Genesis Alpha One Review

By Blair Nokes on February 13, 2019

Genesis Alpha One is a very ambitious indie title. It aimed to combine several elements like base crafting, resource farming, mining and roguelike into one package. You begin your journey as a newly promoted captain, and as it operates as a roguelike game, should your captain die, they are permanently dead, and you continue your adventure as another existing crew member.

The overarching plot of the game is that you are embarking on a pioneering journey to scour nearby systems in search of a habitable planet. Like most roguelike experiences, Genesis Alpha One sets players out in a procedurally generated universe, where nearby systems are completely random, making each playthrough totally unique. The ship’s bridge has a main terminal that gives you a grid of the explorable universe. Each tile represents a cluster of explorable planets, or space debris; all of which are interactable. Aside from searching for suitable planets, your secondary task is to survive the journey, and to do so you will need to harvest minerals and lifeforms to expand your ship and crew.

When you begin the game, you are given a set amount of resources at your disposal to begin laying out the foundations of your ship. Starting only with a bridge, you learn - through an exceptionally informative tutorial – that building your ship is in and of itself an entire game. There’s an impressively deep strategy involved with the process, and a considerable amount of forethought is needed to plan out what modules you will want to prioritize as you begin, and what you can afford to hold off building until you have a comfortable infrastructure.

One of the more intriguing elements to ship building is that it is not restricted to a 2D plane; by attaching an elevator, you can build above or below your main plane where the bridge is located. Corridors can connect modules to one another, and branch off in four directions. Everything is dependent on the bridge which contains the mainframe, and subsequent modules you build must be connected to the main frame in order to operate. If anything happens to the bridge, the whole ship is lost. Each module has a specific function, and certain ones are absolutely essential.

The Greenhouse is one of those essential modules. Cultivation is a central science of the Genesis project. The game explains that there is no technology known in their universe that can effectively store or provide a vital biosphere for full endeavour, and different life forms demand different biospheres to survive on board. To compose certain biospheres, you will need special plants to harvest. Unlike crew-production, the ship’s genetic cloning bay is not configured with the creation or reproduction of plants, which places a greater emphasis on maintaining and preserving them. I’ve tested and tinkered with the Greenhouse, and the game’s freedom is open enough to allow you to manually destroy the three plants you start out with, and by removing even one, your oxygen levels rapidly deplete throughout your ship, which then requires you to reduce the number of crew members in order to sustain the levels.
The Tractor Beam is another essential module. As you enter a new tile that has its own set of planets, or space debris scattered about, you can use the tractor beam to farm the resources present in space debris, collecting already refined materials, moving resources from the debris to the ship until that source is fully exploited. During the beaming process, there are chances that lifeforms enter the ship as stowaways, and can burrow underneath the ship’s ducts, giving it access to other parts of the ship. While you can assign crew members to farm for materials (or to any task), your player character can manually expedite any task by interacting with the terminals. I would advise to be present whenever you decide to use the Tractor Beam, as you can quickly get rid of invading lifeforms, and ensure the survival of your crew.

I started out with four additional crew members. You can add crew members when you develop a cloning station, as all aboard the ship are the result of a genetic cloning process. You can assign crewmembers on your ship to any module. For instance, if you have one assigned to the bridge they will scan planets in the current system to reveal resources. Crewmembers not assigned any work will either stay in their queue crew quarters or spend time in a recreation module

Refined materials are the source for shipbuilding, weapon crafting and ammunition supply. Production ready materials leave the refinery and will be stored in the refined storage modules you create. If you reach capacity the refined material production will be put on hold, so it’s imperative to have a sufficient number of storage units when you design your ship.

Whenever you kill a lifeform, there is a chance that it drops biomass. All biomass you obtain from dead lifeforms will be stored in the biotank chambers. Biomass is the basic material for every cloning procedure, and you can create cloning stations to create new crew members so that if you should die, you have ample replacements. These crew members aren’t going to display any personality, though, so don’t expect meaningful commentary. The NPCs purely act as walking tutorials for you and exist only to explain your options.

Deposit modules are needed, raw materials that are harvested on planets are taken from the hanger to the deposit. Hangers are required so you can travel to planets within a tile on the grid, and the game transports you to the planet’s surface so that you can harvest the resources that it has. Sadly, you cannot manually fly your craft, or the ship in the hanger, which is a bit disappointing, especially given the amount of time you take to personalize and perfect your layout.

While on the planetary surface, you are given a ring that acts as the map’s boundary; you cannot fully explore a planet, however the game does an admirable job justifying this. The ship creates this ring, giving the impression that it’s allowing us to safely travel within, without the planet’s gravity or conditions affecting you. As you harvest materials, you will encounter waves of native lifeforms that try to attack you.

The game shows its strengths and weaknesses in the visual department. It’s made using the Unreal Engine, and the geometric shapes and character models all feel like an Unreal title. I really appreciate the aesthetics chosen for the ship’s interiors decorating. The terminals have an old-timey feel to them, complete with a Lucida Console styled font. Changing the design of your ship on the fly is great, and fully exploring your creation gives you a sense of satisfaction, having spent so much time carefully plotting each module and every connection. The game also sports a funky neo-80s, cyberpunk soundtrack, that gradually escalates when you encounter lifeforms and engage in battle.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed my time spent with Genesis Alpha One. It felt like it tried to juggle too many types of genre into one, but managed to succeed. While it’s a bit of a shame that you couldn’t actually travel to the planets in each system, like what No Man’s Sky offers, the game more than makes up for it with it’s deep base crafting mechanics, and fulfilled a great fantasy of living life in space.

Genesis Alpha One was reviewed using a PS4 Digital Copy provided by Team 17. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
Fantastic base crafting mechanic kept me hooked to want to farm the resources needed to add on to my ship.
Great visual aesthetics that give off a cyberpunk feel.
Not being able to actually pilot the ships felt like a missed opportunity.
Outside of providing tutorial explanations, the NPC/clones operate as mindless drones.
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