A Fresh Take On the Battle Royale Genre
by: Nico Maturo Follow Nico on Twitter by clicking here Reviewed on: PC Also available on: Xbox One
I stumbled upon Darwin Project a while back after reading about it on Reddit and after my first game, I immediately fell in love. At first glance, Darwin Project will always be compared to Fortnite because of the art style; in reality, it much much closer to something like The Hunger Games, or maybe even The Culling.
Darwin Project is Scavenger Studios’ free-to-play online multiplayer game that drops 10 players (or inmates) into a blizzard-style map with nothing but a bow and an axe, with the task of being the last man standing.
Players must harvest resources such as wood and leather to craft arrows, armor, traps and much more to stay alive and defeat any enemies you run into. You even have to stop and make the occasional fire to keep yourself from freezing to death. Throughout the game, another resource called an electronic will spawn on the map for you to collect. These electronics are extremely useful as they give you the ability to make your best power-ups; anything from deploying turrets, teleporting across the map and complete invisibility. All of these upgrades are meant to give you an advantage when you finally run into an enemy and begin to fight.
The combat system in Darwin Project is one of the most fluid and rewarding styles from a multiplayer game that I’ve played in recent memory. There is absolutely zero bloom involved when you fire off an arrow at another player. Wherever you aim and fire, that is where your shot will end up. Darwin also rewards skillful movement around the map, and just playing the game with some sort of strategy. Even though combat basically only involves an axe and a bow, no two fights ever feel the same.
All of the terrain throughout the map feels unique, and you can use all of the hills, houses and trees to your advantage. Another variable in fights could be things like a section of the map closing off, a nuke hitting a nearby area or even a player getting exposed to the rest of the players with a bounty on their head for additional rewards. I would definitely classify the combat in Darwin Project as easy to pick up, but difficult to master. With over 50 hours sunk into it so far, I am still testing out different builds and techniques to improve myself.
Now, if you’ve had your fill of fighting for the evening and want to try something different, you can choose to be a show director instead of a competitor. The show director essentially spices up each round and decides where to place the aforementioned nukes, or who to heal and much more. As a director, you can watch wherever you want on the map, communicate directly to the players, and reward players for winning a fight. It may sound simple, but it is actually loads of fun altering the map layout and kind of nudging players closer for another battle.
There is also an element of Twitch interaction built into the game. If there are any Twitch viewers watching a specific game, the show director can choose to leave any of his decisions up to the viewers. As an example, if two players simultaneously kill an enemy and the director is unsure of who to reward, he can just leave it up to vote for Twitch to decide. As a viewer myself, I absolutely love that idea because it made me feel more involved in the streamer’s game. It’s a small addition, but Scavenger Studios is definitely on to something good here.
photo courtesy of SurviveThis.news
Darwin Project is also loaded with customization. Included in the leveling system is the usual loot box that gives you random aesthetic upgrades. You can unlock different articles of clothing for your character from head to toe, and even the bow and axe you drop in with. There is also a ton of different traps, equipment, electronics and upgradeable abilities for your character in-game, but these do not need to be unlocked.
Darwin Project gives all of the actual useful items to you right from the start, giving you the freedom of building your own class exactly how you want to play. With all the different options, there are easily dozens of different builds and play styles.
Where the game starts to falter for me, is the excessive amount of mobility and how much information is available to you in-game. There are map radars in about half of the buildings that let you see where every single player is at any given moment. Also, when players other than yourself are fighting, you can see how much damage they are doing to each other at the top of your screen. Thanks to the fight information you receive, you can wait nearby for the two players to get themselves down to low health and jump in last minute to “vulture” the kills. Sure, it sounds like smart strategy, but it can be frustrating every now and then to be in the middle of a long, intense fight with someone only to have some random person hit you in the back with an arrow, fly in and take out the other person you were fighting.
This style of vulturing is made even more popular with all of the mobility perks available. If a person has the power leap and teleport electronics equipped, they can also craft a glider and use all three in unison to fly literally across the entire map. This gives the player access to anywhere on the map at any given time, and paired with all the information given, can be used to jump around the map to clean up any player with low health. Vulturing doesn’t happen in every single match as it takes a lot of resources to pull off and a lot of players I’ve come across like to fight fairly, but it does happen enough to the point that I felt like it was worth noting here.
Another minor weakness for this game is the marketing, or lack thereof. This game is not really marketed anywhere; no ads, commercials… nothing. Darwin Project is essentially found by word of mouth. Anyone I talk to about Darwin Project in person always has a first response of, “What’s that? Never heard of it.”
This game is already better than some of the more popular titles and deserves more recognition than it currently has.
For a game that is currently still in early-access, Darwin Project is optimized very well and has loads of potential to carve out a strong niche in the BR genre. I personally enjoy this game more than any other BR currently available and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It’s refreshing combat alone make this game worth trying for yourself. Throw in the fact that the game is completely free, what is there to lose?