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Platform
PC

 

Genre
Real Time Strategy

 

Publisher
DreamCatcher Interactive

 

Developer
Metamorf

 

ESRB Rating
T (Teen)

 

 

- Bio-mechanical ships are novel

- Crisp and detailed visuals

 

 

- Poorly written manual

- No in-game save or pause

- Lack of six-axis motion kills the suspension of disbelief

- "Bigger Hammer" approach to ship modification instead of "Swiss Army Knife"

 

 

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Genesis Rising

Score: 4 / 10

 

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Over the years, gamers have hit the final frontier in all manner of vessels, all of them hardened against the natural and unnatural hazards of deep space, cocoons of exotic alloys hurtling through the void.  Genesis Rising took a different tack and instead gave us ships that were living organisms, massive behemoths cruising through the ether like whales.  With giant fricking laser beams on their heads.  The latest RTS out of DreamCatcher Interactive puts you in command of a vessel known as the Omnicruiser and sets you out on a mission to conquer the last unexplored galaxy in existence.  While the game has a variety of interesting concepts built into it, the execution of those concepts is so completely hamfisted as to make you feel sorry for the ships who are literally bleeding out into space on your command.

 

The storyline and concepts behind Genesis Rising are intriguing, but they've been done before in various media, from Farscape and T.J. Bass's novel The Godwhale in the idea of a living ship to the religiously militaristic culture which could very easily have been taken from both Warhammer 40K and Fading Suns.  Three millenia in the future, humanity has survived near-extinction and has brought the same to its enemies, thanks to the invention of organic-based weapons and vessels known as organids.  The most precious resource in the universe is no longer rare minerals but blood.  The Military (yes, it never distinguishes any sort of national identity) has been taking the war to various alien races for centuries and they're just about done wiping out the last traces of resistance. The Church and its overzealous Inquisition want to find the Universal Heart, the source of all life in the Universe.  And one lone captain is expected to find the Heart and claim it for humanity.  Or destroy it, should it come to that.  It's an incredibly campy setup, one that doesn't quite reach the "so-bad-its-good" level of pulp sci-fi.

 

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Visually speaking, Genesis Rising looks really good.  The vessels and environments are very detailed.  The various weapons have very distinct effects which you can use from a practical standpoint to identify what they are.  Consistency in theme is well maintained, with human vessels looking like H.R. Giger had played a hand in their design, while structures

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range from a bio-mechanical space Gothic feel for the human structures to the sharper industrial lines for other races.  However, all of this wonderful artistic detail hides what I believe to be a critical flaw: the game does not allow a full six axes of motion.  You can go forward and back, you can go left and right, but you cannot move up and down.  You're locked on a single plane, despite the lavish detail that has gone into making it look like you're in deep space.  More on the gameplay impact of this later.  For now, call it a glaring problem which hurts what is otherwise a well done visual engine.

 

Insofar as the sound in this game, I'm rather underwhelmed.  The sounds of ships and weapons fire is passable.  The soundtrack is quite literally forgettable.  No stirring marches or themes.  Not even vaguely exciting refrains when combat begins.  As for voice acting, there's quite a bit of it in the game.  Some of it is absolutely excellent.  Some of it is highly campy.  The net result is that you just don't really care who's talking.  And when you're trying to play up a big sweeping storyline, such indifference is fatal to the game.

 

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Gameplay is where the worst problems show up in Genesis Rising.  All of its sins are unquestionably sins of omission.  There's the aforementioned lack of six axis movement.  StarCraft got away with it.  Conquest: Frontier Wars got away with it.  But ever since Homeworld came out, any game using full 3D models cannot get away with it.  3D space allows for six axis movement.  There is simply no compelling reason why you shouldn't include it, even incorporate it into the design of your scenarios.  This segues into my next complaint.  The game purports a branching structure, allowing you to choose which missions you go on and advance the storyline differently.  However, the practical implementation is quite different.  If you choose the wrong mission, you find yourself in an invariably unwinnable battle.  Your unit caps are so low and your units so limited that your only option is to go back and choose the other mission.  Of course, this too has a problem.  The game autosaves at the start of each mission.  However, you have no option to save AFTER that point.  Which means that in order to go down the other path, you have to replay the mission that came before.  Such a lack of save functionality boggles the mind, particularly in a game of this sort.  More damning still is the lack of a pause function.  Homeworld was utterly brilliant in allowing the player to pause the game, think about his strategy, adjust his orders, then execute them.  It allowed for pinpoint targeting of enemies or the setting of waypoints through dangerous areas.  No such luck with Genesis Rising.  The lack of a pause feature here ensures only that you'll be swamped when the enemy comes in to blow you away and you're futilely trying to coordinate your fire.  The game touts the ability for you to modify your ships on the fly, but as with other features of the game, the practical realities are radically different.  You can't create a general purpose craft, loaded with a variety of armaments to handle every situation.  Instead, you're forced to create purpose built craft, loaded up with one specific function.  Changing the function of the craft is possible, but it takes precious seconds which you really don't have in the middle of a battle.  More than anything, that practicality reduces what should be a strategy game to the level of a puzzle game, trying to pick your way through what the designers thought was the best way to go.  The final insult is the manual.  It contains a whole lot about the backstory, it contains some information on the function keys used in the game, and it contains information on how to play your friends over GameSpy Arcade.  However, it is so poorly organized and poorly written that it serves as one more irritant to an already aggravating game.

 

Pity the living ships that make up Genesis Rising.  There was such a wonderful collection of ideas that were utilized in such an atrocious fashion that you almost want to put the ships down like a lamed horse.  It's kinder that way.

 

Axel Cushing

May 28, 2007

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