UFG Goes Hands on With The Darwin Project!

I don’t play Fortnite. I tried it. One game. It just isn’t for me. My go-to battle royal game has been PUBG for a long while now. It’s not perfect, but it hits all the right spots for me; you parachute in, collect stuff, and then hunt down the enemy until you are the last one standing. There’s no fort building or arcade like trappings (or even traps for that matter). It basically provides an exciting, yet “realistic” experience. So, you can imagine how I felt after seeing Scavengers Studio’s The Darwin Project – a game where players have to fight using bows and arrows during what seems to be a second Ice Age…

If you guessed I was anything but intrigued, you’d be wrong. I won’t lie though, at first glance I thought a battle royal made up of ten players sounded way too small. I also questioned the need for a Director (more on that later). Neither of those things would have stopped me from taking a closer look – even if we hadn’t received a preview code from Scavengers, I would’ve checked out the game when it released into Early Access/Xbox Game Preview.

Like I said, at first glance, the 1v10 set up seemed way too small. This is especially true when considering how big the map is; I just expected there to be significant lulls in the action due to the large battlefield. In reality though, the large environment proved necessary. You see, The Darwin Project drops players into a snow-covered arena with just their wits, an axe, and bow. To survive the cold, they’ll need to build fires and/or craft warmer gear. Arrows needed to combat other players can be crafted from wood gained from cutting down trees. Extra martials can be gathered to create things like bear traps, fire arrows, shields and so on. Cutting down trees, building fires, running instead of walking – most of these things actions will attract the attention of other players. They’ll see your highlighted footprints for a limited time, which will send them right to your location.

The gathering of resources makes the early moments feel a bit slow when compared to other battle royal games. At the same time, the tension that’s built up when crafting and such helps things stay interesting. Personally, this aspect is what I found to be special about the Darwin Project as a whole. The player dictates the plan, not the map and item locations. Every game is substantially different, with each outcome spawning from each player’s plan of attack. It can be difficult to map out a safe route or take time to make more arrows when your footprints keep giving your position away. Fights between players usually comes down to their ability to aim (accounting for distance and such when using arrows) and their current gear. Meaning that you won’t die super quick upon being spotted. Still, being clever rather than aggressive will help stave off death. That is, until the Director gets involved.

The Director is where any predictability goes out the window. This optional role affords god-like powers, allowing a player the means of helping or hindering each contestant. Their abilities range from dropping health packs to turning an individual invincible for a limited time. They can even make a person hypothermic and unable to warm up regardless of their gear. The idea is to help keep matches close. That said, it is possible to be a total tool during play. To combat the potential for abuse, Scavengers implemented a star system. In order to be the Director, players will have to play five games and have a star rating of a least three – players are rated by other participants using a 1-5 scale. Meaning they’ll have to be familiar with the game’s mechanics and not be perceived as a jerk by their peers. If there score dips below three stars, they lose access to the Director’s chair.

The Darwin Project is rather entertaining. It offers up some interesting mechanics, a cool environment (no pun intended) and imaginative elements; the Director role really shakes things up, in way that’s reminiscent of the Hunger Games. There aren’t that many items to find or craft – sans some rare gadgets that offer a huge advantage – but they all fit to creating unique combat situations. Keep in mind that The Darwin Project is still an Early Access/Xbox Game Preview title; while I haven’t had any connection issues on my Xbox One X, your mileage may very. New updates are flooding in though, with latest being Due Mode getting added as a permanent part of the game. Here’s hoping for we’ll get larger updates, like a new map or the ability for a streamer’s audience to control the Director on console like they can on PC, sooner than later!

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