I’ll admit that I’ve been following Genesis Alpha One for a while now, and was lucky enough to get to play it months before release. A first person shooter roguelike where you have to build your ship up as you explore the galaxy to find a new home for humanity. A fairly simple premise on-paper, but then you throw in the fact that you can augment yourself with alien DNA, resource management, trading, hostile alien attacks… It gets a smidge more complicated.
I should preface this with the fact that many people were looking forward to this launching on Steam, but when Epic Game Store launched, Genesis Alpha One was revealed to be releasing there first. That’s not to say that the game won’t be coming to Steam - it still has a Steam page after all (with a release date of January 2020), but it did irk people who had been following along who don’t want an Epic account. Not everyone plays Fortnite Battle Royale, after all. This won’t factor into my final score, as I can’t imagine someone penalising a game just for the store it was bought from, but it would feel negligent to just not mention it.
Now onto the game - your objective is to find a planet for colonisation. Since the galaxy is randomly generated, there could be any number of suitable candidates. Each one has different requirements, too, as you could come across one that requires you to have 30 crew members who breath N2O, then another that requires 15 who breathe O2. As you explore more of the galaxy, you will encounter alien lifeforms. Some of them leave DNA strands behind, and once you’ve scanned enough of them you can then add that DNA into your clones. Did I mention that this is all complicated to explain?
You start off each game having to construct your ship. You’re given a bunch of materials and told that you can’t begin without certain modules. Once you have those, you can add in whatever you want - so long as you have the materials left over. Depending on which corporation you choose to belong to, you need a greenhouse, crew quarters, storage and a tractor beam at the very least. That way you can crew the ship and at the very least beam materials aboard for more modules.
The crew that inhabit said quarters are all clones. Clones of whom? No idea. But if you, the captain, die then one of the clones takes over. So long as there are clones, there are captains - no clones, game over. You can augment them with the abilities of aliens - such as being able to detect aliens from further away - as well as create brand new forms of life by splicing alien DNA with new clones.
As your ship grows, you will need more clones, to man stations so that you’re not gathering with the tractor beam, scanning planets, creating clones, crafting weapons and all the dozen of other things. Certain alien clones require different atmospheric conditions to survive, which requires you to find planets and gather fauna which produce those gases. Or just don’t clone those guys.
Traveling to alien planets to gather materials is risky, in that you must remain inside the ship’s force field that keeps out deadly gamma radiation, and because you don’t know what kind of lifeforms you’ll encounter. No, I don’t mean that some are friendly, they definitely all want you dead, but there are bugs, worms, liquid metal bipeds, rock golems… You can take two crew members with you, though they aren’t really useful at looking after themselves if there’s only one of them. The alternative is to send them off on their own, but the risk of the lander bringing back aliens to your ship with it is higher that way.
To combat Genesis Alpha One’s lifeforms you start off with an energy pistol and an energy rifle. You can find other weaponry by locating crashed probes or ships on planets that you visit. Also, in subsequent playthroughs you can start with some of the weapons or upgrades that you have found previously - but you can only choose a couple. Each weapon that I found and tried out all handled well, which is a good thing as you’ll be fighting a lot of aliens. There are also turrets and static energy shields to help you out, but they require materials to craft, as does ammunition.
So, what happens when you find a genesis candidate and have the right amount of crew who breathe the correct blend of gases? You land, and it’s game over! Once you kill the Queen alien that lives in the caverns below… Yes, that came as a surprise to me, too! But you can’t send out the signal to Earth until you’ve done it, so you have to load up for something about the size of a bear, and head in solo.
With the planet “liberated”, you’ve finished - and that’s something that can take as little as four hours, depending on the type of planet and how lucky you’ve been with materials up to that point. Thankfully, Genesis Alpha One is a roguelike, and you can either resume with your ship and some crew as you attempt to find another genesis candidate (or head back to one of the others you already found, this time with the right crew), or start again.
Finishing with a playthrough will unlock everything you found, so that you can use it in a new galaxy. Doing certain things (kill 100 boarders, research X amount of clones...) will also unlock new corporations to use, which will change how you proceed through the game.
It isn’t always clear sailing through the galaxies of Genesis Alpha One. There are a few different stellar phenomenon that can damage your ship, as well as a couple of alien species who are eager to board your ship and kill you. No, not the ones which you transport up with your tractor beam, or which hitch a ride on your lander - those ones are just trying to damage your ship’s modules. These ones have their own ships and board yours with the intent on murdering you and your crew. There is a warning icon on the galaxy map, giving you time to hyperjump away if you need to, but they are able to chase you at least short distances.
You will also encounter merchants, which you interact with via a very simple display. The materials you have on board are worth a certain amount, as are theirs. If, say, you need three Iron, you can trade one Copper. If you wanted a blueprint of a module, however, you’re going to need to have plenty of spare materials to trade.
Sound is quite an important part of Genesis Alpha One. You need to be able to hear aliens, obviously, but when the little insectoids are loose on your ship, they will attack power nodes under the floors of your ship. You’ll need to find these and reactivate them, otherwise your ship will blow up bit by bit. You can repair it, but that gets expensive materials-wise. The various noises around the ship, the lander and your various weapons all fit in perfectly, even the sounds of the computer terminals which sound like old PCs booting up, and when you’re speeding up certain processes you can hear the clack of a keyboard.
Graphically, the game looks great. Radiation Blue hasn’t gone for realism, but they’ve also steered clear of making the game look too stylised. The locations can look a little samey, but if you’ve visited enough planets in most procedurally-generated space games then it’s a thing you’ll notice more. The aliens are all well designed, and the ship has a retro-futuristic style to it that just makes everything look cool.
I’ve found myself dipping into Genesis Alpha One for both long and short sessions. You can just visit a new system and scan some planets to plan your next sojourn, or strip-mine five planets and three debris fields whilst adding some more quarters for your nine-strong crew ready to clone a bunch more. There is an end-goal, but if you just want to explore every region of a galaxy you can do that too. Just make sure to bring plenty of lithium for those gun turrets…
Genesis Alpha One (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
Genesis Alpha One is a game that I love coming back to for both short and long bursts. It’s got an absolute ton of replayability with some really interesting designs and mechanics to boot.