Darwin Project by Scavengers Studio takes the ever-growing genre of battle royale games and puts a superb spin on it. During PAX South 2018, I had the chance to talk with several members of the team while the game was being shown off at the Mixer booth. The term talk is used relatively loosely. One of the aspects that made this booth stand out was the fact that every single match was shoutcasted as if it were an esports event. I will go a little more in-depth with it later on but one of the rolls in every match is an overseer of sorts. The Mixer personality that was shoutcasting the event the entire weekend was also playing this overseer role and engaging the crowd via a loudspeaker system. It took the excitement of the game to a whole new level,  but more on that later.

The combat manages to feel both familiar and incredibly fresh at the same time. In the typical battle royale, players must scavenge for supplies once inside the playable map. What happens after that is what sets Darwin Project apart from the others.

In most battle royale games it is fairly easy to get one-tapped, meaning, you can spend so much time gathering resources only to walk outside and get shot once in the head by a sniper or close range by a shotgun. Then you’re staring at a loading screen in frustration. Darwin Project implements a knockback system that combats this quite well. Every time a player is dealt damage, whether it be melee or getting hit by an arrow, they get thrown back a little bit. It’s usually not an insane amount (unless low gravity is on then feel free to cackle as the player you struck flies through the air) but it feels like enough to give the player an opportunity to fight back. It is not imbalanced to the point where combat is slower, even in close quarters the combat was hectic trying to get an angle on my assailant, which is great that mechanic kept the combat from feeling unfair.

The crafting is wonderfully simplistic. Smaller trees and furniture can be gathered to make needed items, arrows, armor, and the like. Crafting is done via a pop-up menu featuring twelve different slotted options.

One of the options that help Darwin Project innovate inside the genre is the fact that players can freeze to death. A meter near the health bar indicated how cold the player is when it hits zero you die. The ways to combat this is by finding coats either in loot boxes or by gathering the resources to make them or build a fire. The only issue with that is fire can be seen by other players. Though it is a necessity to build and heat up with a fire, other players can easily see it and even use fires you have made. So, in theory, you can inadvertently help your enemies, which can come back and bite you.

Chests can also change the playing field. They can be found throughout the map and once opened the players can get a variety of items dropped. Arrows, armor, and electronics that help build better items, which is another interesting mechanics.

Random massive event style drops will also happen, getting them grants the players a bunch of higher tier items such as electronics, but it comes at an interesting price. The game will tell everyone in the lobby who picked up the item essentially making them a target. That is the only time that will happen and it makes it a high risk, high reward situation. Turrets are also in the game and can help keep players pinned down, I never got the chance to set one up so I can’t speak to how they are acquired. I did, however, see them in action, they did not seem to be overpowered to the point where players who had one could set up shop and mow down other players. The turrets seemed balanced enough to just deal damage and hold players at bay but rarely get final blows in combat.

Overall Darwin Project is highly addicting. Not only could that be seen from the crowd at PAX South, but I went back and played it several times and would sometimes just stand and watch purely as entertainment. The game is fun, innovative, and no two games ever felt alike.

I mentioned earlier the overseer role that is in every match. The overseer has the ability to close off sections of the map forcing players to evacuate or face freezing to death. They also have a plethora of other abilities at their disposal ranging from buffs to players like temporary invincibility, to a tactical nuke they can drop once a match that can completely change the tides of the battle. What makes this mechanic stand out, even more, is the Mixer integration. The streaming service is integrated to let a streamer’s chat vote quickly to help the overseer decide who gets supply drops, what zones get closed, who gets a manhunt placed on them, and many more game-changing options (low gravity was a favorite of mine). It was hinted at that Twitch will get the same functionality, however, that is not confirmed as of yet. So, for now, it is just a possibility for the platform to get it and it remains a Mixer only function for chat interaction.

If you are free this weekend (starting today at 1/19/18) the game is running an open test for everyone to play. Simply go download the beta on Steam and enjoy. The game, to the best of my knowledge, is due out this year and it should definitely be on your radar. Whether you are new to the battle royale genre or a hardened veteran Darwin Project is a blast to play and sure to be a standout title when it fully releases on PC and Xbox One.

 

About The Author

Allen S
Editorial/Reviews Team, Manager

I started gaming when I was seven years old. I started my own game studio when I was twelve, went to school for game design. Now I work here and also on my own YouTube channel