This game was previewed using a code provided to me by a PR company. This does not affect my judgement of the game. This game is still in the Game Preview/Early Access stage and so many of the things discussed in this preview will likely change in time.
Darwin Project is a game that doesn’t attempt to hide anything with it’s title; survival of the fittest. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic area in the Northern Canadian Rockies. With an ice age imminent a new project is launched. Half experiment, half entertainment, the “Darwin Project” pits challengers against one another in a fight to the death. Sounds familiar right? The twist is that challengers must also survive the cold of the Canadian Rockies.
A match contains roughly 15 players and one director. The director is controlled by another player and they are responsible for directing the flow of the game. The map is made up of zones, each of which the director can make forbidden. A forbidden zone has extreme cold, making survival nearly impossible. This forces players away from these zones, and into zones with other players.
The director can also activate electronics. These are monuments which must be harvested, giving the player one electronic to craft with. This gives the player a range of abilities, which we will discuss when we talk about the game’s crafting system. Directors have the ability to buff certain players, such as regenerating their health. They can also initiate a manhunt late game. This marks the location of a chosen player on the map, thus making them a target for all other survivors to attempt to eliminate.
Players must simply attempt to survive. Threats come in two forms; the cold of the environment, and other players. Surviving the cold is fairly simple. Players can harvest trees, with each tree giving them one wood. Then simply open the crafting wheel (RB on Xbox One), and select fire. Each fire costs you one wood, and will reduce your cold meter while you are standing next to it. The downside being that fires are easy to spot, making you a target for nearby players.
In terms of other players there are several things you must be weary of, one being the afore mentioned being spotted while getting warm by a fire. Another threat comes from the traps that fellow players can lay for you. Everyone has access to traps, and must simply craft them to be able to use them. This makes that little hut you spotted that little bit more dangerous. Is there a trap waiting in the door? Or is there a false box inside? Who knows? …
To be able to craft you must harvest wood and leather. However harvesting supplies brings its own risks. Once you have harvested a chair for leather, or a tree for wood, another can interact with that tree and use it to track you. By interacting with that tree it will mark your location on the player’s map for a short time, meaning that harvesting becomes a risk. You need to harvest to be able to craft, but the more you harvest the more you can be tracked.
Crafting is by far the biggest part of the game. Crafting gives the player the ability to survive in the cold, and defeat other players. Players can craft everything from basic survival items like fires and arrows, to more advanced items like traps. Traps range from bear traps to fake boxes. Players can also craft armour to help them survive attacks from other players, cloaks to help protect you from the cold or even craft sharper axes for melee attacks.
The game changing abilities come in the form of the electronics players choose to craft. Electronics are harvested from the monuments that directors activate, and allow players to craft some pretty awesome items. These include the likes of; energy shields that mean you take no physical damage for a short time, teleportation to an area you can see and super jump to evade enemies. Items like this can really change the game but getting comes with a big risk as every player sees the location of active electronics, making for a very tense experience.
There is only one complaint I have. When you get hit by an arrow, the player is launched backwards from the direction in which the arrow was fired. You might be thinking okay, no big deal. Now picture this. You join a match of Darwin Project. You begin playing and you’re having a good game. You have your electronics, plenty of arrows and other items crafted. You feel that you have this in the bag. You’re moving around being observant of your surroundings, and then all of a sudden your character gets hit by an arrow and launched backwards. You fall down a gap in the arena, land in lava and your character immediately dies. It’s a situation I have watched happen once in my time playing but something I can see becoming a strategy in the game once the fan-base grows. Hopefully it is nipped in the bud before it becomes an issue.
Overall Darwin Project is great fun to play, and is a refreshing experience given the hype that Fortnite and PUBG have been getting. I have been playing Fortnite for a while now and to play a game that pits players against one another (admittedly on a much smaller scale) with an added survival element is brilliant. Everything in the game plays well and feels balanced, and those of you who play PUBG or Fortnite will easily adapt to Darwin Project. It takes a while to get into a match, but that is only due to a small player base. I’m excited to see where the game goes with future updates, and it’s one I suggest you play.