Fusion: Genesis is the first game developed by Starfire Studios, a new independent developer created by former members of Rare. It's an ambitious dual stick space shooter; it's slow, complex, and creates a wide open universe to explore. It’s a curious blend of action, RPG, and MMO - hard to classify or categorize. It’s the kind of game that you will either love or hate, but it'll never leave you indifferent. The mix of genres is good, but executing it is a whole different story, and the end result a game that isn't as engaging as it needs to be.
It's the year 2201. Humans have finally succeed in colonizing space, only to discover that space already has four more alien inhabitants that (theoretically at least) live in peace, governed by some type of corporation. However, a human scientist on a space station makes a discovery that may tilt the balance of power between the races. You perform the role of errand boy for this scientist, protecting the secret while trying to stay alive. This takes you into a lengthy main adventure, where you're given the opportunity to join one of the factions and fighting for them. Aside from the main plot, there’s a minor subplot involving each of the alien races, which unfolds slowly as the main story arc progresses. Depending on your choices along the way, you can end up as a trader, warrior, explorer, or pacifier, with each choice implying unique technological paths and missions.
You control the ship using the well known system of double stick controls: the left stick steers the ship, whilst the right stick aims your weapons. The remaining buttons divide into functions which control your “sentient”, and those which are usually reserved for the map, turbo, and special abilities that you acquire along the way. Sadly, the controls are cumbersome (mainly due to a very un-intuitive menu system), and it will take some time to discover the full potential of the tools at your disposal, primarily because there's no tutorial to guide you at the beginning.
The main meat of the story only really begins when you pick a faction. It's only then that you start to really face missions, some of which form part of the story arc for that faction, while others are simple resource gathering enterprises, or forays to search for upgrades and improvements. Besides the story and secondary missions for the faction, there's a third kind of mission that encompasses the main plot of the game as a whole, intended to draw you deeper into the universe and add more coherence and depth of gameplay. Sadly, not all of these missions are as successful as they should be in making you care about the major events of the game.
Each faction has, aside from their own missions, a series of ships, improvements, and abilities that add a degree of uniqueness to each side. Fortunately, although you cannot belong to more than one faction at a time, you can change factions almost at will. In fact, a player’s previous actions really don’t matter once he changes sides, which really weakens the game’s consistency. Regardless of the faction chosen, most missions will involve traveling to a different part of the map, dealing with a few opponents, visiting certain locations, and returning to the starting point to reap the rewards. Some missions are heavier on exploration, while others are more focused on combat, but in general missions aren’t that dissimilar from one another. The good news is that most are generally very short and can be completed in only a few minutes.
As a multiplayer game, Fusion: Genesis is lacking. Although there may be numerous additional players in your game, there's no way of joining an on-going mission since there’s no alliance mechanism, nor is there any way to see what others are doing. The multiplayer missions aren’t particularly engaging either - you're basically limited to defending a station with up to four players against the onslaught of incoming waves of enemies for as long as possible, though you do have the ability to repair damaged defenses or purchase new vessels between waves.
Fusion: Genesis offers a large amount of missions and storylines specific to each faction in what amounts to a nearly 40 hour campaign. That's the good news. The bad news is that there isn’t enough variety to keep things entertaining for long, so the whole package ends up feeling stretched out and repetitive. The game doesn’t even try to mask this fact, and at times it shamelessly offers you the same mission two or three times in a row.
Graphically, it's quite delightful, with excellent backgrounds that create an incredible sense of depth, and a very vibrant color palette that changes depending on the sector of space you visit. The scenarios are bustling and alive with moving elements such as asteroids, vessels, bases, etc., all of which move around fluidly. The single graphical blemish is the texture of the spaceships, which could certainly have been more polished. The sound effects of the spaceships, weapons, and explosions are all very convincing, and the background music is of a high quality.
Fusion: Genesis is a game that you'll probably either love or hate. If you like simple, uncomplicated action, or enjoy arcade-style frenzies, run away from this game like the plague. But if you enjoy investing long hours into a single endeavor, tend to explore huge areas in detail, enjoy the task of customisation almost as much as you enjoy action, and have the disposition of mind to endure repetition of tasks, you'll probably enjoy this game… or a career in accounting. It’s hard to recommend the outright purchase of this package, but if you like MMORPGs I wouldn’t discourage you from downloading the demo and giving it a try to see if it matches your tastes.