The evolution of Batt le Royale
At the rate we’re going we’ll soon have enough battle royale games to make them all fight to the death. Fortnite will probably win if we’re honest, but that’s not to say this game doesn’t have some interesting ideas. In such a bandwagon scramble to the top you need something to make you stand out, and this is all about the hunt.
Darwin Project has a basic battle royale setup – everyone vs everyone else until there’s one winner left – but with its own take on a hunting mechanic to shake things up. This is as much about tracking the opposition as it is killing them. All players have the ability to find and locate each other by interacting with clues they leave behind. Everything you do leaves a trace, so if you craft an item it leaves scraps; chop down a tree and there’s a stump and so on. If players find anything like this they can search them, and as a result highlight the culprit in the world for 30 seconds. There are also radar screens inside some houses where you can see the whole map and everyone on it, handy to get a quick overview of any threats or opportunities near by. And, as you’d expect from battle royale, it’s a map that decreases in size as hexagonal zones shut down over time. Action stations It totally changes the pace and feel of an otherwise familiar idea. Instead of charging around after supplies and people to pick off, you have to consider all your actions more – finding hidden corners to craft in, to minimise the possibility of giving yourself away, for example. If you locate another player, are you going to run off after them and risk meeting someone else you haven’t found, or take your time and stalk them carefully? Maybe you want to focus on tracking and see if you can scope everyone out? It gives everything a slower feel because there’s more to think about. Are you ready for a fight? If it’s someone you know has a few kills under their belt, are they geared up, or running dry? And so on.
You only have an axe or bow to fight with so combat isn’t a spray-and-pray bum rush. The bow is slow to fire and tricky to master, as is the axe’s timing, so you have to make your shots count. There’s also an interesting mechanic where successful hits bounce players away from each other. It prevents everyone just charging in and spamming attacks mainly, but also separates people after each blow – good if you’re taking a hammering, bad if you’re trying to land that final killing shot, but most importantly it puts you both back on an equal footing each time. That can give the combat an almost duel-like feel at times. Continuing the hunting theme, if anyone decides to run away they’ll leave a blood trail to follow.
Because you’re all fighting with the same starting tools, making stuff to give you an advantage is vital. You can craft things like armour or speed boosts from the wood and leather you can find plentifully all around
you, while much rarer ‘electronics’ let you make higher level gear like shields, or teleporters. These are the real key to victory, as a 20-second damage-absorbing barrier can really turn the tide of a fight. Supply drops for these components periodically appear throughout the match and are the main way of creating flash points as people fight over them, because obviously the better the gear the bigger the advantage.
Let it snow
Then there’s the cold, one other thing
Darwin Project does differently. The snowy setting does more than add footprints to follow, because you’re always slowly freezing to death. The main way to fight that is to build a highly visible fire, warming yourself up and highlighting your position to anyone who sees it. You can also use valuable resources to craft warmer clothes if you think that’s more important tactically than armour.
Darwin Project’s clever ideas don’t just stop there either, with the addition of a Show Director. One player doesn’t actually take part in the match but instead watches and triggers events that affect others, or the map. There are a range of things you can activate, using a pool of points that charges over time. You could heal a player, or warm them up for example, or close down zones to change the shape of the map. More importantly you can drop electronics, perhaps to help a nearby player or just to create more chaos. There are also significantly game-changing abilities too, like Gravity Storms that leave players bouncing around like they’re on the Moon, or Manhunts, where you can place a loot box bounty on one person’s head, making them a target for everyone else.
It’s early days here – there’s only ten-player matches and a single small map so far – but also a lot to like. If games like PlayerUnknown’s
Battlegrounds or Fortnite feel too big or too chaotic, this has a slower, less hectic pace. That hunting idea also creates a completely different feel because there’s more to consider than just fighting. What’s here is basic so far, but off to a good start and bodes well for its future survival.
“It’s early days here – there’s only ten player matches and a single small map”
Publisher Microsoft / Developer Scavengers Studio / Format Xbox one / release date Out now / cost £12.49
Far Left Combat is a chaotic mix of bow sniping and axe blows.
right Fire is your friend here if you want to avoid freezing to death. Just try not to build one where everyone can see.
Left Being a Director makes you the god of the match, dishing out buffs and useful items as you see fit for players.