In recent years Early Access has proven to be a great source for up and coming genres to flourish, and the Battle Royale genre is one that has certainly bloomed more than anyone ever expected. With Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds proving to be two of the most played games of the past year, there’s no surprise that many others are wanting a piece of the Battle Royale pie. The latest title to join the genre has arrived via the Xbox One Game Preview program, but can Darwin Project prove to be a viable competitor to Fortnite or PUBG, or has it arrived a little too late to steal the thunder?
Unlike the previously mentioned Battle Royale epics, Darwin Project doesn’t bring monumental 100 player games across monstrous maps. Instead things are stripped back greatly. There are only 10 players to a match, and they are left to roam the minimal 2 kilometre map. Instead of a constantly shrinking wall of doom to avoid, Darwin Project instead brings life ending gas into the field of play to lessen the playable area. This isn’t the only hazard however as on top of this the weather brings an additional environmental danger to watch out for – too long in the cold will see you end up out of the game.
Caution is a must within Darwin Project as while there are much fewer players, the competitive nature means everyone will be gunning for you.
So, the first major difference from your usual run of the mill Battle Royale experience is the previously mentioned weather hazards. Darwin Project is the latest game to bring death inducing weather and with the start of each game handing you nothing more than an axe, a bow and some relatively light clothing in the form of a shirt and some trousers, your first focus will be to keep the cold at bay. To do this you can chop down wood to create a fire, however doing so makes a lot of noise and this will attract other players to your location, whilst the fire itself will give away your location much quicker than you’ll want it to. Planning is a must if you hope to survive more than a few minutes. Eventually and, with enough searching, you’ll come across the key ingredients to craft items such as fur coats and less obvious ways to avoid the cold. However it’ll be fires that will keep you going in those early moments.
It will be the other players who remain your main threat though. Like other Battle Royale games, the goal is to finish the game as the last man standing, however doing so isn’t easy, especially when you have one player holding the reigns of god. Along with those joining you in the field, Darwin Project also brings an additional player in the form of the Show Director. This is an interesting aspect that allows one to control the flow of play by imposing sanctions on the area of play, closing down specific zones of the map. Whilst that is the key feature most Show Directors are using, other abilities include altering players’ temperatures, turning chosen players invincible and generally giving them the final say over decisions that are likely to lead to life or death.
It’s definitely a different approach that freshens up the genre, but how well it works is down to debate as the power the role brings is certainly great. That said there is still plenty of time to see the feature perfected before release and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.
Other than that there is very little extra that’s not already been seen in other Battle Royale titles and if the main menu is anything to go by, duos look set to arrive for some team based action in the future. It won’t take long for things to feel natural for a Battle Royale experience.
At present the game is very limited in what it offers, but there is definitely enough potential to allow Darwin Project to become the next big thing. Whilst 10 players doesn’t quite feel like enough players, it would take drastically bigger maps to see a fair increase made possible to the player count.
Is it on par with PUBG and Fortnite? No, not at present, however it does bring something new and fresh to the genre and with many games wanting to cash in on the popular formula, it’s nice to see games arriving and already looking to put their own spin on things. With release expected later this year, it will be interesting to see how the game shapes up in the coming months.