I’m a fan of a number of genres, such as Resource Management, Base Building, Roguelike, Exploration, Simulation, First Person Shooters, etc… However, I don’t think I’ve ever thought to myself – what would happen if you shoved all of the above into a blender and created a multi-genre cocktail. Fortunately, I don’t have to think about the possibilities as Radiation Blue have basically taken this idea and combined it all together into a nice little package called Genesis Alpha One.
I don’t think I’ve actually played a game with as many genres as Genesis Alpha One, it’s a Jack of all trades kind of game, leaving me with an initial bad impression, becoming more interesting over time as I get used to the mechanics, and eventually clicking with me as a rather intuitive and fun experience. Genesis Alpha One isn’t perfect but I’d like to tell you about the things I liked, and the things I didn’t like throughout my 15-20 hours of gameplay.
We’ve all heard of the story of Genesis Alpha One before, in some form or another. I’ve been likening it a little to Stargate: Universe. Earth has gone to shit and everyone needs to evacuate and find refuge on another planet within the procedurally generated universe. However, instead of sending out expendable humans on this long and perilous mission, the Genesis mission is being performed by a bunch of clones which also includes the Captain (you).
Initially, you’ll begin your adventure as a 100% human clone with basic attributes and skill levels. Yet, as you explore the many planets you come across, you’ll begin to splice your DNA with that of other species in order to create the perfect balance for both your crew and settlers on a habitable planet. However, discovering this planet will be a long and tiresome journey as you beam aboard resources, land on alien planets, uncover ancient technologies, and fend off against both alien invasions and infestations!
This is an adventure which is most certainly a life or death expedition for both you and your cloned crew. You just have to remember, no matter how hard you try, in space; nobody can hear you scream!
He’s dead Jim!
I really didn’t like Genesis Alpha One when I first played it. That’s a bit of a bold statement but 100% true. The game felt clunky, monotonous, confusing, difficult, and pointless. Then I skipped the tutorial and the game instantly became fun! That’s right – the tutorial is really annoying and way too hard and confusing. Sure, it teaches you the basics on how to play the game, which is great as there is a lot to take in within this game, but it doesn’t explain things very well. One such example is, at one point your ship gets an infestation of aliens and fires begin which results in you eventually suffocating and being blown out into space – there was no indication on how to put these out.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – “you’re just crap, Rob!”. Maybe I am, but I know three other people who also did the tutorial and hit the same snag with the fires and being sucked out. Looking back on it, I believe it’s because you need to run through the tutorial fast as, if you take your time and explore then you’ll get ripped to shreds once things start to go South. Skipping this tutorial and starting the game normally instantly made the game more relaxing and enjoyable.
As a side note, I think this is the only time I’ve ever died during a tutorial. Ever.
As I mentioned earlier, Genesis Alpha One is a mish-mash of various genres which have all been stuck together with some superglue and polished with very pretty graphics. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a little ‘random’. I think the best way to conduct this review would be to explain each of the genre-defining influences and then sum things up as each genre seems to have its own role within the game.
This is the first aspect you’ll come across. As captain, you’re in charge of not only micromanaging your entire crew but also in charge of how your space station is built. A simple tap of the TouchPad sees you enter the construction mode, a mode which reminded me a lot of games such as Planetbase and Surviving Mars (only it’s a ship and not a base on a planet). You’ll initially have access to the essentials such as a greenhouse, crew quarters, clone lab, tractor beam, corridors, and a few other essential buildings. However, as you uncover new technologies, either from traders or planet excursions, you’ll get access to more advanced versions of the rooms and some new structures such as shields and security wings.
The base building in Genesis Alpha One is quite simple yet comes with a level of strategic elements within it; you can go for a simple single-layered ship or opt for a multistorey one with security terminals in case of invasions and plenty of safe rooms. The game really doesn’t hand-hold you on this either. Outside of the initial “you must build these parts to stay alive” portion of the game, you’re free to build whatever you want, as long as you have enough resources…
Resource collection and management:
I love games which have some form of resource management within it – Tropico, Deep Rock Galactic, The Tomorrow People, Railway Empire etc… I don’t know what it is, but collecting things tend to entertain me whereas the process may bore or annoy others. In Genesis Alpha One, there are two ways to obtain new resources, both are dangerous yet essential to your mission. First of all, once you build a tractor beam, you can pull in resources from floating debris which is within your current vicinity. Resources pulled in this way are 100% usable as soon as you obtain them – although there is a chance you’ll beam in some alien scum as you farm.
The second method is the most fun as it involves visiting one of the hundreds of randomly generated planets. Once you have a hanger, you can either send up to two of your crew down to a planet to harvest materials whilst you do something else, or you can hop into the ship and go down with them. Either way, up to five harvested items can come back aboard the ship, all of which (other than plants) will be in the form of ore. Ore must be refined via a refinery before it becomes usable in any manner.
