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Darwinia draws inspiration from different game genres to create something totally new... and it really pulls it off.

(This is a spoiler-free review!) Darwinia is the life work of Dr. Sepulveda. It is his experiment, a digital landscape he created to study AI patterns and behaviors. It is inhabited by the Darwinians, a simple lifeform whose intelligence has slowly evolved over hundreds of generations. But a glitch in the system has recently allowed a deadly virus to infect the digital world. The virus has now spread to every subsytem, and tremendous damage has been done... And this is where you come in! In Darwinia, you play the role of a System Administrator in charge of getting rid of the nasty virus. The game takes you through each of the subsystems in Darwinia, where you must accomplish a series of objectives. These mission objectives are diverse: clearing the virus threat, rescuing Darwinians, restoring power to other subsystems, etc. You accomplish these objectives by running Tasks via the Task Manager. This is done by performing a mouse gesture that corresponds to the Task you want to run. For example, to create a virus attack Squad, you "draw" a triangle with your mouse on the Task Manager, and a Squad unit is created in the digital world. Each Task is initiated by a different mouse gesture. You can run many types of Tasks, each with a specific purpose. The trick is that you can only run a limited number of tasks at the same time. Additionally, you can only issue orders to one Task at a time (you switch between tasks using Alt+Tab). This forces you to use your head and manage your resources carefully to complete a given mission. If this sounds complicated in theory, don't worry: It is all very intuitive in practice, as the game does a fine job of introducing gameplay elements gradually. The first Task you will learn is the Squad task. When you create a Squad, you control an armed unit that can attack the virus. This is the main action element of the game. The squad members shoot lasers as their primary weapon, and they also have access to a number of destructive secondary weapons. The controls are simple and responsive, yet it takes a good amount of skill to truly control a Squad unit effectively. Although the enemy AI is relatively simple, many of the virus units you face will prove challenging, if only because of their sheer numbers. I do not want to spoil anything, so I will let you find out about the other Tasks... and how the Darwinians themselves play into all of this. At the beginning of the game there are only a small number of Tasks available to you, but as the game progresses you will learn additional (and more powerful) Tasks. The game also features a Research element. As you go through the missions, Dr. Sepulveda will research enhancements to existing Tasks, such as faster or higher capacity units, more powerful weapons, etc. There are four versions of each Task, v1.0 to v4.0. Because there is no way to research everything, what you decide to focus on has a direct impact on how you play the game. There are different ways to complete specific objectives, so you will want to concentrate research on areas that enhance your own tactics. Artistically speaking, Darwinia is really something to behold. As you can see from the screenshots, none of the 3D models are textured, in fact they are all flat-shaded. This gives the game a very distinctive, old-school look that is reminiscent of video games from the 1980's. Unfortunately the screenshots do not do the game justice. An added bonus due to the simplicity of the models: the game can display a *very* large number of units... As you will soon find out :) Although the graphics are simple, they are very polished. The game contains some neat lighting and particle effects. It also features a dozen or so easter-egg "loaders" -- an obvious wink to the author's computer hacking days -- that are fun to watch when the game starts up, and add to the immersiveness factor. I wish I could share more with you about Darwinia, but I would not want to spoil anything for you. It is a journey you must make yourself. Darwinia is part strategy game, part action game, part god-game, and pure addictive fun throughout. Darwinia is one of the few games that manages to draw inspiration from different game genres to create something totally new, and actually pull it off. My hat goes off to Introversion UK for creating a truly refreshing, innovating experience. This game is exceptional.

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