First Impressions on Project Genom
Pros: Visually one of the best looking MMORPGs to date, intriguing progression system, dynamic events and quest choices
Cons: [ALPHA] Dull quests, terrible map navigation and missing quest markers, akward combat
We stepped into the world of Project Genom recently, a new sci-fi MMORPG developed by NeuronHaze, it is an action based title where players find themselves awoken aboard the Ark as they land on a distant alien planet. With classless progression, no tab targeting combat, open sandbox world, dynamic quests that react to your choices, vehicles… it seems like it’s going to be a feature packed title.
The game is currently in its Alpha stage and so is subject to change, has missing features, has the odd bug and occasional performance issue (most noticeable for us with a little bit of rubber banding every few minutes, but nothing game breaking).
When jumping in there is zero character customization; yours and everyone else’s character is currently a male or female clone of each other; presumably unintentional and not simply part of the story, but we’re sure the aesthetic customization is something that will come in time.
Whilst you yourself don’t look particularly good, the world itself starts out looking pretty decent; awakening on some dropship, alone, we had to fight through some bugs as part of the tutorial as we were guided through the basic mechanics. It looked nice but didn’t wow us in anyway… and then we entered the game. Good lord, you can see where that Unreal 4 engine has been put to work; the game looks absolutely amazing. Entering the Ark itself, a huge space station complete with diners, bars, garages, med bays, ship bridge, botany area, shops; it looks so, so good and the added scenery elements of NPCs working on repairs, chatting, and generally just looking like they’re going about their day to day really does help create a living ship. Add to this the use of lighting, from the shadowy engine bay areas, neons from the shopping district, even a see through window to a huge robot shop that was advertising the shop with an animated transparent holo sign on the glass, then going inside it had the same image being projected on the glass but the text was still the right way round… it was a small detail but it made us stop and take note and smile.
Where the look of the game excels there are other elements that currently do not live up to it. The Ark itself is huge, but the map (brought up with M) has to be one of the worst navigational tools we’ve ever used and it’s extremely hard/impossible to differentiate between levels of the ship, where actual structural walls are; it’s a horrible map that makes questing a lot of trial and error and running around blindly. Throw in that these quests were pretty boring it didn’t make the most entertaining two hours of gameplay we’ve ever had; if it hadn’t been for the visuals it would have been a real grind, and the quest tracker to show map indicators didn’t seem to be working properly only further adding to the problem. One of the early quests was to find four screws that an engineer had dropped when we burst out of a vent (how he had managed to drop them 50 feet away around a corner we’re not sure); this quest flagged up an area on our map where the items could be found, but there was no visual indicator of the screws in the actual game such as a glowing screw item or anything, it was literally running around covering every inch of this huge area until the “E” interact popped up.
Combat is also a bit of a bane right now; using point and click third person shooter mechanics, so you have to physically hit your enemies using your cursor which, given some of the performance issues, can be difficult at times. When it is working it’s still a pain in the ass, the little bug enemies we had to fight were taking around 5 or 6 shots to kill, we had a clip that held 9 bullets, so we were constantly reloading trying to kill a couple of enemies; if you’re trying to run and dodge attacks, then you miss more shots and it just becomes a really arduous process trying to kill some relatively weak mobs. So much so that our “tactics” ended up just being running in, letting the mobs swarm us and come to point blank range, then just killing them (apart from when your character twists to shoot behind them and can’t shoot so close to their feet where the mobs are); the tactical shooter combat should be fun… it was awkward.
The progression system seems interesting with no classes and instead players levelling up by what they do for the most part (use a weapon to increase your skill, get beat up in armor to increase armor, do some crafting to improve crafting); the promise of mech suits and vehicles looks great as the world outside the Ark seems pretty big (and deadly) with a huge alien environment to explore and conquer. What end game will look like and what it promises we’re unsure, PVP is planned but what the final result will be we’re not sure; the dynamic elements where your choices and actions have real world effects and consequences is a nice choice and combined with the look of the game really does have a Mass Effect feel to it.
Right now the reality is that the game is a huge distance from being ready, everything needs tightening up, but does the game have potential? Absolutely; bags of it. The world looks too stunning to not mention one last time and for the roleplayers out there it will be a beautiful place to hang out and enjoy, for the explorer the world is massive, the crafter there are so many items and the chances to trade… it is a well-designed sandbox but as an indie title with no major IP/franchise behind it then it’s one of those games that needs support whilst it’s still unfinished/unpolished if it’s going to get anywhere.