Darkspore Impressions - First Look

We take our first look at this upcoming action role-playing game from the team that created Spore.

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For years, we waited for Spore--the next (and as it turned out, the last) game from Maxis frontman Will Wright. It was going to be everything: an open-ended editing tool, an epic strategy game with many different phases, and, toward the tail end of the development, a family-friendly game that was fun for all ages. Spore finally arrived in 2008, and as it turned out, the game's biggest draw was its creature creator tool, which let legions of players create all sorts of weird alien monsters to upload and share online with friends. Now this enormous framework of custom-built alien critters will be used to power a totally new, totally different game: Darkspore. Darkspore will be, of all things, a hack-and-slash PC action role-playing game along the lines of Diablo, Dungeon Siege, Titan Quest, and Guild Wars, and it will let you create squads of powerful alien creatures to hack your way through an endless army of monsters to save the universe from an ancient threat.

Yeah, that's right--an action role-playing game like Diablo. Maxis readily admits that this is a big change for a studio known for creating open-ended games that focus on building content with editing tools, such as SimCity and Spore, but this change in direction came about from within the development team--many of whom are diehard PC game players who have fond memories of playing addictive hack-and-slash RPGs until the wee hours and have gone to great lengths to re-create this magic, building a brand-new team from the ground up with talent from such studios as BioWare, Blizzard Entertainment, and Wizards of the Coast (the publisher of the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game).

The plot in Darkspore sounds very grandiose and involves an experiment by an ancient race of omnipotent beings known as the "Crogenitors," who created all living DNA in the universe but experimented with a new "exponential DNA" that was unusually powerful but highly unstable. It seems that one ambitious member of this mysterious group not only fused the unstable DNA with his own, increasing his own power substantially, but also created an army of monsters powered by this new genetic material that destroyed most of the other Crogenitors, leaving the last few survivors to flee to deep space with a squadron of heroes stuck in a cryogenic slumber until a solution to the problem could be deduced by the powerful computers of those last remaining DNA architects.

Ancient DNA architects and an alien invasion are the reasons you're here. Welcome to Darkspore.

As the game begins, the solution to the exponential DNA invasion has been found: You. You awaken from your sleep as a genetically enhanced hero with the power to oppose the invasion head-on, and fortunately, you won't be alone. Rather than force you to focus on developing a single character that belongs to a single character class with a limited skillset, Darkspore will actually let you select a team of three different hero creatures to take into battle and will also let you gather a huge collection of alternate heroes for you to use and develop as you see fit.

The game will offer five different playable races, or "genesis types," which determine the basis of your characters' attacks: bio (plant- and organic-based attacks), cyber (robotic attacks), plasma (fire- and lightning-based attacks), necro (death- and poison-based attacks), and quantum (time- and space-based attacks). It will also offer different playable classes that roughly correspond with the archetypes you've seen in other such games, such as the sentinel, a "tank" class (which fights enemies in up-close combat and is tough enough to soak up damage); the tempest, a "mage" class (which fights with ranged attacks from a distance and is too fragile to sustain a frontal assault); and the ravager, a "rogue" class (which uses surprise attacks and stealth to do battle). In any mission, you'll control only one hero at a time (though you can instantly switch to one of your other two characters if you need their powers or are getting too beat up), but interestingly, certain powers that belong to your heroes will remain "universal" to your team and can be used regardless of which hero you're currently controlling.

You and your teammates will need to work together to survive. And you get to split the take at the end.

Each profession will have multiple abilities in battle, including direct combat, support, and evasion, which will work well in solo play and even better in cooperative multiplayer. The Maxis team suggests that Darkspore will be at its absolute best in co-op, since its missions, which are planned to take place in levels that will have randomly placed landmarks and monster spawns each time you play them, will offer substantially better loot rewards when tackled with a group, particularly if, after you defeat a mission's boss and complete its objectives, you decide to use Darkspore's "chain game"--a system that lets you wager this round's victory and spoils against a more-challenging version of the next mission. If you forgo this round's rewards, you can receive even better loot if you can successfully complete the next mission in the chain, and so on and so forth until either everyone in the group fails the next mission by getting wiped out or enough players in the group vote against wagering.

