Review by Star_Sage
A flawed gem, but a gem none the less
A game that borrows from many others, but still manages to find it's own identity despite that. Still, to do this proper, will divide it up into the common sections, Story, Characters, Gameplay, and Closing Thoughts
This game has what one could generously call an excuse plot. It opens with you knowing almost nothing, and in point of fact, the text scroll that you'll get when you start has some errors on it when you start play, and find that almost none of it has relevance or is openly contradicted by later information.
You start out as a lowly assistant of a professor studying something called Sentients. These helpful little machines are quite powerful, and the basis of a lot of technology in the galaxy. The professor has discovered something though, something others would kill for, and as the game opens, that killing starts. Still, you're given his special sentient, and sent out in the galaxy at large, to make you way through different areas, allying yourself with one of 5 factions, Traders, Smugglers, Cops, Cultists, or the Military, and trying to just survive in a hostile galaxy.
Every faction you can join has it's own story outside the main plot, and you have to advance through it to get the better ships. Still, the stories aren't all they great, and sadly, none of them, either the factions or the main story, end well. Heck, the latter just kind of stops, with no ending cutscene or anything, it just quits. And sometimes Faction endings either don't make sense, or just aren't well explained, like the Military's, the ending of which has nothing to do with the last 3 or 4 missions you did, and in fact refers to the mission before those like it was the ending, or the Cops, the end of their line just kind of throws a character at you you haven't met before, whom you're now told to care about.
Still, plot isn't everything, and overall, you can still follow most of this, and the main story holds up fairly well as excuse plots go, it's about as good as say Borderlands' main plot, but not quite up to the Zombie Island of Doctor Ned DLC for that game.
As mentioned above some characters just kind of appear, and disappear. I can't honestly remember a single one, save the Professor from the beginning. As crotchety and snarky as he was, I found myself wishing he would come back.
Ah, the shimmer at the heart of the jewel. The story and characters are the worst aspects of this game, which usually would break it for me, as I personally play for a good plot and story, however, great gameplay can make me change my mind, and this game definitely has that.
For one, this is a true role playing game when it comes to playing it. There's no best setup, no perfect ship or weapon, instead, it's mostly all about your choice, and how you play, which is really nice compared to so many games that claim to give choices, but really boil down to just finding one exploit and spamming it.
The gameplay is essentially a space themed dual stick shooter. You're in a ship, one of five different classes, ranging from tiny scout, to heavy cruiser, and all equally legitimate to play, which flies around a 2d map. There are, I think, 9 main areas of the game, with several smaller maps, and one special endgame stage map.
The difference between this and many similar games is just how many choices you get. I mentioned above it's a dual stick shooter, and it is, but that's only one choice of weapons you've got. You can also use laser you lock onto targets instead of guns you shoot with the right stick, or you can drop mines, or fire missiles, or use the sentients, small auto ships, instead of weapons.
Speaking of sentients, in addition to dozens of various weapons, the game includes these little guys. As I said, they're basically small auto ships that follow you around, with three classes, Tank, a basic defender type, with skills designed to make you harder to kill, Healer, one designed to allow you to survive long after another ship would have died, and DPS, basically an auto weapon platform, and quite powerful. In addition, they come in 5 levels, Common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic, and finally Legendary. You'll get a Common Tank from the Professor as a parting gift, and can buy Common and Uncommon varieties off all three from shops, however, to find Rares, Epics, and the vaunted Legendaries, you're going to have to play special missions, which are quite fun in and of themselves.
First off is WarZones. Two factions, the Military and the Cultists are at war with each other, and you can take part in it, each of the level maps being used as a Zone, with you picking your side, and then going to it. Note, you have to have joined one of the two factions to play a WarZone, and can even pit yourself against players, real players, of the opposite faction, with he goal of either killing them, or destroying their base, quite fun.
Next comes the Legion Raids. These are accessible after a few main story missions have been done, and are essentially player vs. computer only versions of the WarZones. The differences is, instead of being against another Faction, who's ships and abilities you know and can have yourself, this time you're against the Legion, a Sixth Faction, one you can't join, but has all the best toys. These can be quite challenging, as instead of destroying a base, this one's all about keeping you own base alive, and worse/better, every victory makes the next Raid that much harder.
Finally are the Ark Raids, which serve as the final stage of the game. It's a good challenge, and one that you'll have trouble surviving on your own. Luckily, you don't have to be, as you can find friends to help you through the Trials, which include several boss fights, followed by one heck of a final showdown.
As I alluded to above, one of the best things about this game is, you're flying the same type of ship as the enemy, for the most part, so you're just as vulnerable or strong as they are. You're only advantages are the Sentients, which, despite being said to be common, no one else has, and Afterburner, a skill only you have, which is a basic boost.
Speaking of skills, there's a lot to choose from in this game, 4 pilot skills you gain points in as you level, damage(increasing damage you and your sentients do), energy(increasing how much energy you have to use other skills, and how fast it regenerates), defense(increasing shields and hull of every ship you fly), and finally Afterburner itself(increasing speed of the skill, as well as decreasing the energy draw).
But wait, there's more, and it leads to the RP aspect of the game. in addition to those, you gain Faction points for every rank you go up in any faction, with 9 ranks for all of the 5 factions, and then 16 skills to divide them in, 4 for every faction save the Cultist, who don't get any personal skills...not sure why.
Heck, even your sentients have skills, 8 to be precise, 3 common to all of them, and 5 unique to each type. This means literally hundreds of combinations for you to play around with, and as I said, there's no wrong way to play.
The final thoughts I have to give are this. One, there's no new game plus mode, which is disappointing, as the storyline mission tend to be quite unique, and would have been fun to play back through with a powered up for. However, using the Gift/Auction options, you can give Sentients to new pilots, if you either have a friend who would be willing to give them to you as a gift, after you gift them to him, or just are fast on the draw at the auction house. Still, the game is fine without it, but it would be nice to see in a sequel if they every make one.
Product Release: Fusion: Genesis (US, 11/09/11)
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