Project Genom is an open-world (ish) Third Person Shooter MMORPG by NeuronHaze. You play one of a number of settlers who have left behind their original home after mankind had destroyed Earth. Unfortunately, their new homeworld isn't as friendly - or unoccupied - as they had hoped.
I think it's important to establish my history with MMOs to put this preview into context. I have played World of Warcraft, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Global Agenda, Firefall, and Defiance for hundreds (or thousands!) of hours apiece. I also have time in many other similar MMOs (or MMO-like) games such as Trove, Grand Theft Auto Online, Minecraft, and a middling amount of hours in countless other titles that I can barely remember. Suffice to say, I have put a lot of time into a lot of different MMOs in quite a variety of settings.
It's also important to consider that Project Genom has had a bit of a storied development history. Legal issues with one of their programmers has likely delayed the development of the game by at least three months (if not more). It's an Early Access Alpha title that is still very much in development. Let's take a peek at a trailer for the game to get an idea of the vision the developers want to create:
Does Project Genom live up to that image? After a bit over 18 hours of gameplay, I'm sorry to say that the answer is "not yet".
Gunplay and combat in Project Genom isn't amazing but it isn't terrible either. Currently, there are only two usable weapon types in-game (pistols and assault rifles), but there is variety in the types of weapon and the sorts of damage they do. You might be fortunate enough to get a highly accurate gun that fires lasers only to replace it with a much higher damaging plasma gun that sprays fire around like a fire hose out of control. It's exactly the sort of variety I would expect from an MMO shooter like Project Genom. Equipment is similar. There's currently three types of armor in the game, each with their own distinct skill tree. They have their differences in stats and approaches, and you probably would want to pick one and stick with it as a general rule.
Visually, the game's world is quite pretty. It's not up to AAA quality by any means, but the majority of the world looks really interesting and cool. It has a nice futuristic space colonist aesthetic similar to what you would see in games like Dead Space. As you go further away from the main "city" of the game, the detail tends to go down and you're more likely to see minor errors such as a floating lamp or a piece of the environment that goes without clipping. This is mostly excusable, and the core areas of the game are put together nicely.
The sound effects and overall sound design are pretty good. I like the music more than not and it fits the game well. The guns sound crisp, and incidental sounds like reloading a weapon are great. Unfortunately, this is where problems begin to crop up. The voice acting isn't of the greatest quality, and a lot of it is still in Russian. Some of the English voice actors are clearly Russians themselves who don't have the greatest command of the language, and the sound quality on some of the voice acting isn't too great. I'm content to assume that these are placeholders that will be replaced at some later point. There's also a distinct lack of sounds for a lot of important situations such as taking damage or any sound from most enemies.
One of the biggest bugbears here is the language barrier. Most of the important stuff in Project Genom is in English, but you will still occasionally stumble across a portion of the game that is still in Russian. The furthest zones from the hub city still have their names in Russian and a portion of the voice acting is in Russian. Most egregiously, the options menu for rebinding controls is still in Russian (despite complaints having been visible on the Steam Community discussion board for some time). This particular complaint should be the easiest to fix and yet still hasn't been rectified. When English text or spoken dialogue does show up in the game, it is far from perfect. You can understand it with some difficulty, but it often sounds very stilted and as if it were written by someone who didn't have the greatest command of the English language.
The UI (and particularly, the map) leave a lot to be desired. Quest markers are sometimes hard to see, wildly off the mark by fifty meters, or just outright nonexistent. If you do intend to purchase and play this game, it's critical that you make use of external guides such as this one from the game's Steam Community. It's outright impossible to complete some quests otherwise due to the poor job the game does of telling you where you need to go. Furthermore, it often makes it difficult to find a specific objective. One quest required that I retrieve a water sample from a very specific point in a river. I had to compare screenshots from a guide to find just the right place and then hunt it down further. There was no quest marker or decent hint as to where exactly I had to go.
The game world has some areas that seem barely out of development. One particular orange-colored alien forest simply breaks the game. You can't shoot there and your character model just floats as a static model for some reason. It is wholly unpopulated (either by friendly NPCs, enemies, or points of interest) and simply seems like a placeholder for future content. There's a lot of space, but it definitely suffers from the whole "wide as an ocean, deep as a puddle" problem that many newer MMOs do.
As for the characters themselves, your skill trees have a bunch of abilities listed. Unfortunately, not a one actually works yet. Some of the passives do work, but any active abilities simply aren't functional in the game as it stands right now. Skills themselves can also be troublesome to figure out at first - essentially, you have to actually do stuff to earn skill points for weapons or armor. You need to shoot enemies to earn Weapons points and take damage from enemies to earn Armor Points. Enemies that are three levels higher or lower than you will give you little-to-no points, and this sort of locks you into a particular area. At points, I've found myself unable to move forward with the story because I just couldn't survive enemy attacks or do enough damage and I had to grind out levels for my Weapons, Armor, or both for a time until I could equip the appropriate gear that would allow me to progress. What's worse is that this makes spending points in some areas a very bad idea. Damage reduction, in particular, will actually hinder your progress in the game.
Quests tend to be "Kill X", "Go fetch X and deliver it to Y", "Travel to X" area, etc. - all standard MMO fare. There is nothing really new or innovative here, and an MMO veteran like myself will find themselves quickly bored. I played Project Genom in two to four-hour bursts for a grand total of eighteen hours and change (plus ten or so hours of research, reading guides, etc. outside of the game). I honestly found it to be a slog and couldn't really enjoy the game for more than a couple hours at a time. It almost felt like time itself slowed down when I'm playing, and if anything that's the exact opposite of the "Diablo effect" (looking at the clock and suddenly realizing that a worrying amount of time has passed because you've simply lost track). If there were any one thing that I think encapsulates the game's issues in its current state, it's this. I played the game over a period of around a month and found myself dreading to boot it up, but I felt it was important to get a well-rounded amount of time put into it. I think if you were looking to pick it up, you should expect five to ten hours of interesting gameplay at most before it runs out of steam.
Going forward, Project Genom has a lot of work it needs to do. It needs to get the English issues in the game sorted. It needs to tighten up the issues on the map. It needs to actually implement the skills in the game, and it might be a good idea for them to reconsider or fine-tune the grind-inducing skill point system. If you want to pick up Project Genom, you can grab it on Steam.
Project Genom was reviewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
What do you think of Project Genom? Do you think that it will eventually turn into a great game or are you skeptical of the game's development pace? Do you think the developers can live up to their vision for the game? Let us know in the comments below!