Darwin Project (Early Access) Review – An Interesting Take on the Emerging Battle Royale Genre

Darwin Project
Scavengers Studio

Battle royale games are gaining some serious momentum these days. The first one to gain prominence was H1Z1, which has since garnered tons of notoriety for its questionable netcode and sloshy hit detection (as well as some shady business practices). However, The Culling was the first game within the rapidly emerging genre to be built from the ground as purely a battle royale experience. Unfortunately, The Culling’s developers didn’t listen to their player base’s feedback and it has since flat-lined.

Of course PUBG took the battle royale world by storm last year but has since gone through quite a backlash because of rampant, unabated and unchecked cheating by hackers. Fortnite also blew up overnight (no pun intended), but its super-cartoony aesthetics made it feel as though you’re playing it in some sort of a cramped Tellatubby world. Franky, it seems more suited more towards ADD-afflicted 12 year olds.

Meanwhile, a newer game which debuted in January of 2018, titled SOS, seemed to more fully embrace the audience-watching aspect within the battle royale genre. It featured melee focused combat similar to The Culling and added in real live audiences. Unfortunately, however, it didn’t have any sort of crafting system and seemed a little too focused on catering to streamers.

Scavengers Studio’s new game, Darwin Project, also seems rather preoccupied with viewing audiences and the whole streamer crowd. Hearing about that aspect made me initially hesitant to try the game out. I’m not a big fan of screeching and squealing Twitch and YouTube types who have goofy-faced thumbnails on all of their video content. There’s nothing quite as pathetic as watching supposedly full-grown males hyperventilating and squeaking like prepubescent school girls. I’m also not a fan of watching odd looking females with unnaturally colored hair. But I digress…

Darwin Project has cartoonish graphics that are similar to Fortnite, which I’m honestly not a big fan of. However, it does some things right that could spell success for its future. For one thing, I like that the game focuses more on cleverly laying traps for your foes instead of just straight up ranged or melee combat.

It also doesn’t pander to all of the gun-centric gamers out there by dropping tons of AK-47’s and M4’s all over the map. In this game, you start off with a simple bow and a melee weapon. Adding to the fun is the fact that you can craft items as well, just like in H1Z1 or The Culling. However, unlike those games, in the Darwin Project, the very environment can kill you as well. That’s because the “show” takes place in the frigid Canadian wilderness. Fortunately, you can chop wood and craft campfires to warm yourself if things start to become a little too frosty.

You do have to be careful when starting fires as well as disturbing anything else wherever you go, because you could end up potentially being detected by other players. This ratchets up the tension within each game because a lot of it comes down to laying traps for your enemies and waiting patiently until someone falls into your ambush zones. But then you have the game’s game speed which flies in the face of all of that, but I’ll touch on that later…

Something unique to the Darwin Project is that there’s one player on hand who serves as each match’s Director. This fun role has the person skimming around the frosty air and watching everything from on high through a perky (or pesky as the case may be) drone. The Director role allows that player to follow each of the contestants at the touch of a button or two, and either hinder or help whoever they want to.

For instance, during one of my games as a Director I noticed that one particular player was having a hard time, so I helped him out a little. I did this by granting him temporary invincibility as well as the ability to leap through the air like The Incredible Hulk. The audiences who are watching each match can also indicate who they favor and who they dislike, which is a nice, interactive touch.

One factor that I wasn’t too pleased about was Darwin Project’s game speed. It seemed way too fast for a battle royale experience that seems to predicate itself on laying ambushes and outlasting other, more hyperactive contestants. Slowing down the movement speed would make the game more purposeful and build up tension as each match progressed, instead of feeling like you’re floating around on turbo-boosted rollerblades.

The Darwin Project is an interesting game that holds promise, but I think it is geared towards the younger crowd of gamers because of its cartoonish visuals and very fast pacing. It seems like it could be a great entry-level title to show people the basics of the battle royale experience. However, those seeking a deeper and more visceral experience may tire of it and look elsewhere.

SCORE: 71%

Darwin Project features outstanding graphics that make its battle royale gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

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