You can't loose?

User Rating: 6.1 | Darwinia PC
Let me start out by saying that Darwinia has many refreshing elements to it. The visuals are unusual and striking for one, and the setting has a quirky charm to it. But there are many other reviews extolling these and other virtues. So I am going to concentrate on a few items that I considered less than stellar in the hopes that readers will get a more balanced view.

Perhaps the biggest criticism I have of the game can be summed up in the words of my 11-year old son after spending 15 minutes watching me play...

How do you loose?

And in fact I could not come up with a good answer. Troops are infinitely spawnable with no economic penalty for creating as many as you like. Now there *is* a limit on the number you can have going at one time. But I never ever felt as though I was in danger of "losing" a level. In fact the only level I can think of where loosing might be possible is the "save X number of Darwinians", but I was well within the safety margin on this one without changing my standard play strategy.

My second biggest complaint: Enemy AI

There is no AI to speak of. The bulk of all your enemies consist of swarms of viruses or swarms of evil darwinians. They do exhibit swarming behavior and each type of enemy (perhaps a half dozen in all) does seem to exhibit its own autonomic behaviour, but there is very little evidence of the types of emergent behavior you might hope from such a system. In fact, there were several instances where I felt more like I was playing an old game of centipede then a modern RTS. In short, there was exactly one point in the entire game where I was forced to rethink my approach.

Strategy in the last half of the short campaign consisted almost entirely of "tower walking" which has been around since the original C&C. Towers (turrets) are in fact the only structure you can build in this game, and like everything else, there is no economic cost to building them other than the cost to man them with Darwinians. These towers blast away friend and foe alike in a continuous rain of fire, so it's not uncommon to see 20 friendlies die while towers try to get at one hidden enemy.

Pathfinding is similarly painful. Units will regularly get stuck on a small terrian feature rather than taking an easier path around.

There are only 4 types of units. They have been discussed elsewhere, so I'll skip the descriptions except to say that this seemed weak given the fact that there is no economy to speak of (other than soul gathering) and no buildings can be built (other than turrets). Give me something new to do please, or at least a new way to kill badies if thats all there is.

Finally, it should be mentioned that I crashed about a dozen times in less than 12 hours play, typically when the screen got very busy (which it does).

Scoring Synopsis:

Gameplay: 5

This game is revolutionary to RTS in the same way Tron 2.0 was revolutionary to the FPS market... which is to say it *isn't*. It's an RTS stripped of an economy, building management, large scale troop management, and for the most part strategy. What's left has certainly been done before. The one feature I found to be innovative was using the civilian population to man the pre-existing buildings and player-created turrets.

Graphics: 9

The graphics are cool and stylish. Easily then best feature of the game. Missed the 10 spot for me by not capitalizing on all the cool gee-whiz effects they could have done in a computer simulated environment. View-dependent lighting on the landscape would have been nice as well.

Sound: 4

Big booms and digitized screaming. Ouch. Vintage demo music is the only reason this isn't a 2 or 3.

Value: 5

This would have been a lot lower if it weren't only $20. 10-12 hours play for me, 2 of which were crash recovery replays. It would have been even shorter except I didn't discover that troops were upgradable via the "task manager" until the second to last mission. I'd hate to think how short the game would have been if I had played through with upgraded gear. (I finished the game only being able to summon 3 units. The demo had 5, so I was wondering for the longest time.)

Tilt: 7

Despite the negatives, I applaud the effort. I *really* loved elements of this game and want to see more indie effort. Thi sis 80% of a *great* game. I hope we figure out a way to get developers like this funded better so we can see a complete product. Maybe Valve can channel some of there profits from this game to that effect. I have high hopes for systems like Steam, but they have got to deliver better than this.

In short: PLAY THE DEMO

If its cool enough that you'd consider replaying the demo, then buy the game. If replaying the demo does not sound appealing, then think twice, as what you'll be getting it 10-12 hours of more of the same (less if you are smarter than me and discover the upgrade menu earlier on).

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