Personally, I enjoy games like this – sure, it can get a bit repetitive after a while as you go down to the planet, mine a few rocks, then return. However, seeing as all the planets are different with various times of day which alters the lighting and atmosphere, it all feels very fresh and different as you never know what you’re going to get. Also, whilst on the planet, you’ll be under constant attack from swarms of aliens coming at you from all directions. This leads me to…
First Person Shooter:
One word – dull. Okay, I’m being a bit harsh there! The gunplay leaves a lot to be desired within Genesis Alpha One. First of all, there are no iron sights and the Right Stick is a little too sensitive, this makes getting in some precise shots almost impossible. To combat this, the developers have given us quite big, and circular, reticules – so anything within the circle will be hit upon firing our weapon. However, it never clicked with me and the whole combat mechanic was one of the worse aspects of the game in my opinion. It’s not terrible and a reason not to buy the game, I just feel the rest of the game had more care put into them than this aspect.
So, who, or what, will you be shooting with your various weaponry? Annoying insects and aliens. For the first few hours, you may only see giant maggots and spiders (a bit like Starship Trooper), but you’ll eventually see upright aliens who shoot bullets, fire or energy beams at you and your crew as you try and steal all of their resources on their home planet. The enemies come in all shapes and sizes and also varying difficulties – in some stages, the small bugs are so hard to see that you’ll be dead before you can even pull out your gun and turn on your torch!
Other times you’ll be required to don your space-pistol is aboard your own ship. Yup, the aliens will come aboard and try to take you down from the inside out. Not only do you get boarded via the tractor beam, as I mentioned earlier, but later on the upright ones will invade as their spaceship gets within proximity to yours – for me, this meant an instant death as they are so hard! The other thing you’ll need to look out for is the infestations. If you don’t kill all of the smaller bug aliens when they get aboard your ship, they could end up laying eggs and larvae within the service tunnels underneath your rooms. This leads to a full-on freakout when you suddenly see dozens of red blips on your map as they all begin to hatch. The solution – check your tunnels regularly and ensure you have no stowaways on board.
Speaking of the planets, there’s another thing you can do…
Genesis Alpha One is crammed full of places to visit and explore with some of them offering more surprises than the rest. As Captain, if you go to the bridge, you can see a map of the entire universe which was created for this run. You can scan and see what every planet and debris is within a nine-block square around your current position (3×3 grid). You can apply filters to the universe to show you where any known location of a certain alien, resource, tech upgrade, or Genesis planet lies, but you’ll only see these if you’ve already scanned the planet or have uncovered an artefact which tells you where all of a certain item lies.
Some planets have ‘sites’ listed when you scan them. The most I’ve ever seen is two on a single planet. Once you land on one of these (you have to go, the crew won’t do it on their own), you must find a piece of foreign materials and scan them to 100% in order to receive a new artefact. These can range from the location of an upgrade to the upgrade itself, or even the location of a new building blueprint. The structures you scan will vary from a spaceman’s grave to a fallen satellite, some of these are also incredibly hard to find on planets with dense forestry and at night time.
Now, one thing I think I have to mention is; this isn’t No Mans Sky. Sure, there are a lot of new and exciting planets to uncover, but you can’t walk for 20 hours in one direction before you return back at your ship. These are small instances which have a forcefield around a set distance – so you can’t wander off too far. The mining resources are always within rocks that are located in a circular fashion around your craft so that you’re crew don’t have to venture out too far away from the ships machinegun defences when mining. I found it fascinating as all the planets seem very different and have really pretty visuals and their own time of day – but if you were to strip out the visuals then other than the variety of aliens, all planet drops are pretty much the same.
Micromanagement and Roguelike:
Genesis Alpha One has a bit of micromanagement within it, although once you’ve set it up then a lot of it becomes automatic. I’ve touched briefly on the various things you can do as Captain, such as scan planets, beam in resources, go down to alien planets etc… However, this is why we have clones! You can assign up to two clones to almost every building you create within your ship, this ensures that the crew will automatically work for you. Pop two people into the tractor beam room and they will work on beaming in resources, the bridge crew will scan random planets, and the greenhouse group will planet and maintain your atmospheric creating plants.
The downside is, you have to manually walk to the rooms and initiate the action before they’ll do it automatically in some cases such as making clones, weapons, what to beam in, or plant. Yet rooms like the refinery and the bridge will automatically do things without your say-so. I personally wish we could set more rooms to automatically do things – for example, telling a clone room to automatically clone a certain species if one is killed would save me having to tell it manually each time.
Speaking of killing clones, Genesis Alpha One has a rather interesting Roguelike mechanic in terms of what is classed as a game over. When you inevitably die as the Captain, you’ll instantly take over the body of another clone on your ship – this is at random and can’t be changed from what I can see (unless you have a specific room which lets you assign who the next Captain will be). This essentially gives you another life. Once all your clones are dead, then it’s game over and your progress save is wiped (as it’s a Roguelike game). So, as long as you can keep your number of clones up, you have plenty of lives.
