|Dev: Maxis Software|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: April 26, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Lindsey Weedston
Spore came out in 2008 to both critical acclaim and disappointed gamers. Although Spore was a great game, it was another that fell short of developer promises. It was fun, but not revolutionary. As a result, Spore lost the attention of gamers quickly. Now, Maxis has returned with Darkspore, a game loosely based on its predecessor.
While Spore was all mechanics and freedom with no plot, Darkspore comes with a dark story. The Darkspore are a race of mindless beings that have been warped by an infectious and rapidly mutating virus. The virus was created by the Crogenitors—the most brilliant minds in the galaxy—in an attempt to harness the genetic properties of E-DNA. In a tragic mishap, the Crogenitors lose control of the virus and it's released upon their world. The Darkspore multiply until they've spread across the entire galaxy. 1,000 years later, a single Crogenitor awakens from hypersleep to find that E-DNA has been stabilized and can be used to manipulate the DNA of the few who have escaped the reach of the virus.
Compared to the light, silly tone of Spore, Darkspore sounds pretty intense. Trailers and screenshots show that it's not just the plot that has been made dark. Dark colors are used on the desolate planets inhabited by the Darkspore, and none of the creatures look cute. It seems that Maxis has taken a cool but not revolutionary mechanic and added the one thing that can make any game super cool: despair.
Darkspore is an action-RPG with a top down perspective much like Diablo, and there is a lot of strategy involved, especially with the customization of characters. Like in many MMOs, a player's effectiveness in defeating the Darkspore will center on looting. Items and DNA strands must be collected in order to mutate the characters into powerhouses that can be combined into teams whose abilities compliment one another in just the right way as to create an unstoppable Darkspore-killing force. Characters will be split into classes: Ravagers (rogues), Sentinels (tanks), and Tempests (mages). Characters and enemies will come in one of five genesis types, which determine their abilities and appearance.
Like with Spore, Maxis is promising almost limitless possibilities with hundreds of abilities and tens of thousands of collectable body parts and armor that can be used to create unique creatures. The Spore Creature Editor has been enhanced to promote deep customization. However, we won't know until the game comes out how unique the creatures will be or if it turns out that there is one way to put together all these elements and make the perfect warrior. Of course, then it would just be Pokemon all over again. Sure there are 150 Pokemon to train, but if you're going to battle your friends, you're just going to end up bringing six Mewtwos. It's unlikely that Darkspore will be as bad as this, but like politicians, video games can rarely live up to all the promises they make.
Even if the stat customization is incredible, it looks like the appearance customization won't be nearly as cool as in Spore. Instead of starting off with a blank slate with the ability to make almost any creature imaginable, the player of Darkspore starts out with a basic creature and is given the ability to change it a little. You start with a big, hulking mass with appendages, and you can shrink the hands and feet and armor and make it more glowy or paint it different colors, but it's still a big, hulking mass. This is disappointing but not surprising, and is the main thing that makes Darkspore not Spore. Darkspore is less about creation and more about battle. At this point in the video game timeline, it's too much to ask for both.
If, however, the customization is as amazing as Maxis promises, then the PvP arenas will be flooded with creators looking to show off their creatures. Multiplayer will be a big part of Darkspore, with both PvP and co-op being heavily emphasized in the game's developer diaries. The PvP shown so far has been two vs. two players, with each person having a lineup of creatures that can switch in and out in an instant, provided they're charged up. Teamwork is key in these battles, as the right pull with the right area attack, or the right stun with the right poison attack, can combine to make a deadly situation for the opponents. Co-op modes for up to four players will also be available.
While there is no short supply of action RPGs, there's nothing quite like Spore. What Maxis is doing is taking a great idea and adding a ton of cool. Dark colors combined with an evil race of mutated aliens, endless battles, and despair is a prime recipe for a cool game. Add a ton of customization options and you have a mix of all of the best things that can be in a video game. The question is whether Maxis will deliver on their promises or disappoint us yet again.
CCC Freelance Writer