We can't fault developers for having towering ambitions but sometimes having too much of a split focus can hurt a project and make it feel a little disjointed. Take Past Cure for instance, (a title we reviewed last February) it flirted with elements of survival horror, stealth and first-person shooting and none these components came off feeling fleshed out or unique. Genesis Alpha One is similar in that it's part roguelike, part shipbuilder and part first-person shooter but we feel this one does manage to hold its own despite its cluster of ideas. Here you are tasked with scouting out a new home for humanity by exploring a procedurally generated universe crawling with vicious alien species.
Before setting out on your journey across the stars you will need to choose a corporation. There's steel companies, cloning companies and aircraft companies to chose from and each come with their own perks and drawbacks in the form of your crew size, ship modules, and a number of game-altering artefacts. You can unlock different corporations by doing specific tasks such as refining 60 iron, for example. These corporations made each run feel that little bit different and pushed us to fight past the agonising sting of permadeath.
The first thing you will do is to start building modules on your ship with a tractor beam, a greenhouse and a reactor all being essential. From the shipbuilder menu, you can simply push A (on Xbox One) to snap modules together and there are multiple levels and structures you can build. These modules are built from materials that you have harvested with the tractor beam and can be placed wherever you wish (although it helps to be strategic for security and easy access). As captain its also your duty to assign crew members to each module to do work for you as materials in the refinery, for example, won't get refined if they are left to sit there.
Permadeath is present here but only if your entire crew is wiped out. When you die another crew member is promoted and then you take direct control of their body - pretty freaky, we know! It's likely that you will die a lot as danger is all around you in Genesis Alpha One even when you are innocently scanning nearby asteroids for resources. Creatures can sneak through your tractor beam, different modules of the ship can malfunction and aliens can attempt to board and invade you. The pressure is always on and you will need to make sure that you have a backup of clones onboard otherwise one slipup can spell game over.
The second main pillar of gameplay takes place on the surface of alien worlds as you extract resources and search for sites containing new unlocks. The lifeforms on these planets are never friendly and you need a crew member or two by your side as you will be attacked by the likes of scuttling bugs, giant worms and gun-wielding spacemen. The weapons you can get your hands on here are far from dull with firebomb launchers, acid rifles and x-ray casters all being at your disposal. There's also other methods of defence such as energy shields and mounted turrets which you can craft within your workshop. We do wish there were melee weapons available to us though as we were left just to flee and hide behind our subordinates if we depleted our ammo.
When landing on the surface of a planet you only have a very confined space to explore and you will lose oxygen and die if you try and leave the surrounding area. This felt rather restrictive and wish we were given more space to roam around in as a lot of these planets looked distinct and downright gorgeous. We also found extracting new artefacts from sites to be dull as each time we waited for the site to be scanned and fought off enemies. It would have made things more interesting if the developer broke this up and offered us a few other ways of extracting materials.
As you gun down enemies they leave behind vials of DNA and if you gather enough you can use them to form new clones and unlock different character attributes from the clone bay. One Kraul species clone that we received early on, for example, had a lower level of intelligence than an average human crew member but had higher levels of health and resistance. Through cloning, you can shape your crew however you wish and there's even a respawn chamber where you can select which clone you wish to come back as if you die.
Alpha Genesis One is an ever entertaining mix of ideas and joins My Time at Portia as another solid entry into Team17's ever-growing catalogue of diverse titles. It feels cohesive despite its split focus and we loved aspects such as creating our clone army and building intricate ship designs with our resources. Some aspects such as the repetitive gameplay loop and the rather restrictive planet sections could have done with some polish but these don't impact things too much here. If you're a fan of the likes of FTL and No Man's Sky and don't mind the grind then we would urge you to take a look.
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