The genre of the year is shaping up to be Battle Royale games. PUBG was the first modern iteration of this and it completely exploded. Fortnite followed it up with their own Battle Royale mode, which has become even more of a cultural phenomenon. I hope to god The Darwin Project explodes in the same way, because it provided such a fresh take on the genre, that its mere presence can improve future installments in the genre.
We are only two games into this genre’s bout in the mainstream and things are already starting to homogenize. Both of the two major games included 100 players dropping from an aircraft to find weapons and shoot each other with guns. This formula works well, and Fortnite did take the gameplay in a different direction with building mechanics, but The Darwin Project completely changed it up. The first thing you will notice is that the game includes 1/10th of the players and that you already have a weapon. All you do is craft upgrades for your character, more ammunition for your bow, and manage your heat meter.
At the sight of a heat meter, I audibly groaned. One of the things that bothers me to no end is the constant meter management of survival games. However, as I played further into the game, I realized that the developers took care in its implementation. The coldness of your character causes you to halt your advance, and reveal your position via the smoke from the fire. Characters can craft snowballs to get rid of the smoke and even make other players colder, which shows their intentions for the meter.
I mentioned being able to see other players by the smoke from their fire, which highlights the most important feature in the game: tracking. Tracking is to The Darwin Project as building is to Fortnite. The game is played in the snow, which allows you to follow other characters footprints, and you can investigate things left behind by other players to reveal their position. This tracking mechanic does a lot to increase the tension of the game, and when you get notified that you have been spotted, the race and chase begins.
The combat in this game is probably its weakest aspect. I like the mechanic of only having a bow and an ax, but the ability to only utilize one kind of arrow per game is pretty annoying. Even just allowing two would increase the strategy by volumes. Once you engage in a fight, it will become evident fairly quickly who is going to come out on top about 90% of the time. When you are hit by an arrow, it propels you in the air. This doesn’t just do damage to you but allows skilled players to juggle you in the air, keeping you from shooting (whenever you take damage, your bow drawing stops). This prevents a level playing field and can lead to some frustration.
However, my frustration was always curbed by the feel of the game. This game feels very gameshow esque (similar to the hunger games or Battle Royale ((the movie))), and this keeps the tone light. The best anger dampener is the show director, who is another player who controls the pace of the game. He can fly around and chat with the player, which keeps the tone really light and fun, like friends playing a game together.
Overall, The Darwin Project is, in my opinion, the strongest Battle Royale game out there. The game relies on more than its player count to make the game interesting and fun. If you have been feeling burnt out on the Battle Royale genre, play this and you will have a fantastic time.