Review: Genesis Alpha One (PS4)

Review: Genesis Alpha One (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Genesis Alpha One
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (7.37 GB)
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Publisher: Team17 Digital Limited
Developer: Radiation Blue
Original MSRP: $29.99 (US), £24.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Genesis Alpha One is a first-person roguelike shooter with ship building and resource management. Focusing solely on any one of these genres would have been daunting enough for a small independent developer.

Radiant Blue decided to tackle this monumental task in their first game as a new studio. And while very ambitious, it’s not a complete shock that it didn’t quite come together in the end.

As someone who enjoys a good science fiction novel, there are some interesting issues/questions that the game raises but never addresses.

Corporate greed, environmental damage, food shortage, and overpopulation are all common reasons for humanity to look for a new home. The use of clones is not too big of a leap of faith either.

Splicing in alien DNA on the other hand is a different issue, forget about asking if a clone is really human. If my humanoid clone can’t breathe oxygen and has a head that looks more like a lobster than a human, did we really save humanity?

The first Genesis planet I came across required everyone to breathe something other than oxygen, requiring my crew member to have alien DNA spliced into theirs. It certainly wasn’t the brave new world I was expecting. The greenhouse video on the PDA even says, “different species need different biospheres”.

Review: Genesis Alpha One (PS4)

It’s one thing to attack to an alien that was accidentally beamed aboard with wreckage from another ship or stowed away on my harvester. It’s another to always attack first and, well, never ask questions later when visiting other planets.

Some alien creatures resemble spiders but there are also humanoids. Some must be intelligent if they have the technology to teleport close to your location. I’m sure many players will never give these points a second thought, if at all. In the end it doesn’t affect the overall game, it’s just a shame that they couldn’t find a way to work in some answers.

Genesis Alpha One has a surprisingly good tutorial. The first time through the game, you’ll be forced to choose the tutorial faction. A voiceover walks players through various aspects of ship building. Selecting a module will prompt a description of that module and the role it plays.

There are videos on your PDA if you need a refresher and for when new modules or situations arise. You can also trigger a voiceover in any module for further explanation.

My first game was not going great, but well enough. Then everything rapidly fell apart. Literally fell apart. The modules started exploding and falling off the ship. No power, no life support, game over.

The tutorial provides a solid foundation but leaves room for plenty of surprises and learning by trial and error. Even when playing as another faction many of these tutorial aspects carry over.

Review: Genesis Alpha One (PS4) Review: Genesis Alpha One (PS4)

Every game starts by building the base of your ship. Initially your resources are limited so only a few essential modules can be chosen. The ship building works well with a controller thanks to a button press that will automatically snap a module to the nearest connection point.

At any point a module can be salvaged for all the resources used to build it. Just make sure it’s not sure holding any crew members or a bunch of resources. This is helpful because as the ship grows you may realize how inefficiently it is laid out.

The ship has some customization options and the crew members and ship can be renamed. I ignored those but I color coded important modules which made it easy to find the room I was looking for in an emergency.

The majority of my time was spent managing the ship’s operations, especially resource gathering. Here is the balance of risk versus reward commonly found in roguelikes. The tractor beam can gather resources without sending crew members out and possible encountering enemies.

Any enemies beamed aboard the ship with the resources are smaller. However, the tractor beam can only gather certain types of resources and usually the quantity of a resource from a wrecked ship is smaller than what is available on a planet’s surface.

With the hanger modules, the harvester can be sent to the to the planet to collect resources. There are pros and cons to going with the assigned crew members on the harvester or staying behind on the ship. However the crew members can’t be directed to gather the one resource you need and ignore the others. So you either have to send the crew back multiple times or go and gather the resource yourself.

Review: Genesis Alpha One (PS4)

Soon, gathering the necessary resources will require travel to areas with a higher danger level. This means the captain and crew will face more dangerous enemies on the ground and likely have more powerful enemies catch a ride back to the ship aboard the harvester. Let a few powerful humanoids loose aboard your ship and they will wreak havoc.

Even if you have a crew member assigned to the cloning facility or weapons shop, you still have to go there to start the cloning or manufacturing process. With new clones, you would then have to go to the module and assign them.

