Darwinia is sort of like God Sim RTS. You play as a human, manipulating and controlling sentient 'life' in a digital world - whether they are self-aware or not is unknown or otherwise not explicitly told. You are guided by the world's creator, Dr. something-or-rather. He tells you of a virus hampering his most proud creation, Darwinians, the intelligent life inhabiting his digital universe. He employs you, the mystery man connected to the system, on a series of missions to rid the world of the virus. In this way it is quite unique - in a vague sense - you are REALLY helping to rid the digital world of the virus. The story is thus alluring. It inspires philosophical introspection as you play. What value do we place in these tiny lives? What responsibility do we have for these digital creatures we create? Are we living in a simulation? Can we ever hope to interact with the creators of our simulation? etc
The game's aesthetic is unique. It uses deliberately simplistic polygonal shapes in a three dimensional space to represent the game's digital world. Personally I thought it could have been a little more refined and consistent, like the new TRON, but perhaps in 2006 it might have looked excellent. Many of the enemies really nailed the whole polygonal-digital-retro feel, but the main inhabitants (of which there were many) looked like pieces of cardboards, likely a technical constraint. It certainly made the various components of the game clearly identifiable though.
The game's interface and controls were intuitive but I found them to be too simplistic to be efficient and some of the constraints to be, well, too constraining. There was no way to utilise waypoints which quickly became frustrating as the AI's pathfinding abilities were non-existent. I also found it frustrating that keyboard shortcuts to your various units can change one unit dies. Beyond these criticisims however, I could see a genuinely interesting game with several great, inspired game mechanics.
While I still aim to complete much of my video game backlog, as I continue to grow older I can no longer justify playing every game I own until completion. I played the prologue and 99% of the first two levels, enough to understand what the game was about without exploring some of its later features and harder difficulty. I quit at the very end of the second level. I didn't see the win condition "save 150 Darwinians" until over an hour into the level, which I was unable to achieve as I had not utilised my engineers to save the 'souls' of the instantiations of virus I had slain. I was using my engineers for other pursuits. At least at this point in game, there is no real justification for having engineers save souls other than to slow down the game and force you to micromanage menial tasks instead of concentrating on the main game. The amount of units you have is severely limited (3 units during this level) so most of my resources would have had to be used on one relatively menial task at a time.
I'm sure the game became more interesting over the levels but this experience was enough to lose my interest.