The Darwin Project: Overview
The Darwin Project: Overview
When the Darwin Project launched in early access on the Xbox One and on Desura, it was not very attractive to the audience from the very beginning. It took six weeks for the game to lose its price tag and become shareware - at that time PUBG had already built a huge fan base around itself, and Fortnite was played by more than 45 million people, so the developers did everything possible to win the attention of gamers. Almost two years later, version 1.0 was released (and the game finally appeared on the PS4), but does it have a chance of survival if another titan in the person of Apex Legends has appeared during this time?
Many elements of the Darwin Project are unique against the competition. Instead of hundreds of participants fighting with each other, there are only ten actors in the match (except for the director, but about him later - he does not run along with everyone). The location is not striking in scale - there is a rather small map divided into seven zones. Therefore, there is no tapering ring in the game - just the zones close one after another. At the same time, the central idea of the royal battle remains unchanged - only one can win, the one who outlives all competitors.
From games of this genre you expect a hectic search for equipment scattered around the map, and collecting all kinds of trash like first-aid kits and grenades. Everything was arranged differently right there - both types of weapons (ax and bow) are given to everyone from the very beginning. It is necessary to collect two resources: a tree and a darwinium. A tree will be needed to create arrows, a shield that absorbs one blow, and a bonfire - the latter will need to be crafted more than once, because the hero is cold.
Darwinium is also used to enhance the character's characteristics. With the release of version 1.0, classes appeared in the Darwin Project , of which there are only three at this stage. All of them have unique skills, which are upgraded (within the match, of course) and Darwinium is spent. To be more precise, all classes have two active skills and three passive ones. You need to choose the desired branch of abilities before the start of the match in the preparatory lobby.
The first class carries a jetpack on its back in the form of wings and can increase flight speed, the amount of available fuel and the damage from archery in the air. The second one has a glove with a hook that attracts to an object or target, and reduces the speed of recovery of the hook or adds an extra charge, so you did not have to wait. Also only he has the opportunity to increase the damage from blows with an ax. Finally, the third class was given a companion drone that helps in finding targets, and with the resources available, it will be possible to increase the tracking time of opponents and the speed of movement when capturing a target.
These are only passive skills that give bonuses after their improvement without the participation of the player, and active ones must be used by pressing buttons on the gamepad. Someone has a turret or shield that absorbs all attacks for a couple of seconds. Characters with wings soar into the air and dive down, and heroes with drones scan the area and even become invisible for a short time. Not all abilities are available immediately - for some, you need to increase the level of a certain class, that is, play more often for it.
Here you encounter one of the problems of the Darwin Project , and it is not so much in the imperfect balance (the jetpack is much more useful than anything else, and the players are already asking to do something with it), but in the similarity of the matches to each other. Since you don’t need to look for weapons, and trees and bulbs with Darwinium are scattered everywhere in large quantities, everything goes according to one scenario: you collect the same resources, spend on the same abilities, sometimes you join the battle or run away.
In other royal battles, creating unique moments is much easier. You can fall into a popular location in the hope of quickly finding cool weapons and leave the zone with five killings. Or torment throughout the match with bad guns, because of which you have to change tactics. In the same game, you appear where the computer decides, and do the same thing as the last time.
Only random things that drop out from the chests all over the map differ: accelerating and warming drinks, smoke bombs, traps, stretch marks and gliders. But they hardly affect anything significantly - at least in my matches opponents used them very rarely. Basically, it comes down to melee battles with periodic attempts to fire arrows at an opponent. There were several types of arrows before, but in the release version they decided to cut them for some reason.
The fights themselves both look and play funny. The characters are fast and agile, so out of habit to damage them with an ax is not so easy. Soon you begin to understand how to behave in battle, how to try to trick an opponent, forcing him to come closer, how to use abilities. When you shoot someone from the glove and are attracted, quickly pressing the attack button, you rejoice like a child. And then the opponent starts to run away, you shoot him in the back with a bow and collect all the tree that has fallen from him to create a fresh little shield.
