By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
It has been a while since we have had a proper MMOFPS on the market, in fact I cannot really remember when I had last played one, even though I absolutely love when FPS dawns its MMO jacket. Project Genom is an early access game I have had my eye on for a while, but I’ve been a bit hesitant with trying it out. Thankfully I was offered the chance to try out the game for work, and jumped into game without hesitation.
Who said Russians didn’t have a sense of humor? Indie developer Neuronhaze is out to set the record straight by keeping everything a bit over the top in Project Genom. Even though the game is localized to English, including the voice over, they still left that Russian flair in the aesthetics and it feels so right. Right away after making your character (customization is still basic so I’ll skip over it) you are thrown into this odd station where everything’s gone wrong. You have no memory of your previous life, and all that you know is that you are naked, and everything is broken and/or on fire. With giants insects roaming the area, you quickly grab some clothes and a very useful gun before hunting the station for odd and hilarious dialogue.
As you can expect, this scenario acts as the tutorial for single player gameplay, and it’s clear the devs put serious effort to polish it to make a great impression on new players. In that endeavor they succeeded, as I fell in love with the nuances immediately. Controlling your character is another clearly polished area of the game. Your character feels really athletic and capable of sprinting as far as necessary, and the shooting mechanics are spot on. You’ll be thanking your lucky stars this part of the game is done, as the hyper aggressive and speedy little bugs would be a nightmare if it didn’t feel so natural to kite and spray the suckers down with lead.
Everything was going great with my first impressions until I zoned out of the starting zone and into the multiplayer hub station. This is where my love and reality got smashed like a falling cup of coffee. You know that moment? Where you can see all the bits and pieces flying everywhere across the room, underneath some cupboards and you wonder yourself what god you have pissed off that day, to deserve the chaos unfolding in front of you.
This is unfortunately what Project Genom currently is. The game in itself looks really good, but when every other player is your perfect clone it takes away some of magic the otherwise immaculate world offers. These clones blast you with lag on top of it, making the whole game come to a near stutter stop as you crawl along to begin your first errands. Since you are a new clone you do not have identification yet. To get yourself identified you kick things off by… going to the medical bay to give blood, take a piss, and flirt with the nurse, though surely not at the same time. After you are done running errands and making sure the rest of the station doesn’t explode, you are sent to deal with the bug problem back where you started the game. That’s about the point the fun level drops to levels that make you question the developer’s vision.
Before you head into the game, the trailer promises all these mechs, vehicles and beautiful landscapes filled to the brink with a diverse set of monsters. Until you step outside this all looks true, but once you have a foot out of the door the reality kicks in. I’m not saying that the game is ugly, but I do think that the classic graphics of the first Halo are a solid comparison. Obviously the game is still in early access and still has a lot of work ahead of it. But right now the trailer promos feel like a blatant lie and, as it turns out, gamers in the sci-fi genre have a short temper right now when devs exaggerate on the product they’re out to deliver. After exploring for a few hours, it’s safe to say Project Genom should be asking players to beta test the game for free, not charging early access. But let’s hope that the developers spend the money well, and finish the game in a reasonable time, as there is a massive gorge between what is promised and what currently exists.
Despite the lag, the odd looking bugs, and the poor world design and graphics, I do see a diamond in the rough. You know that movie you absolutely love, but others cannot seem to like? Well that’s exactly what Project Genom kinda looks like right now. The game actually has a really nice skill system setup, only limited by poor explanations of what the skills or armor types really do. The foundations of the game like controls and shooting mechanisms rock. The menus are all done really solid, and give me a feeling as if the developers have been closely studying and emulating the pieces done well by Destiny.
Right now there are three armorsuits: Tactical, Commando and Assault. I’ve looked everywhere, including the wiki page and searching the websites, but there isn’t a lot of information about what exactly these three armorsuits are. From what I can tell the Tactical seems to look more like a character that uses a heavy damaging weapon like perhaps a sniper rifle, while a commando looks more like the general soldier type, and the assault looks bulkier so obviously it might go towards being a tank. After completing a few missions, you get to choose the armor types for these three suits, which you will notice are differentiated by their energy levels, armor, and shields. The armor types can also be leveled up through an armor skill tree. So far I can tell, all three armor skill trees have the exact same type of upgrades, but you are still required to level them up separately if you want to use the armor type efficiently. As the mission scaling continued to grow in difficulty, I decided it was a trap to level them equally and limited myself to using just a single armor suit.
Project Genom’s weapon system is a bit more cut and dry. You start out with a pistol and easily find better alternatives, and later you will be able to pick between the usual weapon types you find in any shooter game. There are three weapon types: Kinetic, Laser and Plasma, and everything you will find in the world will have a counter to any of these weapon types. So obviously the best route to go is to focus your resources on being the best at one weapon type, but keeping another type as a sidearm when you face a foe that’s completely resistant to your specialty. The weapons themselves are also split into two branches: heavy weapons and light weapons. The heavy weapons include a glaive, assault rifle and sniper rifle. The light weapons include a blade, pistol and shotgun. You can always have one heavy and one light weapon with you, so make sure you pick a nice combination that complements your opposite weapon well so you’re ready for any situation. Just like the armor, you will find a skill tree for any of the above mentioned weapons that you have to level up to get higher tiered weapons.
Right now everything in the game is simply confusing. This includes the more advanced missions that leave you lost and wandering the wide outer world. Usually some of the missions are marked on the map where you will generally find an objective. But in one of the first few missions I got as a level five, I barely had a gun and the level six mission I was sent out to an area to find out what happened to a soldier. Now this in particular doesn’t seem that odd, but the area itself was down from some cliffs, swarmed with monsters 4 levels higher than me, with such a wide area of finding the soldier, that it felt like a suicidal mission even trying it. Needless to say, after dying 4 times trying to find the lost soldier, I gave up and tried to farm some of the earlier bugs I found. This didn’t help a lot either, and the gear I was given on level three required me to have 4 tiers of ranks in my weapons and armor for me to be able to wear it, even though I was barely 2 tiers into anything.
Project Genom right now is a mess. Where the dev team has put in effort, it shows, particularly with the aesthetics of the starting station and smooth character controls. Everything else though seems poorly thought out of presented in a confusing manner. The game simply has a long way to go, and the current state of the game cannot even be called an alpha. Sure you can get a good look at the game and a general feel of where it will be heading, but that’s it. It isn’t worth the $20 early access tag it has been given. Even the music which is well done is pushed on you at a few octaves above desirable, and there’s no option in-game to edit this or adjust any keybinds at all. You sort of just guess and check your way through what the buttons do or try to figure it out in a firefight to wind up dead. Project Genom is a diamond in the rough, but it’s buried so deep in the rough I worry the diamond part will ever see the light of day. At this stage I recommend waiting at least a year, before looking back at the game and finding out if it was all worth the small bit of ‘hype’ it currently has.