Maxis suggests that loot and collection will be the heart of Darkspore--not only unlocking and collecting new heroes, but picking up tons and tons of items, which include temporary power-ups that immediately heal your heroes and replenish the energy they spend on executing their special abilities; new types of equipment that can be worn on your heroes (and actually edited in appearance to change their size and orientation using the creature creator tools); new, powerful body parts that can be added to new slots on any of your heroes to provide powerful bonuses; and cosmetic body parts and accoutrements for which your heroes will also have separate slots and which you can place simply for looks. In addition, your characters' inventory screens will be accessible from outside the game on the World Wide Web, which means you can play around with different item sets and plan your next in-game strategy while you're not even playing, similar to the deck-building "metagame" that fans of Magic: The Gathering know and love (and talk about endlessly).

The fate of the universe is in your hands/claws/webbed feet/spider creatures.

While gathering loot will be a big part of the final game, Maxis is taking a slightly different approach to creature creation by focusing on using created critters built mostly in-house at the studio so that you can recognize hero characters and enemies (and their powers) on sight, rather than randomly populating the game with the thousands of player-created creatures. However, the studio does plan to hold contests to let you create the best critters you can, and the winners will be included in the game as regular characters. And in case you were wondering, the studio currently plans to ship the game as a full retail product with no microtransactions or subscription fees. We'll be honest with you--this is a bold new step in a new direction for the Spore series, and hopefully the game's premise of combining the wacky body-part swapping of Spore with the addictiveness of hack-and-slash games will pay off. Darkspore will ship next year.

Discussion

57 comments
ps3forever3
ps3forever3

I never got the chance to play the original spore but from what I'm hearing i didn't miss out. This could be a rent for me.

Gantrathor
Gantrathor

This game looks like pure awesomeness! It's about time someone brought something new to the hack 'n' slash RPG genre.

davonas
davonas

wow dude you love pokemon to say that

FateStayTonight
FateStayTonight

I'm going to wait a month or two before buying this game. It sounds really cool, but so did Spore and 2 years later I still have that same dry taste in my mouth wondering what happened to that epic project.

drago9876
drago9876

@ TheVGamer I know it is an interview, and i do not want a trailer because of the fact that they carry much better graphics than the actual game... But why not spice up an interview with at least some footage of the game your talking about? Showing a great game to the audience will make them more interested won't it?

Lizardskin7
Lizardskin7

Well, thats new... Spore was great fun, especially for the ADD masses, myself included :-p I'm curious though how effectively the creature creator tool/engine will be implemented in this

gtaking40
gtaking40

Didn't like Spore. Probably won't like this one.

davonas
davonas

this games looks really intersting

Nickious
Nickious

Looks interesting and it looks more exciting than the original spore. I just hope its not a bit disappointment like Spore Galactic Heros though. Ugh that game was more aggravating than fun.

Die-Hard
Die-Hard

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

TheVGamer
TheVGamer

This doesnt look like it could prevail on MMO field, but it certainly looks interesting. @drago9876 This is INTERVIEW and it's better to see what developer has to say about the game, not some action-packed trailer!

Kenji_Masamune
Kenji_Masamune

game looks good.. but then again so did spore. Won't hold my breath.

drago9876
drago9876

I really hate these type of videos... Not alot of gameplay footage, and their missing features that would really tell us about the game.... By squad, does he mean like how u get other random creatures, or u actually u literally make ur squad. Next, is there really any new functions to gameplay...If not, you might as well play spores.....

ColdP1zza
ColdP1zza

I'm still pretty skeptical about this. After the huge dissapointment spore, I don't trust it.

hatae55
hatae55

I was hoping for a third person fighter... Imagine, Gears of War + God of War with customizable fight styles. You could assign buttons to each ability/arm/gun/whatever and create your own combos and whatnot. It would be awesome! Also, cell shading is only unique if no one else is doing it. I liked cell shaded Borderlands but not in every game (and yes, I realize borderlands wasn't the first)

alanthreonus
alanthreonus

I'm skeptical, to say the least. Will this really be better than a new Spore expansion pack?

elessar_tee
elessar_tee

Crogenitors? Really, Maxis? That's what you have to offer the action-rpg world?

baltim123
baltim123

you know what? let's make a sims action rpg and a simcity action rpg , maybe that will work too . :D

Ladiesman17
Ladiesman17

I hope it didn't turn out mediocre!! ;) like C&C4

Fusionmix
Fusionmix

Heck, if it uses the Spore creature creation system on top of this, it may actually be worth something.

