Many people debate over roguelikes and roguelite games. What makes the game close enough to be called as such, and what makes it an easier hommage. There are many factors that people can agree on such as permadeath, random generation of maps or obstacles, and resource management. Where it begins to get complicated is down to things like combat styles or whether there's progression at all between runs. Genesis Alpha One is an adventure that thrusts players out into the deep unknown of space. Where Genesis shakes up the formula is in its addition of simulation game mechanics which force you to step up to the role of the Captain of a space vessel. Deciding what type of game this is can be a real puzzler.
In the future, Earth's corporations have continued their unchecked growth, depleting the planet's natural resources. The world is overpolluted and it comes down to four influential corporations and what remains of the world governments to create the Genesis Initiative. Their mission? Head out into the stars and locate a new home for humanity to flourish. This is how your character ends up captaining a Genesis starship into the Alpha One star system. The imagery told during the story explanation is very powerful, the world in ruins and decay but with hope in the future. As soon as the prologue is over, that's it for structured storytelling. This does enough to get players to the gate, and from there it's your own adventure to make as you go along.
Genesis Alpha One is a space simulation that requires you to not only control your character but also manage a spaceship. Your tasks on the ship can be broken down into a number of categories, each one interacting with one another. You need to manage expanding your ship, keeping your crew fit and happy, collecting resources, and exploring the universe. By continuing to progress in each of these categories you ensure that you safely develop your ship.
When aboard your vessel, you're able to access your shipbuilding menu from anywhere. You can see the ship's layout and everything you've created so far. You're also able to quickly view your resources and the caps that regulate storage space and crew members. At the start of your journey, you'll be given enough resources to build essential parts of your ship. These include a Greenhouse for air, a Tractor Team or Hanger for resource gathering, and some Storage. With each piece you add, you'll need Iron for the structure as well as extra energy to run the room.
Shipbuilding is incredibly intuitive and built upon a system of premade modules that snap together. This allows the player to spend more time laying pieces as opposed to fighting their controls for precise placement. Each new piece you add immediately appears, and everything is interconnected via doorways. It's like putting together a slot car track, just make sure one piece enters the other and you're good.
There is no punishment for a bad placement as you can destroy parts of your ship to get back what you spent. If you find yourself in a scenario where you have an unused Workshop but you want a Clone Lab swapping them is a quick process. This is one of Genesis Alpha One's more forgiving aspects. Making the swap between first-person mode and editing mode is a single button press and instantaneous. For a system that you'll be using to keep an eye on resources and what to build next having a loading screen or a lagging process could really hurt this aspect.
Your crew has two simple requirements to remain on board. You need a Greenhouse with a plant that gives off something breathable and a bed for them to sleep in. Each Crew Quarters can house five people. This forces you to build out more locations as you want to add more crew to your ship. You can assign the crew to any of the stations around the space ship and they'll speed up any job. Unfortunately, aside from speeding up tasks around the spaceship the AI of the crew limits them from anything else.
More often than not the reason that my journeys would prematurely end due to AI incompetence. The Tractor Beam room would be set up with multiple turrets and at least two crew members and they just wouldn't shoot at alien stowaways. They either stand there as fodder or let the aliens start destroying your ship. The most use you'll get from your crew is that they're promoted to captain upon your demise. Once they get their new rank, you take control. Essentially, they're just extra lives that can also accidentally die.
Collecting resources is the most important part of the game. Without proper resources, you can't increase building caps on your ship, build valuable modules, research weapons or unlock new crew. Gathering resources can be done in two different ways. The tractor beam can gather items from debris while you're out in space. In addition, you can go down to a planet and mine for different ore and plants. If you gather resources using the tractor beam, they will come already refined and land in storage. From the planet, you can get ores, plants, and valuable new tech and intel on alien species.
All the ore you gather goes into your deposit, from there it goes through a refinery and then into your storage. Only once it's stored can you build with it. Unlike most games that move items and resources around in the blink of an eye, everything gets moved manually. It's up to robots (called Robotniks) on your ship to carry what you've collected to where you need it. It's a neat feature that feels right at home in Genesis Alpha One's simulation. If your hanger and refinery are at opposite ends of the ship you find you end up wasting time more than anything. This is where some module placement strategy can come in handy.
