Ten inmates, one director, viewers influence the chaos. This is the framework for Scavengers Studio’s foray into the growing battle royal genre. That framework is what sets up Darwin Project’s core and is what makes it work so well. Darwin Project finally released in early access, and players who weren’t in the beta can grab the game on Xbox One or PC now for just fifteen dollars.

Fast pace gameplay is part of what sets Darwin Project apart from other battle royal games on the market. Matches tend to last around twelve minutes or less. From the get-go, players rush to get wood and leather to craft everything that leads to successful matches. Each player starts with just a bow, five arrows and a melee object from then it relies solely on the player to gather everything else. Armor can be made with a few pieces of leather, and wood. Fur can also be crafted to keep the impending frost from killing you off or if you are lucky enough you can find it in a chest randomly placed on the map. The game really heats up once players start fighting. The kill feed goes crazy showing the damage that happens to each player and it honestly feels like anything can happen. Players die to lava, fights start when stopping to build a fire to survive; during one match four of us happened to end up in the same area. While we’re all trying to maim or get headshots on our attackers the show director set off a tactical nuke and unanimously it was like everyone realized how screwed we were once the counter hit zero. We all took off running, and it was a mad dash to make it to the next zone. Three out of four of us didn’t make it and it was an amazing thing to watch as the fire overtook us one by one. Moments like that are what make Darwin Project such an outstanding game.

There are so many subtle aspects that make Darwin Project such a stand out title. The obvious one being that players can and will freeze to death unless they take steps to combat it. There is so much more to the game though. Small aspects of finding coffee in a chest to save you from spending time and resources to build a fire. Killing a robot deer also nets players goodies, armor, speed boots, traps there is no losing when the opportunity to hunt presents itself. One of the most easily overlooked mechanics is how players can dive through an open window without breaking the flow of movement. In other games, like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, you must hit a button when running at a window to the mantle and jump through it and if it doesn’t work you just kind of hit the wall and look dumb. In Darwin Project sprinting at a window will let players jump through it seamlessly. It’s something so small that adds a massive positive aspect to the game and can even affect combat via dodging traps or escaping a losing fight.

Much like Fortnite’s building mechanic Darwin Project has its own in-game mechanics that help make it feel fresh. Crafting is a massive part of the core gameplay of Darwin Project. Each player can customize their craft wheel to hold whatever loadout they prefer, which brings some fantastic variety to the game. Players can swap between several electronics and traps that can help them in battle. Turrets can help keep other inmates pinned down, each bullet dealing just twenty-five damage. Teleportation can help players get out of an endless amount of hairy situations. Did the director send a nuke after you? Did Manhunt paint a target on your back? With a blink of an eye, you can be on the other side of a zone and out of harm’s way.  Things getting too heated and you’re taking too much damage engage your shield and for the next fifteen seconds, you possess godly levels of invulnerability. A personal favorite electronic for me is the arena. Imagine being in a one on one battle and suddenly a renegade arrow comes in from the left and gets the final kill shot, or worse yet as soon as you think you have cornered an easy kill they book it. Well, prevent both of those things from happening by literally closing yourself off from the rest of the battlefield for a bit in a small shielded area. It gets better when I hear opponents panic as they try to run away. That’s when I whisper something creepy into my mic like “Remember, I’m not in here with you. You’re stuck in here with me.”

I may get a little too into the role of an inmate.

Tracking is a useful mechanic. It allows players to keep tabs or hunt those who may be in the area.

To wrap everything up, Darwin Project is clearly a labor of love from the team over at Scavengers Studio. I can sit here and go on and on about the game. How the combat looks to keep itself fair with a knockback feature that helps prevent players from taking too much damage at once. How the director is one of the best and most innovative mechanics to hit the battle royal genre. How Twitch and Mixer integration brings the even more to the table for Darwin Project. I would rather you just go play the game now, the developers are already planning to drop new content next week adding female player models, U.I. improvements and a few bug fixes as well. Grab Darwin Project and remember Don’t Freeze To Death.