The Ideal scenario for future games production is that developers stop pissing about with the handful of genres that they cling to like a drowning man to driftwood, and forge ahead creating new and wondrous ones. So it's a rather sorry state of affairs that Introversion Software (a tiny self-publishing indie developer) is attempting to move things forward - firstly with Uplink and now with Darwinia, while much of the industry wallows in mediocre rip-offs.
Genre, What Genre?
Darwinia is quite hard to sum up in terms of current genres, since it looks like a semi-traditional 3D strategy game, but plays more like Syndicate or Cannon Fodder, with stylish pseudo-retro visuals that make the game look like something the lightcycle guys from Tron played during their lunch break.
What you have here is a whole digital world, created by one Dr Sepulveda (a Clive Sinclair-like inventor) as a method of studying Al. But this once serene habitat of passive Darwinians has fallen foul of a virus, that has spread rapidly and laid waste to most of Darwinia. Your job is to use Sepulveda's basic military programmes to fight back the virus and its mutations, and restore harmony to the little flat green folks.
Because there are no resources to speak of, all your units, which mostly consist of squads (fighters) and engineers (they repair buildings and collect souls), are expendable.
You can run three programs at a time and control weapons usage through a kind of gesture recognition screen. Although it seems a little daunting at first, the gestures become second nature after a while, and it has to be said that it's very generous towards wobbly mouse movements.
The level design of Darwinia is beautifully constructed, as is what you discover about the Darwinians' fragile society. However, it's not without bugs and some annoying pathfinding issues that sometimes mean that your squads get stuck in the landscape, or trundle to their deaths in the digital lava, rather than actually going around it.
Still, there's nothing quite like this. Introversion has given enough of a world to pleasure the senses, but not too much to remove the role of your own imagination. It's hard not to feel sympathy when you hear the Darwinians' bleepy screams of terror as the computergenerated enemies pursue them, and the pink viruses keep snaking across the back of your eyelids when you go to sleep.
It's not perfect. As I say, there are issues that occasionally make the gameplay frustrating, but overall it's challenging and fun. Furthermore, it has its own unique style that typifies the very best in indie development, and means it can more than compete with the bigger guns. Someone please give these guys a lot of money.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP