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July 2019

Genesis Alpha One

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Team 17
Developer: Radiation Blue
Release Date: Jan. 29, 2019


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Genesis: Alpha One'

by Thomas Wilde on Aug. 22, 2018 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Genesis Alpha One is a sci-fi game that puts you in the role of an interstellar pioneer, and combines a mix of roguelike, FPS, base building and survival elements.

Pre-order Genesis: Alpha One

If Genesis: Alpha One featured a cast of adorable cartoon characters or maybe random Nethack-style keyboard characters, it'd be a straight-up comedy. Instead, you're playing as a bunch of human clones, fresh from the vats, as you attempt to establish a workable colony ship in a distant, hostile galaxy.

It's still funny, but the humor's much darker than it might be otherwise. You can't leave these guys alone for a second without them wandering out an airlock. During my hands-on time with this game at E3 2018, I set up a couple of sentry guns at the tutorial's insistence, because sometimes things will force their way into the ship, and the guns promptly blew half the torso off one of my newly appointed science officers. It did not surprise me at all to find out that the development studio is German because that's in keeping with its odd sense of humor. If it weren't German, it'd have to be Russian.

Genesis: Alpha One was developed by Radiation Blue, a small studio made up of veterans of projects like Hitman: Blood Money, Velvet Assassin, and Neocron. We're back in the future, albeit maybe not as far forward as we'd like, and it's gone dystopian on us. Earth is mined out, washed up, and ruled by dictators.

What's left of society gets its act together to institute the Genesis program: Send out a series of starships to uncharted regions of space in the hope of discovering some new home for humanity. You've got a modular, infinitely customizable ship; a bunch of human DNA to clone your crew from; and a randomly generated universe to explore.

Genesis is built like it's a colorized version of a 1950s science-fiction movie, so all the monitors are big, chunky things showing four-color text menus. It splits the difference visually between big movie sets from the period and the slightly more realistic confines of something like the Nostromo from "Alien"; everything is big, spacious, and metal, but it also all likes to hiss ominously, and nothing seems to be quite as well-lit as you might prefer.

When you begin, you've got a relatively small ship and one crew member: yourself. You generate more crew by decanting them from cloning vats, and once they're done, you can assign them to roles around the ship. From there, you can gradually add more departments onto the ship by bolting them onto the sides and front of your existing model, like rooms in a dungeon. What's cool about it is that you can use an omniscient overhead map view to make your changes and then drop down to a first-person perspective and explore the ship you built from the inside. You can run around, fix problems, set tasks via consoles in each new department, and begin research projects.

One of those projects is to create weapons and equipment, such as firearms, the aforementioned sentry guns, and other toys like force fields, for when you need to repulse aliens from the ship, or when you leave the ship to explore an alien planet. At that point, it turns into a first-person shooter, although it's one with a high chance of imminent disaster. The game will happily let you blow holes in your own ship's hull, for example, or "accidentally" mow down your crew.

You gain more resources for crafting upgrades and new parts of the ship through exploration, complete with a low-fi tech tree. One of those resources can even be alien DNA, which you can splice into your cloning vats to build better, or at least weirder, crew members for the ship.

I only went hands-on for most of the tutorial of Genesis: Alpha One at E3, and most of what I took away from it was the bizarre sense of humor. It struck me as a game that's very much about gleeful failure. It's a science fiction black comedy/first-person shooter/spaceship simulator/parody game, and it manages to keep all of those balls in the air at once.

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