Back during E3 2017 we were introduced to a new battle royale game during the Microsoft presentation. What started as a game announcement soon turned into the laughing stock of E3(ARROW TO THE BELLY!). Well, the game has come back up again with an open beta out now on Steam for all to play. Being curious, I decided to give the game a shot and see whether or not this game will be the next big battle royale game. For those who just want an answer, here it is: in my opinion, Darwin Project will not be the next big thing, not even close.
When it comes to other battle royale games like Fortnite or PUBG, Darwin Project plays pretty differently. Of course the basics are still in place, like each character starts equally and the goal is to be the last standing in a shrinking map; but when it comes to the specifics, this game strays pretty far off course.
If I were to give you the elevator pitch of this game, it would go something like this: it's a battle royale game with light survival mechanics and plays like Fortnite. Unfortunately, an elevator pitch won't touch on a lot of the big aspects of the game, which is why I am here with a blog to touch on those aspects as well as my thoughts on them. And spoiler: a lot of these mechanics are ones I don't like.
Before getting into the mechanics, let's start with what you do in the game. You and everyone else spawn in at random parts of the map with a bow, five arrows, and a melee weapon. In the game, you have the ability to gain three materials: wood, leather, and electronics. The wood and leather are used to make consumables such as traps, fires, and arrows as well as clothing and melee upgrades. The electronics are used to make one of three things: an invisible cloak, an invincibility bubble, or a teleportation device. All three only last for a small amount of time, but all three recharge after use. It is then your job to hunt down other players and be the last one standing.
Let's start with what I said in my elevator pitch. One of the many things that separates Darwin Project from the rest are its "survival" elements. In reality, it's a cold meter you have to occasionally worry about and fix by making a fire out of wood. While I enjoy how light the survival element in this game is, I still wish it wasn't in the game. It feels unnecessary when it's the easiest thing to worry about in the game. personally, I would say this is a hunting style game more than a survival game. Whether it be the various hunting traps you can make, the ability to investigate items player interacted with and be able to track them down, or the simple fact that the primary weapons in the game are a bow and a melee weapon, the game is more of a TheHunter than The Long Dark. In the end though, I wish it was neither. Instead of going around and trying to find guns and better equipment, you are going around chopping down trees and getting leather just so then you can have the ability to make traps and upgrades. When it comes to weapons in your hand, there are only two, and they will be the same two weapons when you start and when you finish: a melee weapon and a bow. This may appeal to some, as for it makes each opponent stay on a level playing field throughout the game. But battle royale has never been about fair. If you look back to the Battle Royale film, the students were given random bags with different tools varying in helpfulness. The fun in games like PUBG or Fortnite comes from steadily finding better loot so you can overcome another opponent in hopes of winning. Also, only having a bow and a melee gets stale pretty fast. I found all of the other items and upgrades to be rather basic. I haven't made or used any traps because I have found in my experiences nobody uses them. The upgrades to clothing are rather minuscule, and the special electronic abilities are pretty helpful but don't last long enough. In the end, items and everything surrounding it is rather lackluster and I wish there was more to it.
Besides the fact that you can get resources and build things from them, the other aspect that is similar to Fortnite would be its arcade-like action. You play only in third person, your movements are fast and your jumping is high, and so forth. Unfortunately, I actually think the game takes this style too far and adds aspects that I don't enjoy. For example, whenever you hit someone with anything, they will go flying back. This aspect turned out to be annoying more than convenient as for it makes melee gameplay annoying and it gets pretty bad when fighting indoors. There are even more arcade-y aspects to this game, but they will be talked about later. When it comes to the actual battle royale part of the game, I think they do some pretty cool things with one really large exception. The two main things they do right are how you spawn and how they shrink the map. You don't spawn in a vehicle and parachute out; you spawn somewhere random in the map. I like this more because it's more classic. In Battle Royale, they all started in the same building and they all spread out. It's not exactly the same, but it's close. Speaking of classic, the map is divided into seven section and each section is deemed unusable as the time goes on. In the film, the map was divided into grids and overtime the pieces in the grid would be eliminated. I liked the way they handled that stuff. Other than that, it still is kill the others to win, except for one really big exception that turns out to be my biggest issue with the game. Where the Battle Royale film had forty-two people and PUBG and Fortnite has 100, this game only has ten. That's right, only ten people. I can see the appeal of only ten players for the fact that matches would go faster, it would make matchmaking easier, and killing someone could be a bigger deal with only ten people than with 100. But only having ten ultimately kills what makes these games great. All of the exhilaration of reaching the end is lost because surviving against nine others is a lot easier than surviving against ninety-nine others. When I hit top five in PUBG, my heart is pounding like it has never done before. But reaching final two in Darwin Project meant nothing to me. And I know you are not actually surviving against all of those others people. You can reach the end of either without seeing a soul. But the amount of people mixed with the fact that PUBG and Fortnite have long ranged weapons means that turns running around from somewhat cautionary to absolutely nothing. In Darwin Project, you don't have to fear being killed off in the distance because there is no distance combat. If there is any threat to you, you will know where it will come from. This plus the amount of players turns any non-shooting parts of the game from a cautionary bore to just a bore. But the most unique part of this game isn't even playing the battle royale game itself.
The most interesting thing to come of this game is the fact that you can play as a game master. You can play as a giant floating robot camera that has certain abilities ranging from filling up freezing bars to outright shutting down parts of the map. If you play as this robot, you have the ability to speak with others, spectate through there point-of-view or through a free floating perspective, and broadcast your gameplay through Mixer and allow people to vote for who they think will win as well as vote on what abilities the game master should use and on who. I think this robot is really cool, but I also wish it wasn't there. While I think the game master having the ability to close off parts of the map and nuke parts of the map is cool, I also think the rest of the tools given to the game master can be used as an unfair advantage to other players. I know I talked about how battle royale was built on unfairness, but that form of unfairness is based on luck and not on personal preference. Whether it be giving a player temporary invincibility, refill on health, a speed boost, or even making that person a target for everyone to see, I think this will be used maliciously to help boost a certain person to victory. If me and my friend went into the same match and he was the game master, then of course he would try to help or screw me. Whatever the case may be, I think at the very least some of those abilities should be stripped.
So the big question is will it succeed? Personally, I think it will be relatively popular and will have a dedicated fan base who will stick with it through thick and thin. But this game will never reach the heights of PUBG and Fortnite. I think both of those games are successful for there uniqueness. PUBG is more tactical and slower paced, great for the PC. Fortnite is faster paced and more arcade-like in its gameplay, perfect for consoles. But Darwin Project is just a Fortnite-like that adds aspects to the popular game mode that actually strips what makes the mode great. I like the fact that this game is unique from the rest, but I don't like how it's unique from the rest. But in the end, this is just a beta and all of this could change, making this entry obsolete. Personally, I don't think they will change anything significant to what is there now, but only time will tell what is to come of this game. If nothing is changed with this game, then I hope at the very least they put in the shout caster from E3 into game as an announcer.