Genesis Alpha One Review

Team 17 and Radiation Blue are set to take players on a difficult and engaging journey through space. Genesis Alpha One offers thrilling roguelike mechanics with a deep ship builder and fast first-person action, putting players in the role of an interstellar pioneer. The game takes place in a near future where pollution and war have devastated the human population. In an attempt to save humanity, influential corporations banded together to create the Genesis program. Your ultimate goal is to find new homes for humanity to save the species from extinction. You start the game by assuming the role of Captain on a Genesis starship.

As Captain, you assign tasks to your crew, add modules to your ship, stave off alien infestation, and explore the Galaxy. Genesis Alpha One is billed as a shooter in the Xbox store, but it is so much more than that. The roguelike elements that the game employs really ramp up the sense of desperation, and the randomly generated universe ensures a different experience with every play-through. What is a roguelike game, you ask? Well typically games that feature procedurally generated worlds, gathering resources, crafting, and perma-death, are considered to be roguelike; a genre of games that gets its name from the game Rogue, which was popular among college students in the eighties and early nineties.

I’ll admit that roguelike games are not really my cup of tea. The idea of perma-death and having to start over from the beginning is quite daunting. Especially, given the fact that every time you are forced to start over, you face all new challenges and obstacles. One of the ways the developer has helped to relieve my fear of perma-death is that you can gain “extra lives” through cloning. Your ship is crewed by human clones. Every time you die, one of your clones gets promoted to Captain, and players then assume control of the new Captain with all his or her strengths and weaknesses. As long as you have clones, you can continue on your mission. Even with this there are situations that can wipe out your entire crew very quickly.

Let’s talk about your ship. Naturally you start off small and build up to something more sizable. If there is a limit to how big of a ship you can create, I haven’t survived long enough to reach it. Ship design takes a modular approach and looks more like something you would see in real life than science fiction franchises like Star Wars or Star Trek. Ship modules include green houses, reactors, refineries, tractor beams, hanger bays, crew quarters, and a number of other modules that are unlocked through gameplay. Something to consider when building your ship is how to make it defensible.

You can build a labyrinthine fortress with twists and turns, elevators to multiple levels, or, you can build a long, straight run that’s miles long, à la Spaceball 1. Alien infestation is a real threat and can spread through your ship quickly. There is a variety of different types of infestation, which can be combated in a number of ways. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, so that’s all I’m going to say about that. But be prepared to panic. Weapons and defenses can be researched to help fight the various threats you will face; different breeds and species you encounter will have their own strengths and weaknesses. You can never have too many defense turrets, in my opinion.

One of the most difficult things to do as Captain is manage your resources. Everything uses resources that you must harvest throughout your journey. Whether you’re researching new weapons, building new module types, or even cloning new human/alien hybrid lifeforms, you must have the required resources to do so. Resources are harvested by beaming space debris from deep space shipwrecks aboard your ship, using the tractor beams module. Most of these resources are already refined, and so saves you a step. Another way to gather resources is by taking a harvester ship from the hanger bay module, down to a planet’s surface.

Here, you can mine elements and minerals from ore deposits on the surface. These will have to be brought back to your ship and refined. The refining process does take some time though. There is a bit of a story element woven through the game. Some planets will have crash sites that you can interact with that will reveal the story through bits of broadcast transmissions, as well as give new research options for weapons or upgrades. Planets can have lush plant life which makes it hard to see approaching enemies, or, be a barren desert with clouds of dust.

All planets have a hostile environment, which makes exploring beyond the immediate area around your harvester ship impossible, unfortunately. Lifeforms you can expect to encounter vary from worm-like and insectoid, to bipedal with advanced weaponry. Most often humanoid encounters will be on planet surfaces, but your ship may be attacked by pirates, taking the fight to the corridors and modules of your main ship. It’s important to note that any damage must be repaired or you risk losing part of your ship, or worse, the ship in its entirety. Again this can all happen very quickly, giving you almost no time to react.

Visually, the game is very clean. The ship modules are very detailed, but with a rather bland aesthetic. This can be combated by changing the color palette, but this is a very basic feature. Planet surfaces are abundant with different textures and surfaces. Again, it’s very clean, but perhaps not quite as detailed as the ship modules. Probably due to the fact that it is procedurally generated. One thing I did notice on planets is when I was running at full speed, some of the smaller features would fade in detail or become invisible until slowing down or standing still. Not a game breaker, but it does break immersion a bit.

The sound department does a good job with all the ambient elements. Aliens make their own distinct noises so you can tell what’s coming even before you see it. Any background music stays in the background and doesn’t become a distraction. Weapon sounds are all distinct from each other as well. The rate of fire and the crisp metallic sound of the defense turrets is extremely satisfying. Overall, I’d say the replay value of Genesis Alpha One is quite high. I don’t believe it’s a game that you could ever truly complete due to its roguelike nature, but seeing how long you could survive its harsh and unforgiving universe is a challenge worth repeating again and again, as every play-through is truly unique.

The game should appeal to all sci-fi fans as it has a decidedly Alien-esque feel, and the control scheme is your basic FPS. Furthermore, it comes at a great price point so value per dollar is right up there with some more high-end AAA titles. I look forward to seeing what the development team can do with a bigger budget. I would like to have seen more alien types and perhaps more sizable aliens on surface expeditions. Perhaps some that were more animalistic in nature as opposed to humanoid or insectoid. Microbial threats would be welcome too. All in all it is a job well done, but not quite perfect.

Conclusion

Genesis Alpha One is a tremendous roguelike that rarely holds back. Its many systems are well balanced, its plethora of unique objectives remain fresh, and its random generation solidifies its already impressive variation. There’s room for minor improvements, and there’s some slight visual blemishes across the entire board, but this takes little away from the constant uncertainty that the game relays at a tense and frequent rate.

This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.
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Good
  • Compelling collection of systems running through it.
  • Lots to see, do, and work towards.
  • Constantly tense, thrilling gameplay.
  • Despite some issues, good visual and audio design.
  • Heaps and heaps of replay value.
Bad
  • Some visual blemishes throughout.
  • Could have used more alien types.
9
Excellent
Gameplay - 9
Graphics - 8.5
Audio - 8.5
Longevity - 10
Written by
Born in New Jersey across the Hudson from Manhattan, I've been playing games for over 30 years. I can confidently say that I've played at least one game on every console ever made. An accomplished Forza artist, I enjoy racing games, platformer/puzzlers, adventure/RPG's, sports titles, and arcade shooters, although I have been known to play some FPS's on occasion. JPep715 on Xbox and jpepek715 on Twitch, feel free to add or give me a follow.

3 Comments

  1. Just one addendum. I feel the ai of the clones should be a bit smarter when it comes to ship defense. They seem to run around like chickens without heads during pirate invasions. Some will even tell you “I’m not trained for this”. If there is away to train your clones in combat I haven’t discovered it yet.

    Reply
  2. looks like turd.

    Reply
    • I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it looks like a turd but it definitely plays better than it looks

      Reply

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