I’m not sure why this can’t be done from a menu or your PDA. Does the ship not have a communication system? Imagine if Captain Kirk had to leave the bridge every time he wanted something done.

Most of the time half of my ship was empty. If I had to go somewhere to start a process, I might as well stay and help finish it. Having a crew member there would have helped to speed things up, but the time to have them leave their current assignment to help and then have to go back and re-assign them to the old task would take much longer than any benefit of having them there.

Genesis Alpha One is not a good FPS. I have not tried nor researched all of the guns, but based on my experience, the guns have no impact. There is no kick or recoil, you can’t aim down sites, and the enemies show no sign of being hit.

The crew members and enemies also have bad AI. They just stand around and shoot until one of them is dead. The player can jump and squat. I don’t remember any of my crew members ever doing either of these.

Review: Genesis Alpha One (PS4)

The humanoid enemies usually stand in a group and move as a group. There are no tactics involved and never makes you feel skilled. It reminds me of games like the Fallout series. Shooting is the main form of combat but not the focus of the game.

The crew members will react to any aliens that get aboard the ship but somehow can’t see or won’t react to a fungus growing in their work environment. I lost a crew member who slowly died from a fungus growth.

The fungus was everywhere and he never did anything about it. He just kept walking through it and standing next to it. I had to keep checking the room periodically to destroy any growths. I felt more like a babysitter than a captain.

For all the technology available aboard the ship – cloning, DNA splicing, beaming resources on board, and later a hyperdrive – you’d think the ship would have top of the line systems. Yet all the power nodes in a module can be damaged by an alien and the captain is not notified. There are some warnings but they’re not always clear.

There is no option to assign a clone to maintenance tasks to ensure the power and life support is always up and running. For a crew member assigned to security, exploring the whole ship looking for enemies who have created hives and multiplied would have been very helpful. To me, it seems like there are some obvious systems and roles missing from the ship.

Most roguelikes have short runs building up to longer runs for the last boss fight. The shorter runs help feed on the “just one more go” mentality. My first try was a few hours long. The time commitment for each run, and thinking about how many runs will be required to unlock everything, can make it hard to want to jump right back in.

Review: Genesis Alpha One (PS4) Review: Genesis Alpha One (PS4)

Visuals:
I understand that Genesis Alpha One is a first person game, but the character models still don’t look good. Talking to a crew member or when someone is promoted to captain happens often enough that it’s hard not to notice the character models.

Most of the alien creatures are variations of different types of spiders. The majority of human sized humanoids look similar. The most creative character design I saw was a small humanoid that shot fireballs at my crew and reminded me of a troll doll. This is unexplored space. Where are the aliens with six arms, three legs, or two heads?

More than a few times my crew members got attacked on a planet by humanoids. I would rush over to help save them and, if it was dark out, I couldn’t tell who was who until I was close enough to use a shotgun.

The planetary environments are also limited since the area that can be explored on each planet is small. Whether dark or lit up by a nearby star, most of the planets blend together. There’s nothing to really make one stand out over another.

Overall the art design is a bit too safe and feels like they did just enough to get by. Star Wars or Star Trek, think of all the different types of aliens and planets. I didn’t see one creature with tentacles.

Audio:
The music on the start menu does a good job of relaying the danger ahead and the urgency to save humanity. Most of the music has an electric synth undertone that will familiar to science fiction fans. The computers seem to be ripped out of old sci-fi movies and have sounds effects to match.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Review: Genesis Alpha One (PS4)

Conclusion:
The developers at Radiant Blue set their eyes on a huge task but in the end Genesis Alpha One is a jack of all trades and a master of none.

The further I got into this review, the more I realized how little of the ship functioned without my direct input. Instead of Captain Kirk, I am babysitting my crew members who can’t take directions or make decisions on their own.

I love the idea of exploring unknown space and gathering resources to improve my ship. However, the gameplay never comes together. The ship management side of the game becomes frustrating when your ship starts falling apart because basic information was not clearly relayed to the captain.

It’s not easy to put into words but the more I played, the more I knew this is not how a ship should be run. The ship’s different systems should be more integrated and function differently. And lastly, the shooting is not fun enough to keep players engaged.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Matt Engelbart

Matt Engelbart

I love all things video games. When I am not gaming I am watching the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, BBQing, and reading.

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