Battle Royale games are all the rage right now. Between H1Z1: King of the Kill and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, it’s clear that gamers are looking for a professionally developed winner-take-all, fight-to-the-death game that can provide that heart-pumping experience, without being married to a myriad of bugs, glitches, and cheats. Whether it be people who play these types of games, or the crowds that watch streamers play them, this genre is begging to be explored further. The Darwin Project that exactly. It keeps the simple goal: last one alive wins, while moving forward both in terms of gameplay design and audience participation.
I was able to play The Darwin Project at E3 in early-June against five other players and I was worried initially about the shortage of players leading to a less exciting experience. Compared to PlayerUnkown’s Battlegroudns, five people seems paltry.
But I quickly realized that smaller groups of players fighting leads to more unique interactions and less passive gameplay. It is much easier to scavenge for supplies when you know there aren’t 20 people surrounding you. The map was separated into hexagons and each would close off as the match continued, forcing the remaining survivors to move towards one another.
Everything in The Darwin Project has a unique purpose and obvious recipes. For example, knowing you need a lot of wood and leather to craft a turret, you are able to immediately search for trees to cut down and oddly, leather chairs in the middle of a forest to harvest. All of your scavenging is simple and has immediate rewards as opposed to checking buildings for randomized loot spawns. This brings me to my next point: hunting down players.
Players need to maintain heat; if a player gets too cold, they die. To do this they must craft a fire out of logs. Not only does that fire send up a tall plume of smoke that players in the surrounding area can see, but if a player is able to find the tree stump that you harvested the wood from, they can investigate it and find your exact location on the map for a few seconds.
This gameplay mechanic results in a unique and dynamic relationship between harvesting to stay alive and trying to hide from other player’s radars. The game encourages you to craft items, but not too many items that every player on the map has a bead on you.
In addition, similar to other battle royale games, is the game’s “technology” objective. There are three abilities that players can craft, but to do so they must attain technology, which drops in certain locations of the map every few minutes. These power-ups include things like a 10 second force field, or a predator-esque ability to see players nearby through walls and objects. I was able to procure two of these throughout my match and they take a longer time to harvest than trees or leather and leave on vulnerable.
Graphically the game’s look is refreshing considering the other games in the genre and the ways they attempt to make their settings look realistic. In The Darwin Project it is clear that you are a character, an inmate who has done something wrong and must now fight to the death for the audience’s viewing pleasure. Customization will be coming to melee weapons for now, allowing the player to swap out their axe for a mace, or a sword, or a picture frame portrait of an axe (all with the same stats as the base axe).
The game allows for several play styles. You could opt to sharpen your weapon until it does enough damage to the point that you beat other players in duels. You could only craft arrows and attempt to snipe your opponents from hundreds of meters away. Or you could do what I did, a combination of all three which lead me to victory in my demo of the game.
While I was able to catch a glimpse of the game’s livestream camera bot as it captured the images of the bodies of inmates I had just murdered, I was unable to witness any changes to the map or battleground from the “show director,” or experience any of the mechanics that will be implemented into the game’s streaming experience. From what I played though, I enjoyed The Darwin Project. As the genre continues to grow, I’m excited to see what developer Scavengers Studios is able to do to make sure players continue to do just that. You can check out the trailer for The Darwin Project above.