Darwin Project – Xbox One Review

We all have seen the popularity of battle royale genre of games.  The online community is forever growing where media platforms such as Twitch and Mixer are becoming as popular as traditional television where the genre has been taking over in viewership.  Darwin Project is one of the newest entries to Xbox for the genre that pits 10 players against each other with a twist that makes it way different from the rest of the titles out there.  Developed by Scavengers Studio and currently in early access, where it shows some promise, it also has a lot of work that needs to be done to make it a formidable challenger to the likes of PlayerUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite.

We know the concept behind the battle royale genre.  You are in a battlefield with a bunch of other players, you survive and take out the other players and try to be the last one standing.  This holds true with Darwin Project but with some variation.  Gone is the typical 100 player fields as Darwin Project pits 10 players against each other as we stated earlier.  A big twist is the 11th player, the Host, The Host flies around the arena and has the ability to lock off areas of the map, drop nukes the decimate entire areas as well, and even give players boosts that help in battle such as crafting materials or even full on invincibility.  The Host holds a ton of power in Darwin Project which both hurts and helps this title from standing out.  The 10 fighters run around the freezing region they are in armed with an ax and a bow… that’s it.  You will need to find trees, and for some reason leather chairs, to break down materials for crafting things such as more arrows and better gear to survive the cold.  A neat idea is that since it is a frigid environment, you will need to monitor how cold you are.  A cold meter will indicate if you need to find warmth by building a fire to prevent freezing to death.  The Host will also drop things to be used for more advanced items that are game changing which is neat but since the Host can drop these items right at a player they want to help, it can create some unfair advantages.

These unfair situations are what Darwin Project is all about.  The Host is what really makes this battle royale title different.  The Host is chosen randomly and unfortunately if they don’t like you for whatever reason, they can make surviving next to impossible for you.  Once as an example, we were battling a 1 Vs. 1 fight and then all of a sudden, our opponent was shielded from taking an damage for 20 seconds.  There was nothing we could do to prevent this but since the the Host really wanted the other person to win this engagement, that’s what they did.  It’s a neat mechanic but puts more weight in each match as a popularity contest instead of a test of skill.  We would really like to see the power of the Host tuned down a bit.  If anything, give the players a way to interrupt the Host’s abilities because right now a good Host will determine the outcome sometimes more than the actual players.

Granted Darwin Project is in earl access but right now all players have access to for battle is a bow and an ax.  You can upgrade these items to do more damage which is a nice touch but more variety is needed.  Although there isn’t much for weapons, the combat is fun.  Player’s put on a true dance tot he death dodging attacks while trying to get their own shots in.  Battles without Host interference are a lot of fun and always leave you thinking about how to do better the next time when you lose.  There is also only one arena right now but we will just chalk that up to the game’s early access status.

Darwin Project visually looks a lot like Fortnite.  Heavy bold colors with cartoon style assets are everywhere and are a lot of fun to look at.  When it comes to presentation though, the performance is what is really hurting Darwin Project.  Even on Xbox One X, Darwin Project is running at 30 FPS and seems to struggle to hold that, especially in big fights.  This is a big problem as timing perfect bow shots are ruined by a drop of frames causing you to miss and waste valuable resources.  The fast pace action in Darwin Project screams the necessity of 60 FPS for this title.  Hopefully at some point Scavengers Studio can pull a Fortnite and find a way to get it running at 60 FPS.

Darwin Project is simple and has plenty of flaws but yet has a lot of redeeming qualities.  There is no big focus on finding the best weapons or out performing someone in building but instead focuses on skill and technique.  This though can be ruined by a single person how may just not like your gamertag or whatever it is that causes them to turn on your.  Without and kind of checks and balances with the Host, Darwin Project loses some luster.  There is concern on lack of item variety but that can come over time.  The biggest issue comes from it’s frame rate issues.  It may be the perfectionist in us but in a genre where your top competitor changed the mold by instituting 60 FPS, you need to as well to keep up, especially when Darwin Project is by far the most fast pace of all the mainstream battle royale games.  There is some great ground work here for a hit battle royale title.  It just needs the continued love and care needed to survive in a genre that is continuing to blossom.  We will just have to see if it gets there.

Darwin Project is available in Xbox Game Preview.

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