From the planet surface, you can collect the same types of materials as the tractor beam, but also plants and information. Once mined, plants allow you to create new breathable environments, necessary for different species on your crew. The schematics found on the planet will be the most important for you to find to continue developing new ship modules.
This is where you begin to find Genesis Alpha One's cycle. It's a consistent loop of gathering resources to build, progressing to new planets, and collecting more. As you gather more power, you'll be able to travel further into the cosmos. Only there will you encounter rare items and better schematics.
When scavenging resources from planets in Genesis Alpha One, you can either send just crew or head down with them. While there are many different planets to travel to, they all suffer from procedural generation. Many planets look extremely alike, varying only in vegetation, colors, and enemies. Once landed, the ore usually rests around your ship, with any research sites sitting on the edge of the area. Thankfully, your lander deploys a protective shield to make sure you don't suffer from inclement weather. Gameplay wise, this serves as a way to give you a small area of maneuverability before you start to take damage.
On the surface, you collect resources by firing a beam at them or standing in proximity to scan. The planets are a great addition and a nice change of scenery to a spaceship interior, but there's only so much you can really do with the swappable environment pieces in play here. When every planet trip is exactly the same, things that are different end up blurring together.
It's not all just a walk through space upgrading your ship and mining resources on planets. You'll need to be constantly keeping an eye out for aliens. They'll appear not only on the planet's surface but also stowing away on your ship. With every piece of metal pulled in from the tractor beam or ore refined there's a chance that a few aliens have snuck aboard with it. The real issue with these creatures isn't what damage they'll do to you, but what they'll do to your ship.
Each module of your ship has Energy Nodes. If the aliens get to them, power flow will halt and pieces will degrade and explode. Aliens can spawn in the tractor beam or crawling out from underneath your landing vehicle in the hanger. You need to remain ever vigilant against them getting where they shouldn't belong. Once you reach dangerous areas of space you'll start encountering other humanoid species as well. These aggressive aliens will fight you on planets, but will also beam aboard your ship to take on your crew head to head.
If these aliens do happen to take down sections of your ship, you'll find your world quickly falling apart. Every section past the faulty one will begin shutting down and losing integrity. You can end up floating in space if you're in a section as it crumbles. Worst of all, they'll get to your greenhouse and send it floating. This will immediately render your ship uninhabitable. Expect to go from your best run ever to aliens and flaming wreckage very quickly. The crew member AI really shows off how useless they can be during these times of attack. Even with two turrets and two crew members watching the tractor beam, a handful of small aliens will somehow overrun you.
An interesting aspect of taking on these enemies is the DNA they drop. Collecting this and taking it back to your ship allows you to use a cloning lab. Here you can create human/alien hybrids with different statistics. You can use this to plan your crew out better giving a more resistant crew member the job of heading off world while others tend to matters on the ship. This also forces you to take into consideration what type of plants you have and whether a new greenhouse is in order.
When you're wiped out, it's time to start from scratch and build up once more. On the new game screen, you'll see all of the new crew or artifacts that you've made progress towards. If you previously made progression towards an unlock, you'll know how to keep working towards it. This stops players from learning too much before they experience it but also gives them goals when they've encountered something new. For new types of crew members, you need to have completed a game with that new species comprising half of your crew. This doesn't seem like a difficult condition to hit but as each playthrough takes multiple hours to complete. If you're looking for unlocks, they are few and far between. Any advanced modules like upgraded workstations or the hyperdrive will not carry through between playthroughs. You start from scratch each time.
Genesis Alpha One does a good job of giving players a wide scope of possibilities. If you want to just head to the surface and collect, you can do that. If you want to stay aboard and refine resources, that's also an option. What limits this game is how shallow each of these processes is, and how incredibly useless the AI is. What should be an additional thing to manage to lighten the load on the rest of your tasks instead it removes any chance of safe automation grinding the speed of the process of what could be a much more enjoyable game.
Genesis: Alpha One is a great roguelike for those looking for long methodical sessions. The in-depth simulation shows off great care from the developer but quickly becomes tedious as you try to meet everything's limited conditions at once.
- Good Opening Story...
- A Lot to Experience...
- Snappy Ship Building
- ...Then No Direction
- ...but Very Shallow
- Crew AI