DAR­WIN PROJECT

The evo­lu­tion of Batt le Royale

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Leon Hur­ley

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.

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