Fusion: Genesis Review

Fusion: Genesis Review

What we liked:

+ Fluid, intuitive controls
+ Deep customization and content
+ MMO-style connectivity

What we didn't like:

- Story elements a little too familiar
- Many key elements unexplained

DEVELOPER: Starfire Studios   |   PUBLISHER: Microsoft Game Studios   |   RELEASE: 11/09/2011


Lack of explanation = lack of enjoyment.

Unless you’ve got an enormous marketing budget and a popular franchise, releasing a game in the thick of the fall rush can be a tricky proposition. A lot of games that have something to offer simply get lost and, while it isn’t perfect, Fusion: Genesis is one of them. If you enjoy like twin-stick shooters, action RPGs or MMOs with non-traditional combat, you should give it a look.

When you first load up the game, you’ll be asked to set your online preferences, though you’ll have a chance to change them up later, of course. Fusion: Genesis is an “always connected” game meaning that you can find yourself in unexpected PVP encounters at any time. Should you wish to keep your playtime to yourself, though, you can set everything to private and not worry about being bothered by other players.

As the game begins, you are told that humanity has reached the stars and has been accepted by a Convocation of four alien races. Unfortunately, humanity is on the verge of civil war and the Convocation races are watching us with a skeptical eye. As you move around the lush spacescapes, the gorgeous scenery changes to reflect the different regions and the music moves from a sweeping epic to tunes that convey subtle mystery. To travel between sections of the universe, you’ll need to take “Shift Platforms” that seem to function more than a little like Mass Relays.

As the story develops, we are told that there is a group of mysterious raiders that is being kept at bay through a large demilitarized zone. They continue to raid a bit, but they are largely kept at bay. This reminded me quite a bit of Firefly’s Reavers, especially as the main quest-giver in the game suggests that it might be better to die than be captured alive. There’s just a little too much borrowing going on for my taste in the narrative, even if there are twists on the source material.

Once you are turned loose (too early, in my opinion) the game largely does a poor job of explaining itself. The combat is intuitive, the side missions play quickly and the ships control like a dream, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find yourself scratching your head. Updates scroll far too quickly in a very small section of the screen, and the game does a poor job of letting you know when you’ve leveled up or even how to apply your points. It references names of screens in the Journal without ever providing instruction on how to access them. You cannot do so when docked at a station, which is the only time you are absolutely safe from attack. It was also completely by accident that I figured it out.

Worse, the game features a large number of icons, status effects and weapon types without ever explaining on-screen what they are. If you see an icon, you need to go into a menu to decipher it. It’s clunky and doesn’t play nicely with the inability to pause the game. Worse, when I attempted to purchase a weapon from the shop it often stated that the gear would be “scaled down.” I still have no idea what that means or why it was happening.

The MMO nature of the game allows players to join the game and, their comings and goings will clutter the same status window that communicates XP, resource collection from mining and leveling. Also, like in an MMO, there are certain weapons that are only available by playing PVP in the game’s various non-mission competitive and cooperative modes like Warzone and Legion Raid. There is a huge amount of content across the game’s five factions, each of which has its own set of abilities and ships to purchase. Different faction ships confer some cool abilities like zero energy usage for sentients. In order to take advantage of ships that you purchase, though, you need to be part of the faction. Thankfully, the main story missions can be accomplished regardless of who you are aligned with. All of this I had to puzzle out myself. If Starfire gave players more information as a foundation, this game could be huge.

Additionally, the game features an auction system for selling “sentients,” which hover near your ship and provide assistance by filling one of three traditional MMO roles: DPS, Tank and Healer. Even this is more complicated than it needs to be. Should you choose to simply buy out an auction rather than bid, the item doesn’t go into inventory, nor does the game go out of the way to tell you to check your messages for the “winning bid” notice. Again, I found this by accident after wondering if I had wasted 10,000 credits on a high-level, uncommon tank sentient. Your sentients level up by mining and feeding them crystals. The game tells you just this and not the impact of leveling your AI companion.

Fusion: Genesis is an absolutely beautiful, easy to control, ambitious and deeply flawed experience. The core story reaches for epic, but manages to only get so far as convoluted. Side missions play quick, but have no story relevance and become repetitive quickly. Additionally, missions that require you to destroy or gather X amount to succeed are sluggish to update the count. If the game is going to send you on boring fetch/kill quests, the least it could do is keep up.

The half of the dialog that is voice acted is done well and the game is often humorous. Unfortunately, it does everything in its power to prevent players from understanding it easily, which makes it hard to recommend to anyone but those that love twin-stick shooters and have been through enough MMOs to have the patience to figure nearly everything out for themselves.

While too much handholding can make a game boring, not enough instruction can lead to players quitting out of frustration. With a more instructive tutorial system, Fusion: Genesis could attract and retain a huge user base with its variety of gameplay mechanics, MMO-style economy and intuitive controls. As it stands, it will take a very specific type of player to stick with the game long enough to mine its deep-buried enjoyment.

Review copy of the game provided by publisher.

Mike is the Reviews Editor and former Community Manager for this fine, digital establishment. You can find him crawling through dungeons, cruising the galaxy in the Normandy, and geeking it out around a gaming table.

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