Last weekend Scavengers Studio held their first Open Beta weekend for their game called the Darwin Project. I jumped in to see what it's all about and found myself wide awake late at night playing for four hours straight.
I'm not fond of games like these. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and other games like it fail to keep me invested. I'm sure they are great games in their own right but I prefer shooters like Rainbow Six: Siege or the Battlefield series. So with that in mind, jumping in to check out the Darwin Project left me expecting to quit after an hour of playing. This didn't happen. I found myself invested in surviving this 10-man battle royale for a specific reason and found rivals and friends in just one night.
The Show Director Experience
It's the communication that makes this game unique. Just like similar games, players are placed in a waiting area until you have the right amount of players to begin the match. For this game it was 10. But for the Darwin Project there's an eleventh player, the Show Director - a player who gets to spectate the match, communicate with players, and steer the outcome of the match if they so wish. As you go from sector to sector gathering supplies and killing other inmates as you survive the cold you might just get greeted by an unpredictable voice through the in-game mic, talking to you, watching your every move.
I've had Show Directors approach me for different reasons. I've had one that asked me what type of music I liked, he said that if he didn't like my answer he won't help me with my current life issue. (Show Directors have the ability to heal players)Long story short he didn't like my answer: rock.
One director just had a simple chat with me, asking how my day was. He was a nice guy, so nice that he fed me information on the remaining players in the match and even placed electronics (a rare resource that can give players a big advantage) to spawn near me. Thanks to his help I won my first match in the Darwin Project. His name was Panda, god bless you good sir.
Others were silent most of the time but there's one Show Director that gave me the chills. He started talking to me and simply wanted me to kill this specific player in the match. He fed me where the player was and failure to do so within a specific time limit will result in him placing a bounty on my head. Doing this will alert other players of my location for a limited time. That's not good in a game of survival.
I felt like I had to comply. He left me with no choice. Sadly, I've fallen to another player as I was closing in on my target. I've never experienced player-built scenarios like the ones I've mentioned ever in a multiplayer game. Abusing one's position for entertainment. This feature made the Darwin Project for me and I found myself pressing for the next game after each death.
Your voice is always on too while playing and other players nearby can hear you if you have a noisy mic or you are simply talking. It was my main source of knowing if a player was nearby since I was for some reason paired with Twitch streamers that were always interacting with their community.
While battling an enemy with either bow or axe, both my enemy and I were taunting each other as we fought. Once someone dies they are given a chance to say something before moving on. Sometimes you hear "good fight", but in the world we live in now, I was mostly greeted with disgust, especially if I was the one coming out the victor.
It was a crazy experience that i'm excited to go through again if I get the chance. An experiment in capturing the true essence of battle royale with spectator interaction. Saying this is a clone to the other battle royale games feels unjust. If the concept stays the same, Scavengers Studio has a solid concept that if done properly on release will find a healthy community to support the game in the long run.
The Darwin Project is planned for a Spring 2018 release on the Xbox One and Steam.