your other crew members. Losing everyone means it’s game over and back to the start. It’s an interesting gameplay loop that works really well, but it’s also where the game starts to really fall apart.

The minute-to-minute gameplay is divided into two major sections: base building and combat. You have to survive alien threats while managing to maintain your crew alive and building up your space station. These components work together for what should have been a compelling experience, but they each have a varying degree of success.

You will be very familiar with this room after a few hours.

First up is the base building, or more specifically, ship building. This is where you will spend most of your time in Genesis, so you’ll get really familiar with it. You have to outfit your ship with a greenhouse, storage room, tractor beam and quarters for your crew, among many other things. The first ship that I designed looked a bit ridiculous but I have to admit that I do like how many options you have to make your ship your own. You can paint individual sections if you like, and assuming you have the room for it, place any module anywhere. This is the part of Genesis Alpha One that works best, just crafting your own ship and exploring it.

There’s some strategy in the base building and micromanagement mechanics as well. Managing where you place each of the many possible modules can impact how you play the game. If you don’t know your way around when there’s an infestation going on, that could spell an early end to your mission. More on that later.

You can also build a hangar with a landing craft to go down to planets. It’s not particularly the most detailed or seamless addition but it’s a nice break from your ship. Whenever you’re down on a planet, you will find a variety of resources and materials to collect and bring back up to. Early on in the game, there’s little to no risk of dying, but later on you might want to bring a few crew members and a couple of turrets with you. You don’t even need to be onboard to deploy your lander. Just send a couple of crew members down, but this also increases the chance of bringing an alien onboard.

Planetary landings make for a decent enough change of scenery.

The combat is laughably bad, comparable to the likes of Aliens: Colonial Marines. Enemies will run and try to attack you in a single line, and the guns you have don’t really feel satisfying to use. They don’t provide a lot of impact, and other than the shotgun, they just feel useless. The friendly AI around your ship isn’t much better. Much like the landing craft, enemies can spawn on your ship through the tractor beam. Even though I’d constantly set up a turret near there,  I’ve had to run in to deal with the threats myself multiple times because the turret and the crew member who should operate it wouldn’t be able to solve the problem themselves. Leave an alien on your ship for too long and the infestation will spread, making it much harder to deal with.

The tutorial introduces you to the basics of the game, but it doesn’t remove the element of discovery, as you still have to figure most of the mechanics out yourself. The no hand-holding approach is something I praised BELOW for, and I will praise it in here as well. Genesis doesn’t give you any direction after the tutorial, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, the pacing of the game is a bit off-putting. Resource collecting with just one tractor beam is painfully slow, taking a while to simply get one piece of the resource you need.  You can speed up the process by interacting with terminals, but it’s far from ideal. You also might have to do multiple hyperjumps to find something worth your while, and even when you do, it’s not overly interesting. It’s just more resources that you need. There isn’t anything exciting beyond the first few hours. You will occasionally find new upgrades but again, it’s nothing exciting.

The visual and sound designs are also mixed bags. Gun models in particular don’t look very good and the overall interface can be really untidy to dig around. Alien creatures look laughably bad and there is a distinct lack of variety among human character models, with your crew members looking almost identical to each other. I do like some of the game’s design choices, though: the monitors and UI are clearly inspired by the original Alien franchise, which all look great. The sound design can be best described as just being there, not really adding anything to the experience or taking anything away from it either.

Genesis Alpha One is a collection of really good ideas, but its execution ended up being very messy. I really hope the developers don’t abandon this game as it is, as there is some serious untapped potential to be a great game in here as long as they fix its many issues.

 

Graphics: 6.5

Whenever there’s something inspired by Aliens, it actually looks great. Anything else looks very forgettable, though.

Gameplay: 6.0

Building your own colony ship is great, but the core combat mechanics and the AI are abysmal.

Sound: 5.0

Nothing too bad, but nothing too good either; it’s completely forgettable in this department.

Fun Factor: 6.5

Alpha Genesis One is a game with great potential, but it misses the mark at launch due its various issues. I’m only hoping for further support after launch.

Final Verdict: 6.5

Alpha Genesis One is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Genesis Alpha One was provided by the publisher.

Advertisements