The Darwin Project, the latest game in this current Battle Royale boom that’s currently trending with games now. Currently available for preview for Xbox One and Steam the game is built by Scavenger studio- a new indie studio based in Montreal. The Game has no story but the premise is simple and very familiar if you have ever seen the hunger games or even the slightly more disturbing movie that probably draws inspiration from – Battle Royale. You play as a person, well that doesn’t sound very good so let’s call him Fred. Fred must defeat his fellow ten contestants and be the last one alive.
In order to achieve this Fred has a few things at his disposal such as his axe (a basic close combat wacky stick), a bow with a plethora of arrows such as an arrow that will set your opponent on fire along with arrows that will tag your opponent allowing you to track them as they move. But, in order to use these items to their maximum ability you must collect materials in the map such as wood from, you guessed it, trees. Oh, and leather from erm, well, couches. But fear not as there is more stuff for you to craft such as boots to increase your movement speed and a fur coat to protect Fred from the cold along with armour for his vital organs which negates a single hit. This causes it to shatter and has to be crafted again if you have the materials and time.
Also available to Fred are some really rather impressive abilities that Fred can magic up which is amazing for a guy who is dumped in a forest with only couches and trees to really make anything. This includes a turret which will automatically fire at any one within a certain range along with a shield that makes him temporarily invincible or even a cloaking ability and an ability which makes him invincible for a little while. But, in order to use these abilities you must get a special material called electronics. These are obtained randomly throughout the map from big electrical shrines that spawn.
Overall this simplicity of only really collecting three materials to make your equipment made the game very easy to pick –up with and run with along with a decent amount to prep yourself with to give you an advantage in the coming fights. The only issue I had was that it felt extremely limited in how you could play with your options of combat. The options available to you only really being whacking your opponent with your axe/snow shovel (which seems to decide on a coin toss who actually makes contact first) or firing arrows from your bow. The map is also very small which lends itself to some of the more trap based approaches such as the turret however the compactness of this does make it feel like you can’t really get to a comfortable level even if you have been pretty much left alone for the whole game.
There are other neat features to the game, as mentioned with the fur coat, the environment’s weather plays its part in the game as you can literally freeze to death. This gives the game a survival element rather than just leaving it feeling like an elaborate gimmicky free fall arena game. But this is not the only feature that splits it apart on the newly defined battle royal scene as there is also one more element to the game – the director. A player who does not control a character but the game. This player can do things such as shut off areas of the map, spawn some of those electronic shrines or even nuke an area irradiating players into crispy human bacon. The director can also be merciful with completely healing players or boosting their speed. This gives an interesting experience and vets the frustration of a competitive game. But, there are issues – as a lot of the “powers” the director is in charge of happen automatically such as closing areas and spawning electronic shrines. Abilities such as the nuke and powering up players can be awesome it’s a shame that you only get to use them once throughout a game which seems fair on the surface as these mechanics can be rife with the ability to abuse them and make the whole experience miserable for everyone. Then again they have a director rating system – a system which allows you to actually get a feel of the guy who is playing and if they will provide a grand stage or just spam the same guy with abilities and could provide this great showman with more tools to make the games more interesting and less to those who actively abuse the system.
Overall the game is very fast paced and pretty fun. The game also does well to achieve decent balance which I found a little surprising considering the power the director could hold to abuse the system and practically undermine the game, Also the implementation of weather being important in the game is something no other game has considered which adds another element to the whole survival layer of the game. There are issues with the game such as this weather element feeling wasted on a single type of map as it would be nice to see other types such as extreme heat or maybe even wind that might make your arrows useless. Also the directors powers , although balanced , seem extremely limited and could really do with some enhancing I mean as cool as making a zone have no gravity just making people jump higher does not particularly do much to the game. Maybe if the game contained an element or ability the character had this effected it might work but otherwise you effectively just turn the map into a bouncy castle for a bit. Along with this thread of thought of “lacking”, the crafting could do with more options which intern would give the player more options which Scavenger studio may add but who knows.
And that is the unfortunate aspect of trying to a review a game that is a preview or early access, as you only see half the picture and that picture is wafer thin. But hey I might be cynical in this day and age but judging by the fact the preview of the game costs £15 I feel no doubt that it is going to be full of loot box’s and additional pink hats for you to buy for your Fred.