Sucking in a vacuum.
Genesis Rising: The Universal Crusade is probably the only game you'll ever play where a third of your time will be spent coaxing giant space monsters to suck each others’ blood. The other two thirds are spent in a bizarre strategy game set in a universe that's like a blend of the Bush white house and Warhammer 40K. The king resource is blood, which you suck from other ships you've just beaten in combat. You’re like a giant space vampire that dabbles in diablerie. Sadly, the game sucks even more than you do.
And so does its leading man, Iconah, a bald bad-ass military dude begging to be played by Vin Diesel in an upcoming action film. Like Vin, Iconah gets all the cool explosive toys, first crack at all the big baddies, and there's always a busty space-wench waiting to ‘reward’ him for his bravery. I'm not exaggerating; every woman in Genesis Rising is a mega-hootered space whore, laughably so in the case of leading lady Infinity, a 'judge' in the judiciary of humanity's space empire. But she’s just one rack in a very big intergalactic coat room. There're enough scantily clad polygonal boobs to fully staff a Spearmint Rhino. In space!
Iconah's handed the task of finding the thing that started it all – an object called the 'Universal Heart.' What this thing does, or for that matter what it is, is entirely unclear. But Iconah's bosses, the Supreme General and the Space Pope, seem to think it'll take humanity that extra step up from demi-godhood to godhood. The only clue you're handed in the game is that it's somewhere in this one unexplored galaxy, the Ford galaxy. Wait, sorry, Lifewave galaxy.
Now, I'm not a master astronomer, but I know a single galaxy has thousands of stars. In the course of Genesis Rising, you really don’t search that many of them, and by the end of the game, you’re still presumably a long way from your goal. Save for some random ass-grab scenes between Iconah and Infinity – nothing happens.
is no Homeworld
clone, though the influence is evident. Where Homeworld
focused very much on the role of specific ship classes, and featured complete freedom in 3D motion and planning, Genesis Rising
is a depressingly 2D game of trial and mostly error. In theory, you need to tailor your ships’ weapons to exploit your enemies’ weaknesses, but in practice, every enemy is vulnerable to getting shot.
All that really differentiates most ships is the number of slots available to them. So instead of ordering attack ships or utility ships, you put various weapons or utilities into each one of a ship’s slots – you make each ship what you want it to be. The more slots, the better. Or maybe worse.
The thing that really kills Genesis Rising
is the interface for slotting genes (read: guns or utilities) into your ships. It's clunky, slow, and the gameplay keeps going on in the background, making the whole idea of switching your ships' setups out on the fly meaningless. You can't save favorite setups, either, so you need to configure every ship manually, one at a time
. Multiply that work by fifty and you’ve got yourself a fleet. Lose that fleet, and you’ve got yourself a headache.
That said, there are a few unique ships: the mother ship, the reservoir, and the gene lab. The mother ship is your typical roaming home base, ala Homeworld but smaller and deadlier. The reservoir is oddly not used to store blood but rather to collect it, and the gene lab is your weapons factory.
Since blood is very plentiful in the game, you don't really need to concern yourself with losing any ship but the mother ship. You can let your foes tear through your fleets like they were fries at McDonalds – you can replace them for about as much cash. Time is the big problem. This is especially true when you try to compete online; you'll spend eons getting to the point where you feel like you can actually fight. Then you’ll attack, get slaughtered, and not want to bother outfitting another fifty ships. Thanks for paying, er, playing.
The music is very good, but sparse; you'll hear great snippets at the intros to scenarios and occasionally in the thick of combat, but there are surprisingly long expanses of game where all you'll hear is the steady sucking sound of your reservoir as it ferries blood to and fro. The voice acting, in stark contrast to the music, is horrendous. The very first sample you hear as you dive into the single player game is a young kid who enunciates clearly, but emphasizes poorly. Every sentence ends in a question mark, as though the child is uncertain the player really wants to hear what's being said. Here's a tip - we don't when you speak like that
The game looks good and runs well, even on my slightly archaic (read: amazing two years ago) gaming rig. The big painful exceptions to this are the horrendous loading times between impressively short snippets of pre-rendered video, and the equally awful loading times for surprisingly choppy in-game cutscenes involving Iconah's conversations with the surprisingly generic characters throughout the universe.
Genesis Rising: The Universal Crusade has a couple neat deas sitting beneath a pile of dumb ones, and it would've been nice to see those ideas fleshed out and polished. But with a generic plot and terrible ship building scheme, Genesis Rising is lost in space. Hopefully, it stays that way.