Genesis Rising PC Review

After reading around about Genesis Rising, I was excited to sit down to my first lengthy session of space exploration and alien bashing. Many of the concepts used are pretty inventive and should make for an interesting game experience, but unfortunately there are however a lot of problematic issues with the interface, story and gameplay design. Genesis rising is set 3000 years in the future, the human race having adapted their technology to survive by genetically breeding organic ships filled with blood. Agreed – this all sounds pretty cool, but gaping holes in the believability of the story don’t really help to pull off the clever premise. The dominant human race is exploring the “last known section of the universe” in search of a mysterious divine artefact called the Universal heart. Despite the fact the human race has an iron grip on the rest of the galaxy; they decide to leave this extremely important mission up to a small handful of ships with no kind of reinforcements. Despite being forgiving of the dodgy plot, I was quick to realise that the gameplay too was far from entertaining.

You play as Captain Iconah in command of a small fleet and in each mission you will find yourself having to move around the two dimensions of space that’s become all the rage in space based RTS games. Because it is set in space there’s basically hardly any terrain, which also means no kind of potential for clever flanking; essentially every map is nothing more than a dull square chunk of space. The ships themselves, despite their beautiful appearance, manoeuvre like vans shuffling around a car park, constantly blocking each other off as they circle around awkwardly rather than just flying over or underneath. A nice idea in this game is the ability to adapt your organic ships in real time using genetics – collecting new DNA samples throughout the campaign grants your ships more abilities, a mechanic rather similar to the one used in the actually rather good space flight simulator ‘Dark Star One’. Because the game wants you to be able to adapt your ships on-the-fly during combat you usually only have control over a small amount of ships. In reality however this isn’t practical, adapting your ships in combat is tricky and leaves you exposed to danger at crucial moments. They put in a small window to keep an eye on the battlefield when you’re in the gene lab, but its far too small to work out what’s going on, and it doesn’t let you use the screen to give commands so its pretty useless. Because of this issue, the game is full of false advertising and misrepresentation, for example the game box itself says “morph your gene-based armada in real-time with powerful organic upgrades“. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think five or six ships quite counts as an “Armada”. So if anyone is expecting a real time strategy similar to that of Command & Conquer, think again. The most effective way I found to complete each mission was to retreat from battle when you need to adapt, but with no terrain to hide behind most of the time I just ended up being chased back and forth across the whole damn map.

Genesis Rising is hard and often seemingly unfair, but worst of all there is no in-mission save function, only allowing an auto-save at the start of each mission. Because the missions are often difficult and lengthy, and involve long sections of dialogue, trade and errand running, the lack of an adequate save function makes the game a nightmare to play through at times. To top it all off the ships are hardly lightning fast, and once you’ve been patient enough to watch your mother ship crawl across the map doing tedious tasks you’ll be in no rush to load up your save file for another pop when you unexpectedly die. As you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m not a big fan of Genesis Rising – but it does have to be said that the only reason I’m bitter is because of all the hours I spent genuinely wanting the story to progress, while repeatedly dying after not being able to save the game mid mission. There’s really no excuse for this is in any modern game, if the desired effect was to make the game more challenging it would have been far wiser to ration the saves for each level or at least let the player skip the cut scenes!

The diplomacy mechanic in Genesis Rising feels cheap, whenever engaging in dialogue with other characters it cuts to a generic room in your ship, where Iconah talks to a hologram image of whoever’s currently bothering you. The actions and decisions you make are supposed to have consequences in this game, but during dialogue you don’t really have any particular choice of what to say. Basically you have two buttons which differentiate between either a nice or nasty response, changing the nature in which Iconah reacts to the statements made by other characters. The majority of the time both buttons will have the same result, which led me to question why they’d bother including it other than for an obligatory sense of some kind of choice.

The alien characters you come across are far from inventive, there’s a limited amount of character models which are constantly re-used. In particular I remember one mission where you have to do some errands for an alien so that he will tell you how to meet his brother, because he’s loosely involved in the plot. And when you finally do meet his brother he turns out to be the same bloody character model in a different shade. The voice acting is pretty terrible as well – characters often blurting out some truly bizarre stuff. A good example of this is a mission where some traders are having a dash of trouble with some space pirates looting their stock; the trader exclaiming – “Oh no! The pirates are loading the cargo bays!” Apparently they’d had enough of the whole looting business, and decided they’d help out a bit instead…

Despite my mass rant about the faults in this game there are some really nice touches, as I mentioned earlier the ships themselves look great. When you “genetically adapt” your ship it can literally grow a cannon out of its fleshy hull. The graphics in the game are good and the cut scenes are top notch. The currency the game uses is pretty dark. Because the army’s ships are run on blood, this makes it a vital resource and it is used as both currency and energy. There are inventive ways of sapping blood from the enemy and draining ship carcases of their vital fluid. Blood can also be used as currency when trading, although the trading system is nothing to write home about… The game on first glance looks interesting and presents some great concepts, but the gameplay overall is an extremely frustrating and disappointing mess.

Frustrating and badly designed, with no in-mission save function. Lame.

5 out of 10
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