Hands-On With The Darwin Project
For the purpose of transparency, this hands-on was completed using a code provided by the company or their respective PR company. The use of a free code does not affect my judgement of this product.
Please note: This article was created using the Closed Alpha for the PC version of The Darwin Project, so the game is still in early development.
When The Darwin Project was first announced at E3 by Microsoft, it really didn’t sell the game to me. Be it from the little explanation of what the game was or the really loud and aggressive announcer they decided it use… it just seemed a bit meh. But, I was given the chance to partake in the Closed Alpha weekend for the game, so I thought I would give it a chance to see what it is all about. Did the Closed Alpha change my mind?
If you are not aware of what The Darwin Project is yet, it is an online battle royale game, which will be entering the arena against some huge competition in the form of PUBG and Fortnite Battle Royale. Meaning even before being ready and released its got some huge demands on what it will have to achieve to be successful,
In the Closed Alpha you were only pitted against 10 other players, where the two games mentioned above you can have 100 players in each match, meaning the size of the games are a lot smaller (unless this increases in the full release). However, there is a different elements brought to the table with The Darwin Project, the core mechanic of the game is the survival aspect. You are not given modern guns to defeat your opponents, you are only provided with an axe and bow and arrow – meaning every player starts on an even playing field.
Now, that’s where the crafting element comes in, you will find that the crafting wheel looks very similar to Fortnites, but, that is where it ends. Where Fortnite is all about building walls, and the popular tactic of getting you to a vantage point by building stairs to it, The Darwin Projects is to help you survive. You need to craft your own arrows (which you can vary types by using different materials), your own armour, and most importantly items or fires to help you survive the cold weather. By doing this you can gain an advantage over your opponents, but you have to make sure your crafting the right items, and have things ready to craft the fires if needed.
During the rounds as well you can go try to capture the electronics as they appear in sectors of the maps, but this comes with the risk of other players waiting for you. However, some times the reward will outweigh the risk, especially if you down to the last few players. The reason is these electronics give you advantages like a cloak effect, a shield and teleporting – which can turn the tide in the battles. Around the map also you will find some chests that will give you items that you would usually have to craft, and can save you some valuable materials.
Every player is given the ability to track players also, this is done by investigating the chests or what they have looted for materials. What this does it shows that players position on the map for a limited time – but this can be used to your advantage especially if they are close. If you are the player being tracked you are given a warning that you are being tracked, and believe me even with the limited amount of players this will still put you on edge.
As with all the games I play, if the option of using a controller is available I will use it – with my main gaming being done on consoles for so long. So, I started out using the Xbox One controller, however, after collecting my first electronic I could not use the skill. Then like my time with Closers Alpha, I looked into the controls on the menu and found there is so many buttons the controller was partial support – meaning I am interested to see how it will go to consoles, and I’d expect full controller support will then be available on PC also. I did play some with Keyboard and Mouse and started to get used to it by the end of the weekend time period, so I can imagine more time with it I would have been fine.
I found that I could run the game on max settings with my PC, which my details are Intel Core i5-4440, GTX 1060 3GB graphics card and 16 GB RAM. With it all on max (epic) settings that game did look nice, and I couldn’t take any fault with the presentation for the game really.
There was one issue I found with The Darwin Project and that was the dedicated server situation, of course dedicated servers are better than your peer-to-peer severs. But, the reason I have brought this up is that the Alpha restricted with servers you could join. With this being the issue I am hoping that this is down to it being the Alpha and that they offer a matchmaking option in the final product. If they fail to introduce this into the game on release, it could be the deciding factor on whether the game is a success in my opinion – because the two battle royale games mentioned previously offer matchmaking.
From my time with The Darwin Project over the Closed Alpha weekend, it left a good first impression on me, even-though I didn’t win a single match. I enjoyed my time getting used the game, and even learning to use the mouse/keyboard set-up a little more – but saying that when it comes to console I will go back to controller. The game seems to offering a lot of potential to be another great battle royale game, but it might need to introduce more players and matchmaking to take on the mammoth titles of PUBG and Fortnite Battle Royale.