But still, after several matches, it is difficult to get rid of the feeling that you are wasting time on the not-so-interesting royal battle and saw almost everything that it has to offer. Abilities for all classes can be unlocked very quickly, and after that the rewards will be random cosmetic items that look dull. At first, Apex Legends also had problems with this, but the gameplay was insanely addictive. But the Darwin Project cannot be described like that.
The situation changes dramatically with the advent of an intelligent director - this is the eleventh player who controls what is happening on the battlefield. He watches the participants, can comment on the game, help someone and encourage prizes, arrange tricks like a nuclear strike on a certain zone. The directors sometimes come across very funny ones - the matches literally change with them, especially if they do not thoughtlessly press buttons, but try to make the battle more spectacular and dynamic. They even have the opportunity to mark someone on the map in order to quickly push participants together.
The director’s mode opens after reaching the fifth level (that is, pretty quickly), and in the menu you can choose a set of cards with which you will go to the match. New options are unblocked later, and cards like “Give the player 3 trees”, “Send Darwinium delivery to the selected zone”, and so on, are all initially available, so they will not be able to throw participants resources. Using some cards can greatly change the dynamics of the game, especially if the director comments on what is happening. My favorite match was with a guy who included music from Pirates of the Caribbean every time someone fought - it looked a lot funnier than it sounds.
This kind of mechanics makes the Darwin Project a truly unique game, but gifted users are not always found - most often you will either run in silence or hear only a couple of phrases uttered by a dull low voice. This royal battle is just perfect for indoor lobbies in which you meet with a dozen friends (or viewers of your stream, if you have an audience) and play matches with jokes. Alone, you rarely get such pleasure, but there is no duet mode yet.
Perhaps that is why the audience of the Darwin Project has been steadily declining and has not grown much with the exit from early access. Being a director is not the most grateful thing, and not everyone has the corresponding talent. And without a commentator, the matches become too similar and the gameplay gets bored more and more. With more extensive customization options, everything would probably not be so sad, but the game is not so diverse.
At the same time, it has interesting gameplay ideas like searching for clues and tracking targets. Each time you create something, you leave trash behind - if a player tries to interact with him, for a couple of seconds he will find out your location. The same goes for felled trees and open chests. You can be secretive and craft things in secluded places without attracting attention, or you can deliberately throw garbage if you really want to engage in battle with someone. By the way, since the action of the game takes place in the winter, the participants leave traces after themselves - they will also be able to find the target if it does not move by jumping.
If both opponents hit each other with axes at the same time, they are thrown away without causing damage.
It's just that you get to know all these ideas quickly, but I did not notice the depth in the gameplay. Probably, with at least some kind of progress system, participating in the matches would be more fun, but there are no seasonal awards, no military passes - only the most boring “realiki” (play five matches in one class, play five matches in another class ...) and a store with cosmetic items that you don’t even want to save up for. These things also fall out upon reaching each new level and look so-so.
The impressions of the Darwin Project depend too much on whether a funny commentator comes across in the next match. Otherwise, you play the royal battle, in which you really don’t even need to look for anything - both the Darwinium and the tree are almost always in abundance for basic improvements. Fighting fun, looking for goals can be exciting, but already on the third day I was looking for reasons to return to the game, hardly able to surprise after two dozen matches. I wanted to believe that the developers found a way to keep the audience, but when Steam forums still write about matches with the same people, the hope for the success of the Darwin Project quickly fades.
Pros: interesting ideas with tracking opponents; funny combat system; excellent director mode, thanks to which matches can be much more fun than usual.
Cons: you don’t need to look for weapons, and you spend resources on the same improvements, therefore, monotony overtakes very quickly; the class system is not flexible enough - there are almost no customizations within the match; without a sensible director it’s boring to run around the map; the current progress system is no good.