By Marisa Alexander / December 19th, 2017
Surrealism in itself is both a blessing and a curse for any medium. It allows one to have the ability to truly go over the top in terms of creativity. However, this mindset also runs the risk of having certain ideas that don’t mesh well as a cohesive whole. This is where Genetic Disaster comes in, the first project of French developer Team8 Studio. The backdrop behind the game is you play as four heroes who must escape a mansion. On the way, they must eliminate the failed experiments of the mad scientist. The game itself offers a vast array of weapons such as a machine gun that shoots chemical balls in a wide area. Do you have what it takes to burst through the ten randomized mansion floors?
You first choose one of four heroes to play as, each with unique abilities. For example, Panic can dash and ram into enemies whereas Bunker can generate an all-encompassing shield for a brief moment. Heroes also have passive effects such as with Sneaky, who fires a shot per reload. Heart totals start at three, with the exception of Bunker who starts with four hearts. From there, you can choose from a random selection of tier one weapons in the first room you start at.
As you proceed through the game, you can randomly find currency, health pick-ups, and treasure chests. Currency is for buying upgrades for your hero at the start of each new floor, as well as purchasing from the store. There is also a special room called the death room. These rooms provide extra difficult challenges with plenty of enemies, hazards or both. Success will yield extra money and a chest with a random assortment of items.
The game advertises a large amount of weapons and certainly doesn’t disappoint. Examples include grenade launchers, charge-based sniper rifles, shotguns, and single-shot pistols. However, some weapons are simply direct upgrades over other weapons. There are rifles in the game where you start with a single shot, then proceed to a triple shot, then to even a penta shot. The weapons are further divided into tiers based on rarity and uniqueness.
Another aspect of the game is how the mansion makes things difficult. As you kill enemies with weapons, a gauge on the top-right fills up with different colors. When a color passes the arrow marker, the mansion produces a new effect. This can range from making shots bounce off walls, shots being on fire, or literally icicles fall from the ceiling. There are not many effects though to truly take advantage of the mechanic. It overall felt simply there for being there. At times, I didn’t even pay attention to the gauge.
Yet, one can’t have extreme variety without a semblance of balance or consistency. Unfortunately, this is where the game currently struggles. It struggles on three fronts: hero balance, enemy balance, and weapon balance. Out of the heroes, Panic and Sneaky feel rather unimpressive compared to Bunker and Devil. While Panic and Sneaky’s abilities, dash and teleport respectively, allow them to help avoid shots, Bunker is able to help the entire group.
However, Devil by far is the biggest offender. Devil’s passive allows him to build up strength per kill as long as he doesn’t get hit. On paper, this sounds perfectly reasonable. The issue comes in when there is no noticeable hard cap. It gets to the point that certain machine gun shots, that normally can only kill the sturdiest of enemies with fifty or so shots, destroy everything at worst with three shots. Devil’s ability is also meant to grow in strength but instead of being within a forty degree angle from the front as indicated in the patch notes, it hits everything on the screen. This mechanic is legitimately broken, where it even slows down the game at a certain point.
Surprisingly, the enemies are perhaps the most balanced with only a couple of exceptions. One particular enemy fires two shots that track and follow players. The issue is these projectiles have near-perfect homing capabilities. Without powers or cover, they are exceptionally difficult to avoid. Another enemy also simply has too much health if a player is not playing Devil with damage stacks. Despite using the grenade launcher, it took about ten or so shots to defeat it. The game commonly spawns these sturdy enemies from floor four on, so it becomes taxing.
Weapon balance further compacts these issues. For the most part, it felt like most weapons were inferior to weapons that fired multiple projectiles at once. Weapons such as the penta shot and shotgun type weapons felt like the only weapons that had the proper damage output to take care of anything. Machine guns need too many shots in general to take down basic enemies and charge-based weapons are exceptionally situational. It’s difficult to have variety of weapons when there is lack of encouragement to use other weapons.
Overall, Genetic Disaster certainly needs mechanical polish. Balance suffers from extremes and inconsistency on the execution of ideas. It could perhaps remove the tiered system and instead focus on having unique weapons for each type of play style. That way, it can avoid straight upgrades so everything has a purpose. Other aspects could be improved as well, such as not having bombs explode as soon as they spawn. If the game receives the necessary polish, it would certainly be a functional and fun co-op experience.
Early AccessGeentic DisasterPCrogue-likeSteamTeam8 Studiotop-down shooter