Warnings are flashing on screen. First power to the tractor beam went, then to the greenhouses and now one of the reactors has gone dark. The little alien bugs scurrying through the vents are attacking more of the power lines, but my captain’s hands are full with the bigger bipedal creatures that got aboard before the tractor beam went down. To think that everything seemed so peaceful just ten minutes ago, but a couple of missed eggs later and all hell has broken loose!
There goes the other greenhouse and the whole biosphere as a result. Holing up in the bridge won’t help when there’s no air to breathe and no materials left to build another greenhouse. The crew is suffocating, the power fails completely, and the ship explodes in the vastness of the Alpha One galaxy. This crew won’t be finding a new home for mankind. Time to start again.
Genesis Alpha One tasks you with building a crew, a ship, and finding a new home in the Alpha One galaxy. It’s part shipbuilding simulator, part action title, and all roguelike, meaning you’ll make mistakes but can learn from them and hopefully be better prepared next time around. It’s also a game where caution is required and you need to take it slow for the long term gain. Alternatively, go fast and blow up from a cascading disaster!
The key to survival is your ship. When you first start a game you’ll be asked to pick a corporation, each of which has different benefits. Once that’s done you’ll head to the shipbuilding screen to construct your home among the stars. There’s a number of units available to build to start with, but there are many more to discover across the solar systems of the galaxy.
Your ship will need a reactor to provide power and a greenhouse with plants to provide the ships biosphere. These are the two main life support systems in play, but there is so much more. You can’t just venture through the stars with the limited resources on board, but have to find and bring more aboard. For this, you’ll need a tractor beam to haul in debris and a hangar to let you set foot on the planet surfaces.
The shipbuilding itself is very straightforward. Each unit shows what resources you need, and you can either manually put the ship together or simply snap units together at the press of a button. There’s three views for this – a floor plan, a transparent view or a solid view of the ship – and you’ll be on this screen a lot to observe both how your ship is coming together and where your crew is.
The crew is another important resource to consider. They’re all clones and you can create more by building cloning chambers. Humans aren’t the only species you can clone either. As you explore the galaxy you’ll find DNA samples of other species that you can clone with enough samples. Not all of them will rely on oxygen, so you might need greenhouse plants to provide nitrous oxide to make other species viable. The crew isn’t just a workforce, but also your pool of lives, as if you die another member is promoted to captain.
The ultimate goal is to find a planet that’s habitable enough for you to initiate a Genesis, taking enough of your crew down to the surface and potentially having to deal with an alien threat before itself. To get there, you need to navigate the stars and planets that are teeming with life. All of it is hostile.
Every planet you land on has some kind of presence be it the spider and worm-like bugs that can swarm you but can be easily dispatched, to giant lumbering beasts that will take time to bring down, and the other advanced races that will beam down to the planet and look to kill you with their own advanced weaponry. If you’re not careful they may get aboard your harvester ship and then onto your main ship. If you’re reckless you could venture into a dangerous part of the galaxy which contains spores and comets that also lead to creatures getting on board. That risk is what leads you to play safe.
Let’s take the tractor beam room, for example. One of the things I did on the path to my first successful Genesis was to fill it with turrets covering all angles. Any alien that got aboard was instantly killed as a result. When it comes to planetary exploration, you’re kept to a relatively small patch of land – the in-game explanation is you’re within a safe bubble created by the Harvester – but the worlds themselves are pretty diverse in design. Some are lush with plant life wherever you turn while others appear barren with unnaturally straight columns. Some have some good visibility while others are mistier, hiding the threats around you. This is where you’ll find resources with a beam to collect and also look to see if there are any artefact sites. Some of these sites are graves of previous expeditions or unexplainable monoliths.
Accompanying the adventure is a soundtrack that’s evocative of classic sci-fi. There’s a deep synth style that’s distorted just enough to come across as otherworldly. As an experience Genesis Alpha One is a really smooth game. The environments look fantastic, the action moves smoothly, and the loading times are really brief. It all comes together very well, outside of one persistent bug where one of the ship robots would get stuck in the hangar while trying to collect resources, leading me to destroy it each time so another take its place. Playing it safe can also lead to a very repetitive gameplay loop which, while less stressful, means you’ll miss out on the on board fights with all manner of creatures. Still, a safe journey is what you want to succeed.
Genesis Alpha One mixes the spirits of FTL and No Man’s Sky into a solid space simulator cocktail. Your success is dependent on your approach, with playing it safe all but guaranteeing you reach a Genesis, but a little recklessness can lead to ship invasions and desperate measure. Its unpredictable nature means you’re always on the lookout for danger and celebrate every little victory. Genesis Alpha One is recommended if you’re looking for a new challenge among the stars.
Version Tested: PS4 – Also available on Xbox One and PC.