I’ve been fascinated with outer space since I was a teenager. Growing up in rural Illinois I found myself stargazing frequently on clear nights. When my middle-school history teacher introduced me to Frank Herbert’s Dune at age 12, I ate it up. Soon after I was introduced to space-themed games like Alpha Centauri, StarCraft, and Tribes and I was hooked. So you can imagine that when Team 17’s Genesis Alpha One appeared on our review board I jumped on it quickly.
What is it?
Genesis Alpha One is a space exploration and colonization game with a hint of a base-builder and dash of a first-person shooter. Players experience a solid tutorial which clearly lays out the game’s core resource gathering and exploration mechanics. The main mission is simple: Earth has died, and you must discover a new home for the human race. To do so you explore the galaxy from within your individually customized intergalactic vessel. Players scour solar-systems in search of critical resources needed to further upgrade your ship, your weapons systems, and your clones. Yup. Crews are comprised of clones born of DNA from things you kill.
The game has many components of what typically comprises a great space game: ship customization, weapons upgrades, lots of exploration, and various types of aliens, etc. The game’s backbone is pretty solid. The resource gathering aspects of the game are simple, though a bit repetitive. The most interesting part about descending planetside was venturing into the area surrounding my harvester to find various hidden “sites” notated on the planetary map. These sites provide you with various goodies like ship schematics, interplanetary maps to special items, locations of alien species, and suit upgrades. I should also note that protecting my harvester from various alien lifeforms by blasting them to kingdom come was also quite fun.
Perhaps the most interesting part of resource collection is also having to gather flora to alter the ship’s atmospheric makeup. Before clones can be created you must plant enough vegetation to provide said clone with its necessary biosphere. In this way the boring task of killing aliens and collecting their shed biomass becomes interesting. One additional interesting element to Genesis Alpha One is its unusual “death” solution. Once a player’s clone dies, its ‘consciousness’ passes to another newly promoted clone. In the event of death during an alien attack on your ship, you find yourself transported to a different portion of the ship. Be cautious though, if ALL of your clones die its game over.
What doesn’t work
While Genesis Alpha One does contain several compelling elements, on the whole, it is simply dull. Graphically it is sub-par. While the visuals aren’t awful, neither are they spectacular. Planets look interesting but the designs are repetitive. Clone alien races are unique designs but the differences are hidden by their space suits. Building your ship can also be fun but grows dull over time, and the shipbuilding mini map’s navigation is pretty terrible.
Mechanically speaking I didn’t experience any glitches but even this could not save Genesis from its rather dull objective. Finding interplanetary “sites” is fun but after a few hours becomes a bit of a drag. The aggressive nature of the roaming enemy ships felt a bit extreme as well. Whenever I found myself within 10 squares of enemy vessels, I would inevitably be hunted and boarded. I met failure twice due to boarding parties and nearly a third saving myself only through some stealthy duct crawling.
All in all Genesis Alpha One isn’t a bad game. It’s fun for a while and even contains some replay value with the ability to keep flying with your ship after successfully completing a Genesis. I found myself intrigued by the game, pondering if the aesthetic of minimalism against the bleak backdrop of space was an intentional decision to make you feel the deep isolation of space. After playing for several hours I’ve come to the conclusion that I was searching for too much meaning. The game, while fun for a time, lacks enough compelling content to keep players engaged for more than a few play sessions. After successfully completing a genesis and seeing all of the aliens I’ll be uninstalling this from my library.