Genesis Rising

Genesis Rising is a space-based real-time strategy game, and… yeah, I know it looks a lot like Homeworld, but bear with me. Comparisons to Homeworld 1 and 2 are somewhat inevitable, as they pretty much nailed the genre a while back. But give it some time, and you’ll see that Genesis Rising has enough tricks up its sleeve to move itself out of that particular shadow.

Each of the ships you control in Genesis Rising are actually living creatures, and each one you build starts off pretty much as a blank slate. From there, you can mutate them and give them new abilities by implanting them with new genes that have either been produced by your research lab, or consumed when you order your ships to cannibalise a dead enemy. The whole thing works a lot more smoothly than you might expect, and introduces the player to a considerable amount of depth when it comes to customising their fleet. At first I thought I could get away with making scores of short-range grunts, by simply powering them up with a tonne of short-range attack genes, but it quickly became obvious that the game didn’t want to let me get away with that. And that’s fine – a lot of strategy games like to fall back on the old method of simply allowing the player to sit tight and amass a huge army that can just roll over and flatten the enemy, but Genesis Rising takes a few ideas from squad-based strategy games, and gives you a finite number of ships, forcing you to form your strategy accordingly by working with what you’ve got. As a result, you’ll start to give your ships different specialities – one ship that specialises in breaking enemy shields, one ship that acts as a sniper and sits outside the battles, one ship that’s heavily armoured so it can take over enemy ships more easily, and so on.

This also becomes interesting in multiplayer – if you can get a few people you regularly play against, you’ll all get used to each others’ tactics and then begin to constantly alter your plans to outwit each other. On top of all this, you actually see the ships mutate as you mess with their genes, with guns and the like visibly growing out of the ships. It’s a pretty small feature, of course, but it’s pleasant nonetheless.

Innovation aside, all the usual meat is there – the visuals and sound design are spot-on, the interface is slick and easy to pick up, and the script isn’t too bad at all (bar a few spelling errors, which will most likely be ironed out by the time the game is released). I’m really not a fan of excessive cut-scenes in games, but Genesis Rising makes them interesting while they last, and seems to know when to back off.

One thing that might bother a few people – particularly Homeworld fans – is that, despite being set in space, Genesis Rising’s gameplay is completely two-dimensional. This doesn’t make the game any less fun or interesting, of course. But it does feel somewhat limiting when space-based strategy games went 3D a long, long time ago. Still, it’s a fairly minor gripe, and one that won’t really bother you after about ten minutes of play.

On the whole, Genesis Rising is looking really promising. While it’s not really set to blow anyone’s mind, it’s carved out a nice little niche for itself, and looks to be a solid amount of fun, especially if you can get a few mates interested. If the developers keep up the good work, the finished product should be well worth a look.