A Genesis That Never Comes to Be

Little morph time makes mutable spaceships in Genesis frustrating to fly.
Little morph time makes mutable spaceships in Genesis frustrating to fly. (Dreamcatcher Interactive)
Friday, July 27, 2007

The best way to describe Genesis Rising is "what could have been."

The space-based, real-time strategy game features fairly novel concepts and an interesting storyline. But several flaws make it frustrating at best and unplayable at worst.

The idea is that humanity is so advanced it almost spans the entire universe, with only one small galaxy left unconquered.

In Genesis Rising, humans have developed living spaceships that are born with blank slates. Each ship is created with empty slots but has no weapons or other gadgets. When players put genes into the slots, the ships mutate. If you add a plasma cannon gene, for example, you can watch one grow from the front of your ship. The ships are also filled with blood; when you kill an enemy, you can suck the blood from its capsule carcass to replenish your own supply. Blood is basically the fuel that runs the empire.

What could have been the coolest part of the game is the ability to change the genes of your ships on the fly. So if you're suddenly confronted with an enemy immune to beam weapons, you can change the ship's frigates into missile boats. But it takes time to unload and reload genes, and the game simply doesn't give you enough of it. You cannot pause the action, which adds to the problem. Combine that with the lack of any difficulty settings and the inability to save in the middle of sometimes lengthy missions and this game has frustration written all over it.

Finally, although the game looks very good, its 3-D aspect of space is just an illusion. In fact, all ships exist and travel on a 2-D plane. You can even steer on a grid pattern. Ever since the game Homeworld showed that space games in 3-D work just fine, it's rather inexcusable to revert to 2-D. Given the completely flat nature and lack of terrain features, each mission feels like the one before.

If genes could be swapped more quickly, if space were 3-D, if you could save in the middle of a mission and if there were a pause key so you could catch a breath, this might have been a fun game -- but that's one too many ifs for Genesis Rising.

-- John Breeden II

Genesis Rising Teen; Windows 98/Me/2000/XP ($40) Dreamcatcher

© 2007 The Washington Post Company