Introversion SoftwareDeveloped By:
E (Everyone)Release Date:
February 10, 2010 Screenshots: LinkXbox: Buy Now!Written By:
Anthony CaraDarwinia+: Classic Strategy Meets Vintage Digital StyleFebruary 26, 2010
- A violent swarm lays waste to a digital Eutopia and with some help from the world’s creator- Dr. Sepulveda- it’s up to you to fend off the invading horde and recover invaluable lost research as you struggle to rebuild the world of Darwinia.
Darwinia+ combines fast paced strategic action with Lemmings-style helpless drones to save and utilize as you secure objectives and conquer your enemies. Originally designed for the PC, the IP has already garnered many accolades from top gaming media outlets. I should explain, the enhanced console port Darwinia+ is actually 2 separate games: the multiplayer skirmish centered Multiwinia and the single player Darwinia action/strategy campaign. I will discuss both games separately and finally review the gaming experience as a whole.
The story of the Darwinia universe is simply but so thoroughly filled with complex metaphors and subtle nuances that suggest a depth many gamers may not even notice. Basically, the Virii have completely overrun Darwinia, a computer-based digital world, and the world’s creator, Dr. Sepulveda, is trying desperately to put things back to normal and wipe out the invasion. To any gamers from my generation, think of this as Reboot: for Adults. Having made the obligatory comparison, I should point out that the world of Darwinia contains much greater depth than that- as it explores the concepts of self and community, the soul, and the significance of free will in an otherwise artificial intelligence. The bulk of the single player campaign revolves around clearing several objectives in order to bolster the Darwinians defenses and ultimately turn the tide and drive the Virii out entirely.
The game play is a mixture of action shooting and RTS remote management. Players are tasked with creating different units- at first just Engineers and Squads, later Armours. Engineers are essential for reclaiming lost research (new abilities) and structures previously taken by Virii. Squads can be sent into auto-pilot mode and issued orders to move and attack any Virii they encounter, but usually the player will be controlling their squads manually. A squad is a unit of 3 (eventually 6) units that fire lasers, launch grenades, or call in air strikes (after upgrades). They are the main battle unit in the Darwinian campaign. After the squads have engaged the Virii and destroyed them, Engineers can collect their souls and return them to the Incubators (so long as they were previously reclaimed). Once placed in the incubator, the souls of the extinguished Virii are reborn as …drum roll… DARWINIANS!!! These adorable, iconic little green fellows are the helpless wandering lemmings of the game that you are in charge of saving. After deciphering the right piece of lost research, a Darwinian can be upgraded to an Officer- which is essential in both corralling Darwinians and issuing them standing movement orders. A word of advice to new players- the very instant your first Darwinian is born from the incubator, turn it into an Officer and issue standing orders to STAY PUT- otherwise you will have Darwinians scattered all over the map and likely end up in grave danger.
The game provides a variety of challenges and unique solutions- different enemy types with different weaknesses, tricky placement of islands, various satellite dishes for easy transportation and devices that rely solely on Darwinian power to operate. Most missions involve creating a unit, clearing out Virii, harvesting souls, bolstering your Darwinian numbers, and moving to the next island and repeating the process until all objectives can safely be achieved. Later missions involve the interesting Armour units that can carry Darwinians and then convert to high powered turrets that require Darwinians to operate. This game play, as simple as it sounds, proves to be quite addicting and I found myself letting 30-45 minutes pass on each map as I tried to achieve as close to perfection as possible. Needless to say, this never earned me a higher position on the online leaderboards than 641st.
The story of Multiwinia is much simpler. Years after the Virii invasion has ended, the various Darwinian clans now engage in a brutal civil war. The End. Multiwinia is a great selling point of the Darwinia+ package. It is a challenging and engaging fast paced RTS with very simple controls but a great deal of strategy. The game boasts 5 styles of game play over 7-9 maps. The game’s basic controls remain the same for each mode. Darwinians are automatically dispensed from controlled incubators and can now be selected and controlled directly. As in the single player Darwinia game, a Darwinian can be converted to an officer that issues standing movement orders, or use the new feature to assemble a powerful formation with great long range capabilities but weak close combat abilities. The game is somewhat reminiscent of the recent PSN download game Mushroom Wars- but with far greater complexities. Periodically, a crate will drop which contains various bonuses ranging from powerful air strikes to important allied units with unique abilities. The Squad and Engineer from Darwinia make their cameo appearances here as rare, powerful reinforcements.
Whether you are playing domination (capture more bases), King of the Hill (hold more point-scoring territories), Capture the statue (secure the statue first and bring it back), Rocket Race (capture and hold solar panels) or Blitzkrieg (capture the flag) the game works basically the same way. Darwinians are sent en masse to overwhelm their opponents and then hold strategically crucial locations on the map. Combat occurs automatically as opposing Darwinians (known as Multiwinians for the purposes of this mode) begin to fire on each other as soon as they meet on the battlefield. The game (as with any RTS) is all about timing and micro management. Knowing when to bolster your defenses, when to secure new bases, and when to switch to the offensive is the key to any victory in Multiwinia.
With its classic, retro style of sound and graphics, Darwinia+ offers a stunningly unique experience for fans of the action/strategy genre. The games visual style is purposely lacking resulting in an avant-garde approach (much like the campy 8 bit arcade style displayed in No More Heroes). The environments are gorgeous and yet entirely skeletal. They look like they are in the developmental stages- seemingly bare polygons with no texture maps. It’s hard to explain, but much like cinematographers set up dozens of lights to create a movie scene that appears to have total darkness, so to do the developers of Darwinia+ go to great lengths to build this purposely sparse environment. Oh and have I mentioned that those little green men are just adorable!
Along with the Darwinia+ game, I was provided with a very interesting soundtrack with some incredible 8 bit music. I absolutely love the direction they went with the soundtrack, but unfortunately, it only appears in the in between times- actual missions are painfully silent with naught but irritating blips and explosion sound effects. In the entire game this is one complaint that stands out above the rest- when combat is joined, there is a cacophony of irritating blips, buzzes, and painfully distorted explosions. The game would be well served by individual audio controls that allow for the sound effects (or maybe even just the squad laser sound effects) to be turned way down.
Darwinia+ is an excellent addition to any Xbox Live Arcade library. With a full length campaign mode and a great variety of fun multiplayer maps, it’s definitely 1200 points worth of win! The experience, however, is strongly reliant on Xbox Live connectivity. If you beat a location in the single player campaign, and aren’t connected to Xbox Live at the time, the game doesn’t even register your score! The game also lacks a local multiplayer, so players must rely solely on Xbox Live to sate their competitive urges. The only problem- not enough people own this yet! So if you plan on picking this up at your local Xbox Live Marketplace- make sure you force a few friends to do the same!7.7/
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