#636 Darwinia

Posted: 24th April 2013 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , ,

234th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Introversion Software
Publisher: Introversion Software

Some time ago – about two years by now, in fact – we covered a lovely game called Uplink. Interesting in its own way, it was a hacking simulation, in a way that felt like it emphasised realism over graphics or flashiness. It worked incredibly well and was very tense.

It is the first of Introversion’s games, who’s other two games (both listed) deal with vaguely similar themes. DEFCON, which we’ll discuss at some later day, is pretty much about all-out nuclear war, while today’s entry deals more with the computer side of things. In Darwinia, you enter a world filled with artificial intelligences that you have to rescue and keep safe.

Our Thoughts

Somehow the description above doesn’t seem right. Yeah, it’s what you’re doing – removing the viruses in a computer system, restoring the Darwinians to life and fixing the connections between parts of the system.

The way to play this, however, is fairly simple. You get a limited number of units – initially three, although this goes up through subsequent upgrades. Until you get the appropriate amount of research, you direct them to attack, first with lasers, later with grenades as well. They learn to defend themselves down the line… this just takes a while.

You do similar micromanagement on other units – while engineers will gather souls (freshly harvested from dead viruses) nearby to be reborn as Darwinians, you still need to guide them in the right direction, especially when you want them to reprogram the control towers and other useful structures in the area.

Similar things apply to other units, requiring you to spend quite a bit of time on each unit. This is one reason why the small group of units works out, but even then the amount of micromanagement can get frustrating. Not so much to direct them for their usual purpose, but because, for example, their path-finding is so simple that they can only go in a straight line, and a two-square diversion around a wall is impossible for them. At best, it may take more time. At worst, it means they waltz through an everything-destroying wall without any regards to their safety, immediately killing themselves.

Once the game gets going, though, it gets quite addictive. Blasting viruses is quite satisfying and seeing the Darwinians regenerate after you collect their souls, it does make you feel better.

At first glance the graphics in this game are pretty simplistic, but they do serve a purpose. With the exception of the trees (which are beautiful) everything looks fairly retro and pixelated. The Darwinians themselves are green and two-dimensional (to the point that they are so thin that they disappear from view if you rotate your view to the right point) to the point of looking like a cool clothing logo. The viruses are very very red and range from arrows lighting up the ground to tentacled UFO things that lay virus-filled eggs. There are even some interesting virus-laying flora which burn in a rather satisfying fashion when you throw a grenade at their roots.

As with Uplink and many games of the early nineties the closest link you have to human contact is slightly moving photograph of a talking head. It’s slightly disconcerting since it is just one step away from South Park’s much beloved Terrance and Phillip with their heads flapping up and down. Don’t get me wrong, your contact is very helpful since they are there researching away in the background to make sure your weapons pack a mean punch and the Darwinians don’t remain completely helpless as the viruses draw near.

In terms of strategy… there is not too much that is too dissimilar to the likes of Populous. Kill the enemies, take over the once-yours bases and escort your people to safety. The real novelty of this game really does lie in it being set inside of a computer (much like the controversial episode of Pokémon where many Japanese children were overcome by epileptic seizures). Due to this the time sink that certain escorting things become bareable. To be fair the idiocy of the Darwinians does put the floating head in Perfect Dark to shame… but it isn’t their fault because (in many ways) they are newborns unlike the head who must, therefore, be brain damaged.

Final Thoughts

This game has its flaws – mainly around its flawed controls and requirement to stay close to a lot of the action even when there is more going on elsewhere you want to attend to. Still, the game’s look and feel are charming, and you do really want to save the Darwinians. It certainly appeals to older gamers in its look and gameplay, but it’s just cool enough that you want to keep going and find out what else happens during the story.

  1. […] played a few of Introversion’s games before – Darwinia was fun if a bit strange, while Uplink was an early fun discovery for us while doing the […]