Speaking of the clones…
Do clones breed?:
The final thing I wish to talk about is the rather intuitive DNA splicing within Genesis Alpha One. Okay, you don’t splice anything manually, but you uncover new DNA samples as you take out alien species’ which you can use to create new variations of your clone army. These require a few things though – biospheres you collect off dead bodies, the atmosphere being generated in your ship via their species’ plants in the greenhouse, you must have found and researched the DNA for this species, and you need to have enough room in your crew cabins. If you meet the criteria, say hello to your new insect-man crew member!
Each species has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some will be highly intelligent and able to perform tasks like refining much faster than others, yet they may suck at combat. Others will be vice-versa and should be taken onto the planets as they have more health and much better weaponry. It’s all about finding the right clone for the job and abusing their one and only positive trait.
In a similar fashion, you can also uncover the DNA structure for alien abilities and weaponry – these allow you to use their own offensive attacks against them – which is awesome.
The sum of all parts
So, what is Genesis Alpha One? It’s a space exploration first person roguelike with an emphasis on base building and resource management. Personally, the tutorial disappointed me and I didn’t think I would play much of the game after it, but I carried on and really started to enjoy it. I actually like it so much, I’ve played it every day for over a week now. One thing which may surprise a few people is that you may actually go around 5-7 hours on a single run before you either die or successfully initiate the Genesis program on a planet. For a roguelike game, that’s a very long time, especially if you get boarded at seven hours and have to start all over again from the beginning.
However, all the parts (other than the combat) come together to form a really well polished and designed game which has a steep learning curve yet delivers a lot of satisfaction once you finally create enough clones to land on a valid planet for the re-birth. It is very heavy on its micromanagement and resource management, as you’ll be spending a lot of time looking for planets with the materials you need to build specific upgrades, but that’s the sort of game I enjoy. It’s a game you can pick up and play for a few hours then come back to it later in order to make some more progress.
Also, as it’s a roguelike game, upon either dying or winning, you can pick to take any artefacts you’ve found into your next run (up to a certain amount) so that it’s a little easier and/or informative from the start. Genesis Alpha One is very interesting and a game which I can see getting a lot of mixed reviews based on the reviewer’s fondness of the included genres. I’m one of the lucky ones as I don’t mind monotony or repetition as long as I feel like I’m making progress and accomplishing something – which is exactly what I felt whilst playing Genesis Alpha One.
As you can most likely see from the screenshots, Genesis Alpha One looks bloody fantastic. There are a few anomalies, such as the night levels which are filled with dust which reflects your torch and makes the screen look ‘off’ a little, but the majority of the planets and the ship looks great. I love the god rays coming in around the objects and the ship as you land on very colourful planets just as their sun is shining in the distance – if there were no aliens then it would be a great place for a picnic!
The characters all look very distinct (not ones of the same species as they are all clones, but the cross-DNA ones) and I love the fact you can rename every single person – maybe something that streamers can do for their subs? On a side note, you can even fully customise your ship by painting it in various colours to suit your mood as well as renaming it. It’s small touches like these that didn’t need to be in the game yet they add a bit of extra personalisation to the whole experience.
Finally, the sound. The music is really fitting for Genesis Alpha One, keeping you in suspense when it ramps up and you know there is an alien infestation going on below your feet, to the silent of space with only the ambient noises to keep you company. Various characters will talk and offer single one-liners, these are all professionally sounding, and the sound effects of the aliens are all as you’d expect.
Also, I don’t know if it just feels like it, but on my PS4 Pro the game felt like it was running at 60fps (or at least an unlocked framerate with no slowdown)
My only complaint in the technical side would be the combat mechanics and the tutorial. If those were both touched up, we’d have an amazing game on our hands here – for those who are fans of the genres above.
47 minutes of gameplay:
Genesis Alpha One is the Frankenstein concoction of many different genres, and I love it! When you’re not trying to expand your ship with new and essential components, you’ll be micromanaging your crew of clones or down on an alien planet harvesting materials. It’s all very unpredictable and you’re always on the edge of your seat, especially when you start to hear sirens and see a bunch of red blips appear on your map!
The combat itself isn’t the greatest, with sensitive controls and an ‘off feeling’ non-iron sight mode, but you’ll eventually get used to it and it will begin to feel much better. For a roguelike title, I found the time spent on each ‘run’ was quite long, this made getting eliminated much more intense and impactful.
If you’re a fan of base building, resource gathering and management, roguelikes, and micromanagement, then you should check out Genesis Alpha One today – out now on PS4, Xbox One and the Epic Games store.
Genesis Alpha One£24.99
- - Beautiful lighting and visual effects on all the random planets
- - Very deep gameplay which will last you many, many hours
- - Lots of strategy involved if you wish to stay alive
- - Jack of all trades, yet combines them seamlessly
- - Every playthrough is different
- - The gun mechanics are a bit iffy and too sensitive
- - The tutorial is far too brutal with no explanation on fires and how to put them out!
- - Some people may get put off by the monotony of harvesting (I didn't)
- - Not everyone likes having permadeath as a forced feature (with only one auto save), but I was fine as it made the game more intense