Genesis Alpha One is one ambitious and busy little game. Team 17 and Radiation Blue have been working on Genisis for a long time, and once you sink your teeth into it, it’s easy to see why the development cycle was so extensive. It combines complex ship (base) building, space exploration, survival, and roguelike first-person shooting. That’s a bold undertaking for even a large developer. Did Team 17 and Radiation Blue pull it off, or does it all collapse under its own weight? You know the drill, keep reading and find out.
The story goes like this: in the near future, wars, corrupt regimes, and global capitalism left unchecked have depleted our resources and caused pollution to run rampant. With the help of Earth’s last few governments, four corporations initiate the Genisis program. You are the captain of a Genisis starship, which you’ll need to explore a massive and randomly generated universe. During this mission, you’ll need to manage your ship, farm resources, master botany, clone creatures, and deal with alien infestations as you explore the vast universe. You’re not just out there joyriding, you’re searching for a new home for humanity’s DNA so our world doesn’t end because that would suck most hard.
As I said, you’ll find many genres here but I believe the true heart of Genisis Alpha One is the shipbuilding/survival. So let’s start there. Once you begin, the first thing you’ll need to do is build your ship. The only corporation unlocked at the beginning also doubles as a tutorial. It doesn’t hold your hand, instead only giving you the barest suggestions, such as which modules to build first, and an overview of the story. You’ll unlock other corporations fairly early, but I put over ten hours into my first playthrough before my beautiful ship was overrun and destroyed by aliens. It was a painful ending, But you do get to carry over some of the valuable artifacts that you acquire from each failed round. My second attempt with a handful of previously found gadgets and a new, stronger corporation is proving to be a faster run. With each unsuccessful mission, you’ll need to learn from your mistakes, or you’ll no doubt suffer the same fate.
You’ll be building crew quarters and cantinas, cloning labs, greenhouses, refineries, storage, deposits, tractor beams, hangar bays, safe rooms, and the list goes on. If you’re successful, your ship with have multiple floors and will look like a small city. It’s actually quite impressive to look out one of the many windows and see you ship taking shape as you build it. Of course, just like in real life, the bigger your pad gets, the harder it is to take care of, and this is no different.
The shipbuilding and managing are where this game is won or lost. You’ll need to use your tractor beam to mine space junk for valuable minerals, which you’ll use to manufacture ammo, build robots, expand and fortify your ship and fuel your hyperdrive. The tractor beam room is crucial, but it’s also where most of the alien infestations occur. I’d suggest assigning a couple of drones to work the tractor beam and also mount at least one turret in the room. If a sneaky alien goes unnoticed in a pile of space junk, it won’t be long before they multiply and take over your ship. These infestations are initially alien spiders or a quickly spreading fungus, but either way, you’ll need to deal with it quick. As you explore new planets, the aliens get bigger, and harder to kill.
You’ll be spending the majority of your time on the ship, but once you build a hangar, you’ll actually get to land a small harvester ship on any planet in the galaxy. This will allow you to get out and stretch your legs a bit and see some of the countryside. You’ll only be able to explore in a fairly small circle around the ship, but it’s a nice change of pace. Despite the different terrain and landscape, most of the planets felt similar, but they were always worth searching. This is where you’ll find the precious artifacts and a lot of useful alien DNA. But be careful, because the bad guys hate giving away their DNA. Probably because they have to die first.
Speaking of bad guys, there is a decent collection of weapons that you can find, including laser rifles, shotguns, miniguns, flamethrowers and more. Each of them can be upgraded, as well, if you have the necessary minerals to improve your workshop. Much like the exploration, the first person combat is a much-welcomed addition to the game but’s not nearly as polished as the shipbuilding and ship management portion of Genisis Alpha One. Make no mistake, this game is not a great first-person shooter, but it is a much greater experience due to this aspect of the game.
As you and your team fend off the hostile aliens, you’ll need to mine for whatever the planet has to offer. But be careful, much like the tractor beam, those cheeky creatures can sneak onto the ship and follow you home. In addition to picking up an alien infestation from the tractor beam, or the harvester, you’ll also need to be ready to defend against space pirates. I came out of hyperjump in my first playthrough next to a giant ship, and before I knew what was happening, wave after wave aliens stormed on board. The crew and I fought valiantly, but eventually, the pirates ended up killing me and every clone on board. I didn’t know what was happening until it was too late. On that note, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of clones on board because when you die, you’ll basically be reincarnated as the next highest ranking clone on board. In other words, as long as the clones are alive, you can’t die.
The cloning aspect of the game is nearly as in-depth as the shipbuilding. As you kill aliens planet-side or on your ship, you’ll collect alien DNA that you can study, and then mix with human DNA to enhance your own crew. What could go wrong, right? You’ll need to upgrade your cloning lab to do anything too advanced, but the benefits of these “enhanced” clones will come in handy. The first thing I noticed with improved DNA was the clones I had stationed about the ship would come running to nearby rooms if there was danger present. Previously, they would only engage if the enemy was in the room. Clones need to breathe, so you can’t make more clones than your greenhouse can support. With that in mind, finding plantlife that can produce breathable air is paramount.
How does the game look, you ask? The ship, both inside and out, looks great. Each room is unique and full of sci-fi’ish detail that really sells the part. Plus, I love the way you can see your new additions through the many windows on board. The guns look cool also, although they are not as varied. Very traditional looking weapons that you might recognize from Farpoint or Halo. The characters, especially their faces, don’t look as good as the ships. They are all clones, so each one looks the same, with only slight differences for the male and female. Most of them are wearing helmets once they get to work so it didn’t bother me, but the award for Least Polished Portion of the Game goes to the crew faces. Congratulations.
The sound is a bit of a mixed bag, although, like the graphics, they nailed the most important aspects of the sound. The sound effects on board the ship sound great. From the swooshing of the automatic doors, the blaring of the alarm and warning systems, the unearthly whine of the tractor beam. They all sound just as we expected them to thanks to George Lucas and Ridley Scott. The music is all very eerie and unsettling and adds just the right tension when things start to get serious. The guns don’t sound as good, nor do they pack the punch I prefer from dedicated shooters, but it’s not a game breaker.
The game runs great. The load screens are nonexistent and the only glitch in 20 hours of play was I saw a crewmember two separate times typing at a computer that wasn’t there. If I have a complaint, it’s that the game feels very cold. You don’t speak to anyone the entire time. You can “speak” to your crew via certain clickable dialogue options, but the printed responses are instructions only without even a trace of humanity. Every answer to your questions comes back like a paragraph from an instruction manual. A boring what at that. The lack of co-op play only deepens the solitude, but that isn’t uncommon in survival games. In fact, it’s probably by design. Either way, I would have liked a little more personality on board my ship.
Those nitpicks aside, Genisis Alpha One has already provided me with near twenty hours of addictive play and I have only scratched the surface of this game. I don’t know If I’ll ever find a suitable planet for us to live on, but it sure is fun flying around the galaxy in my badass ship.
Genesis Alpha One PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
Genesis Alpha One isn’t a great FPS, and if you’re looking for Mass Effect-like space exploration, you’ll need to keep looking. But if you like deep base-building sprinkled with light alien blasting and space mining, then Genesis Alpha One delivers big time.
Feature-rich and fun shipbuilding
very short load times and bug-free
The genre mashup keeps the game fun and interesting for hours
It gets lonely in space
The character faces look scary…in a bad way
Reviewed using base PS4.