Darwinia Review

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Graphics: 9.0
Sound : 9.0
Gameplay : 9.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 9.0
Review by Kurt Knudsen and Giovanni Acosta
A while ago I had the chance to preview Darwinia. Back then it was pretty basic, you didn’t have many enemies and there was only 1 level to play. Now with the full version in hand, there are a ton of things to do. The graphics haven’t changed much nor has the audio but the gameplay has proved to be very deep, and the level of addiction is impeccable.

Graphics:

Simply put, this game offers something we haven’t seen before in gaming. The graphics are simple in their design, but create effects unexpected. Without playing the game, it is difficult to explain just how interesting the images portrayed on your screen are. Imagine in depth 1960's psychedelically colored images held together with the straight line structures of the tron universe. It’s nice to see something new to the genre and they work very well for this game.

The maps, from what I’ve played, are pretty much all the same. The game takes place in a digital world and Introversion did a good job on visually representing that. Each level contains a variety of things, namely the trunk ports, incubators, radar dishes, and enemies. You traverse the levels taking over new buildings an eradicating the enemy.

The graphics, in retrospect, are simple as can be, but are represented in such a way that they continue to be aesthetically pleasing. With all of these new companies trying to create the most realistic graphics and pixel shaded eye brows Introversion takes a step back into the days of the Amiga and brings us old schoolers something to gawk at.

Audio:

Not much here. Funny thing is I hadn’t noticed that the music in the game only plays at key parts such as when you gain something important or something dramatic happens. Darwinia is so involved that everything else gets shut out and you only concentrate on what’s important.

As far as I know, there isn't any speech in the the game bringing it even closer to the Amiga days. Sound effects are limited to a few small bleeps and is overall minimal.
The music that is actually played is quite good and it does help make the game a little better but I still think the choice of having an almost entirely silent world is pure class. I love the audio in the game. It’s a good change and there is almost nothing wrong with it. It fits in with the game’s goal and design and helps get the player involved in this digital world by giving us what we’ve come to expect.

Gameplay:

Here is where the game truly shines. Nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to this game. I’ve played a great deal of games in my day, and I cannot remember when a game was more original than this. At first glance it looks like one of those games that offer 5 minutes of gameplay that we often play over and over during work and class. I can assure you that you will spend many hours playing and enjoying this game even after you’ve beat it.

The story behind the game is that a certain Dr. Sepuvleda had built a quantum computer. He connected thousands of his Protologic systems together through a grid and created a digital universe. He created one digital process, a soul, for every Hyperprocessing Protologic system. These souls would be carried down to the island to live a digital life where the weakest died and the strongest lived. He watched as his world evolved and grew. The tools he used to create the world were embedded into the world itself for their own advancement. This continued for many generations until a corrupted process entered the world. It got out of control and grew like cancer. It used the digital spirits to make itself grow and evolve. Dr. Sepuvleda cut off all of the islands so the virus could not spread any further and has recruited you to help save this digital world.

Holy crap, that’s one hell of a story. There’s obviously more to it than that but I really don’t feel like typing out the 3 page booklet that was sent to me.

While you are in the game, the good doctor helps you by giving you hints and tips on what to do and how to defeat your enemy and continue. While the Engineers do a lot of work on their own you must create them and destroy them. Dr. Sepuvleda created a gesture recognition program to help you create your units. You simply hold ALT and use the left mouse button to draw the gestures and then your unit is ready for placement.

In the game you have a task manager, which can be upgraded later, that at first holds 3 tasks. These tasks can be either your squad or engineers or officers. If you need to get rid of an engineer in order to make a squad you simply ALT+TAB to it or select it and hit CTRL+C. You need to use this wisely if you want to defeat the enemy in later levels. The game does get amazingly hard but it can be overcome with some thought.

As you progress through, you begin to gather research boxes. When an engineer finishes reading these you gain something new, like Air Strike. Once it is obtained it can be upgraded via the research panel. These will become imperative during later missions so it is very important to collect them. Most of the time they are on a far away island but are easily retrievable since engineers can go over water.

The incubators in the game also hold a key element. Not only are they for finishing objectives but they also create Darwinians from virus souls. The incubators spit the Darwinians out one at a time over small intervals. Just like everything else in the game the Darwinians can be upgraded as well. To what though, I will not say.

The enemies that I’ve seen so far consist of ants, caterpillars, triffids, and viruses. There are a few more but I don’t want to spoil anything. Those are the ones you will see most often. Viruses look like a bunch of red triangles strung together and worm around on the surface of the level. They are killed by hitting the head and vanish in a puff of smoke. Caterpillars split up when you attack something that isn’t the head or tail, causing more enemies for you to attack.

Your main attacking units are your squads. These can range from 4-5 or more units per squad. The squads shoot out lasers as well as lob grenades that can travel pretty far. With research you can upgrade all sorts of stuff in the game including your weapons, but I’ll cover that later. You can also use Darwinians to attack but that doesn’t come into play until later into the game.

The enemies in the game have different kinds of vulnerabilities. Viruses can only be destroyed when you hit their head with a laser or explosion. Spiders can only be killed by explosions, etc. The enemies seem to wander around aimlessly in search for more souls to devour. When you are spotted by a spider a few other spiders might come to its aid and help kick your butt. If an engineer wanders too far into enemy territory collecting souls, the viruses will wipe it out in a heart beat. It appears the viruses main focus is engineers and they are easily killed by a squad. There are other stationary enemies such as the Triffids. These spit out eggs and the eggs can spawn all sorts of enemies. If left unattended the enemy swarm can grow to amazing levels and you will probably have to restart. Once a building is captured it is yours even if you restart. So if you had an incubator captured but not enough Darwinians then you can restart and position your squad and engineer at that building.

The missions are very involved and hours can pass like nothing while you play them. You can explore the entire map so nothing is hidden from your view. You can zoom in and out and move the camera up and down to get the perspective you want. The camera is completely controlled by the player, except during small cut scenes that explain the level. Also the camera is extremely easy to move around, use the arrow keys or WSAD along with the mouse to look around. It’s a very intuitive design and works flawlessly with the game.

Overall I must say this is the most fun I’ve had in a game since I can remember . The game can be long or short depending on how good you are and whether or not you reset levels due to enemy inflation. The game is very simple and easy to get into but is also deep, offering a ton of gameplay options.

Conclusion:

Introversion also had set up a nice modding community with Uplink; let’s hope the same continues for this game as the mods could be spectacular. I hope Introversion continues developing the Darwinian universe as this game is great. It will be tough to top this game, but then again Uplink was great. My props go out to Introversion for developing such an amazingly original and incredible game. Just goes to show, you don’t need a few million dollars for a budget to create a classic hit.

I also hope the modding community could spark up some network play as playing against one another to create a huge Darwinian army could be an amazing experience.

3/10/2005