FlashCharge
FlashCharge

Their greatest talent was their originality and breaking new ground. Now it's just another game like so many others that lessens the desire in my mind. But it is early, so I'll give them a chance.

NightTrainzzz
NightTrainzzz

This could be great, but its a shame that they didnt put an effort into correcting the flaws of Spore and made a really great game out of it. Spore is an amazing idea and even quite educational for kids that are trying to grasp the human role in the universe. Nevertheless I look forward to see Darkspore.

gideonkain
gideonkain

I wouldnt be surprised if Spore Creature Creator($10) got a 9.5 and Spore ($60) got a 5.0 After playing Mr. Potato Head in that game for a few hours there was no joy left to be had.

dannz158
dannz158

Looks like they're trying to mimic Dota in my opinion ....

Seto_Akari
Seto_Akari

Not interesting but we'll see if it will turn out to be good.

flammable_zeus
flammable_zeus

Unfortunately this doesn't seem to interest me. If they ever decide to release a Spore 2 however, then they might grab my attention. After looking forward to Spore for years it was a fair disappointment, but this seems even further from the spirit of Spore. Not to say it won't have a fanbase, but personally I'd only really care if they announced something along the lines of that old 30 minute Spore demonstration.

Pirikato
Pirikato

This game can turn out to be great, or a disaster.

oranger_ranger1
oranger_ranger1

Uhhhhhhhhhhh.... Innnnnnnnnnnnterrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrressssssssssssssting.

janrabbit
janrabbit

looks bad, shame they had to fall in with everybody else, lost all originallity

AirWolfe591
AirWolfe591

Going to watch and wait for more information on this before I get hyped. Good concept, lets hope they can pull it off.

icy06
icy06

Do not want.

scar4ever
scar4ever

Promising. Here's hoping it doesn't disappoint.

Decardcain
Decardcain

as blizzard delays the release from diablo 3 is posiible to see and other known franchizes to diablesque ...nice idea and bizzare although to see the sequel of spore as an action rpg game ...as a devoted fun to the point and click genre i wellcome with joy this plan... but spore was uniqe not only from its monster creator toul but also with his ability to combine more tha one game genres to a simple game... what can i say ... now i am waiting sims 3 to established an action rpg theory... hey dont throw up i am just kidding :P

Mysterieux936
Mysterieux936

Well, there goes another great game, completely ruined.

Slash_out
Slash_out

Might be interesting. But then again I thought Spore would be ZE game of the decade. And it ended up being a "one time game" as in "I finished the campaign from start to finish and droped the game". I'm a bit worried when the ysay there might be NPC tha twil ltrap yo uand you'll wait for your friends to help you. S they can trap you and you have n oway out except friends? So if you get no help (everyone dead or too far away) you stay trapped ?

h3rb
h3rb

Given that we aren't likely to see Diablo 3 any time in the near future, this could do well to fill the void.

Nodashi
Nodashi

Sounds interesting. We'll see if it really makes a difference or if it ends up being a Diablo clone and everyone use the same, best build...

fkbwii
fkbwii

A more "mature" spore.

bombatta
bombatta

I can't view these videos in Firefox for some reason.

super-hiro
super-hiro

This looks exceptionally bad. I'll play Diablo III, thank you. What happened to Mr. Wright?

frerich
frerich

I have very mixed feelings for this game. While I liked the original Spore, absolutely nothing in it worked as well as any of the developers hoped it would. I also think that the inability to create your own character is actually a giant step back. On the other hand, since they're focusing on one specific genre, maybe it will be higher quality than any of the phases in Spore. With luck, the game will be good and there will be enough characters and customization to negate the lack of a creation tool. I refuse to make an actual judgement until I see gameplay though.

Hevion
Hevion

spore failed. i mean i loved the first 2 stages...but when i reached tribal stage i died with boredom

lbptoady
lbptoady

I like the dramatic music in the background lol. But anyways, the game looks pretty good. I have always liked Maxis and am looking forward to this. (as long as the requirements aren't too high for my 2005 xp)