Team 17 and Radiation Blue’s Genesis Alpha One is not the most unique of names but I guess someone’s a fan of space exploration and I just hope you are too. GA1 just to keep it simple puts you into the shoes of a captain of your chosen corporation and tasked with pro-creation and the survival of your crew. Even though you just made all of them up in an enlarged test tube from your own quarters. But with that aside, the first order of business is how and why bother?
The rouge-like No Man’s Sky if you can even consider it similar is a procedurally generated game world filled with the horrors of bugs and worms from every corner of the galaxy. It offers what you’d typically expect from games with a rouge-like nature. You die… you just die, really. And I guess you’ll start over with a new ship so that’s a thing. From a game that you’re expected to dedicate your time and effort, the permadeath system and the lack of manual saving are two things I feel unnecessary considering the progression is a tad bit slow and with resources a bit scarce for each system explored. You can hyperjump one block at a time then spend the majority of your time holding L2 on a console to scan each planet or space debris to look for the required resources to upgrade your ship, expand the work stations or simply create weapons or test tube slaves. Although you’d be able to upgrade your ship with hyperdrive modules to increase the range of travel while also consuming uranium per warp. But all of which is hindered by the minimal amount of resources tied to each planet or space debris making the game more of a game of minesweeper than actual exploration.
And should you find the motivation and commit your life to the legion, it’s a rewarding experience… probably. If it wasn’t barred by tedious tasks like managing inventory space, harvesting resources from planets or debris, or strategically placing your ship modules for efficiency all while balancing the act of moving from one solar system to the next and scanning the areas for resources you may or may not need right away.
Building from the Ground Up
While the first few hours you’ll be spending in GA1 will be against bugs and worms, soon enough, you’ll find out that the horrors doesn’t exactly end there when more species show up on your radar and blast you silly while you mine that sweet ore. But before all of that takes place, you’d be going through building your own ship after choosing the corporation you wish to start with (all of which has their advantages over the other) and artefacts if you’ve already played through an entire round. The game holds your hand the first few seconds of your life by requiring you to build the basic necessities of space living. A Quarters to house your crew, a Greenhouse to provide a biosphere in order to have more clones active, a Storage to store refined materials and a Tractor Beam to beam in materials from space debris. Everything else will be left to your own volition like a Deposit to store unrefined ores obtained through planets using the Harvester Ship in a Hangar. You have the freedom to play how you see fit although learning to balance your needs is what makes you a great captain.
But all great captains require a certain type of leadership skill. In this case, micro-managing the limited amount of crew members you start off with whether you’d be pushing them towards gathering resources from planets or beaming it in from the safety of the ship. Managing plant life or refining resources to keep you wealthy with resources to build up your death star. But soon you’ll get to realize how tedious this process can be when crew members can only be assigned tasks from each room’s specific console. This makes an enemy invasion a bit more annoying than it needs to be when everybody can die and you’d have to reassign them to their rooms all over again not to mention when clones decide to take a sick leave from their posts and never coming back to work until you force them to. Which makes a casual stroll of your vessel into a sprint to make things going in order again.
This leaves a lot to hate but little to like as it becomes more apparent that it’s really just a first-person simulation game than anything. With planet exploration feeling more like a point and click mini-game to obtain weapon schematics, suit upgrades or anything for that matter within such a small area. But let’s get back on its permadeath system and rouge-like mechanics. Permadeath is bad enough for a game you pour your time into. But what’s worse is the lack of things carried over to experiment and keep the next playthrough fresh and different from the last. It doesn’t entice me to come back and start anew, it only made me abuse the playstation plus cloud save to keep going back should I fail.
The unrealistically high movement speed also leaves little to love despite making it easier to move around the ship as it makes dancing around hordes of bugs and enemy fire lack the challenge it needed. There’s also the idea that each planet despite having different geographical identities lack varying gravity levels to keep things unique and not just a place to gather resources and leaving it dry of ores and plant life.
While I consider myself a sucker for all things that introduce building elements, this is one of those exceptions other than Minecraft I wish to leave behind. Building a fully-decked out and unique ship is all good just like building towering towers and housing houses?! in Minecraft is. Although what makes it less of an interesting thought is the lack of a good purpose in doing so. Or the idea that there’s really not much to do other than tons of corridors and pre-made rooms that can only be unique in a few shades of colors. Its tedious shooting combat is never interesting for the lack of unique AI to give you a run for your money and only comes at you in endless hordes at a suicide firing squad line. GA1 had the makings of a great space exploration adventure yet none of them were executed in a fashion that made them shine as a single player experience worth taking. Something that I hope can be improved upon in the coming months.