Games with procedurally-generated levels have flourished in recent years, with hits such as Rogue Legacy, Enter the Gungeon, The Binding of Isaac, and more. The technology has been around since the late 70’s, but we have entered a sort of renaissance where procedurally-generated levels and content are prevalent in the gaming industry. Genetic Disaster is another procedurally-generated game that takes rogue-like ideas and mixes them with a formula that is fun solo or with friends.
Genetic Disaster can be played alone, or with up to four friends either locally or online. Genetic Disaster puts you in the role of one of four unique characters, who must escape a mansion by completing each of its 10 (currently) levels. The interesting part of the multiplayer aspect of Genetic Disaster is that the difficulty adjusts with the number of players present. This is an example of a concept used in Diablo 3, whereas you have people join you the enemies grow in strength (or more are thrown at you.)
Additionally, the manor adapts as well, providing more loot for you and your party, and it allows you to customize your character’s loadout as you explore. You can provide whatever utility your team needs at the moment. Like other procedurally generated games, you move room to room on each “floor” fighting enemies and collecting things like ammo, coins, and the occasional healing item. You may also find new weapons and upgrades for the characters that will change how they play.
On each new Floor, you may find upgrades, a shop to use coins to buy things to enhance your run or challenge rooms. An interesting concept behind Genetic Disaster is that the mansion you find yourself in will fight you as well. Various modifiers will be imposed in various rooms (more if you are playing with friends) that will cause you to have to deal with various traps or obstacles.
The first thing I noticed (as I tried both control schemes for a little while just to see how each worked) was that keyboard and mouse is not REALLY the encouraged method. At the time that I played to work on this review, the options menu was inaccessible, and the controls were not able to be changed. This meant that I was stuck with WASD controls, when I normally use my left hand to work my mouse, which is used for aiming and firing. This made using WASD to move feel unwieldy, as this control scheme is made for people who use their right hand for their mouse.
I found this somewhat odd, as the Steam page clearly states that the control schemes were “Especially designed for keyboard and mouse, and gamepad” which makes me wonder why they didn’t package multiple control schemes when it officially released. After giving keyboard and mouse controls a test run, I tried it with my gamepad and I found the execution of those controls better, but not to the same standard that I’ve seen in other games in the genre.
The inaccessibility of the options menu also made it so that I couldn’t adjust any settings for audio, or display, which I found to be a bit annoying since I tend to review games in windowed mode so that I don’t have to tab out while writing as I play.
Enter the Gungeon (which shares elements with this game, namely procedural generation, and a similar control scheme for shooting and aiming) executed their joystick controls for weapon aiming very well. They also offered sensitivity options in case people had problems. Genetic Disaster has neither of these things going for it. I found that while I could adequately aim and fire with the joysticks, there was some level of awkwardness to it like it wasn’t as smooth as it should be.
Honestly, with games that come out of Early Access, I have very high standards. I have seen the Early Access formula done very well, Dead Cells is a recent standout, but over the years Divinity: Original Sin, Don’t Starve, and other Early Access games have shown that they could take a concept and, with funding from consumers, use it to create a finished product. I am not certain that Genetic Disaster is finished yet. It feels like a good idea that hasn’t quite seen its full potential in execution. Maybe I feel that way because the multiplayer functionality was inaccessible so I couldn’t enjoy it with friends, but it just seems like it is missing some things to really make it a worthwhile experience.
Enter the Gungeon had interesting backstories for its characters and a loose narrative that gave you a reason behind what you were doing. With Genetic Disaster, you are kind of thrown into it so you really have no idea what is going on. I think that for an official release, Genetic Disaster is disappointing. It is missing something that could really make it great. With that being said I think that with friends it could be a fun game to play, but I’m not sure how long the fun would last before it got somewhat stale. At the end of it all, Genetic Disaster becomes more along the lines of “Generic” Disaster, with an interesting concept and aesthetic, but no real meat outside of the concept of multiplayer to keep people interested.
A Steam review copy of Genetic Disaster was provided by Team 8 for the purpose of this review.