Mixer-ing it up with TV-style direction
“It’s not just your fellow players to be wary of; the arena is deadly as well”
It’s horribly cold, you’ve been dumped in an arena, and now you have to kill all of your friends for the entertainment of others and your own survival. Darwin
Project is essentially Hunger Games: The Videogame, then, but without the flamboyant outfits and parade beforehand. Much like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, it’s essentially a battle royale at heart, but with a few twists.
Matches are much smaller, with only ten people in an arena, so it’s a little less frantic, and has a greater focus on survival with crafting. It’s not just your fellow players you have to be wary of; the arena itself is also deadly. It’s bitterly cold, and you will freeze to death if you don’t find somewhere warm or start a fire, but by starting a fire you’ll also give away your position, and other players will be able to track and/or murder you more easily, so there’s a huge amount of risk involved. You can also find devices located around the arena that will show you where other players are, or help you follow their footprints. This all adds up to create an environment where you’re constantly hunting people down while being hunted yourself.
The lack of guns in the game mean you won’t be able to do any serious damage from a distance. You can eventually get bows, but most of the time you’ll be forced to get your hands dirty by getting up close and personal. You have an axe to help you chop down wood for fires and which also comes in handy if someone tries to sneak up on you and get in your face. A few chops should do the trick. The arena is also full of other tools and traps that you can use to your advantage—if you’re clever you can use a fire to lure people towards your position before taking them out.
For those watching a match unfold, there are several ways to interact with the game—you can bet on certain players or even vote on who to reveal for a manhunt. There’s also a game director to help facilitate all of this, able to provide commentary or give certain players buffs or debuffs to try and encourage a more dramatic game for everyone involved.
A recent beta test of the PC version provided some insight into how a match will actually play out. Mostly the response was positive, with the director position helping to ramp up the tension. However there were complaints over how some aspects worked and could be abused. For instance, there’s a planned mechanic that lets a director broadcast a player’s location to start a manhunt of that person, but it was already being abused by spiteful players, or those who teamed up with others to give their friends more of an advantage. It’s a massive problem for players, as those that abuse the director powers will ruin the games for others, so some aspects might have to be reworked to prevent this. Or at the very least some kind of reporting feature or balance tweaks to lessen the potential for bullying.
While there definitely are a few kinks to work out before a full release, it’s a really promising idea that blends the best of battle royale games with those that love to watch games on the likes of Twitch and Mixer. If done well it could quite possibly kickstart a new genre of more spectator-orientated gaming, but it will all depend on how well it’s balanced to see if it makes for a good show.