The Darwin Project came out of nowhere and snapped up the spotlight at Microsoft’s E3 press conference. It’s the first game from the 12-person development house Scavengers Studio, and it combines the best aspects of games like Don’t Starve and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in a Hunger Games-style battle arena. Imagine Katniss Everdeen running around Pochinki Hill, chopping down trees like Wilson the Gentleman Scientist.
The Darwin Project pits players against each other in a contained battlefield, starting on opposite ends of the map with a bow and an axe — no other weapons, ammo, shelter, heat or other essential survival resources. The game operates in extremes; the debut map is a frozen tundra with rolling hills of snow, frozen lakes and abandoned shacks littered around dense woods.
In this lethal winter wonderland, the first thing players need is wood to start a fire, lest they freeze to death before the real — and most dangerous — game even begins. Players gather resources by chopping down trees, unlocking crates, and looting tents and abandoned shacks. Then, the crafting begins. Create traps, arrows and other gadgets; light a fire so you don’t die, but be careful, because the enemy can see its flame. Plot your attack and start tracking your prey.
Finding objects that another player has recently messed with reveals clues about their whereabouts, and a beacon of light signaling the location of a special upgrade serves as tasty, neutral bait. As the game progresses, the map shrinks, forcing players into battle.
The Scavengers crew has only been working on The Darwin Project for about nine months, but the first map already feels polished and the mechanics make sense. Online multiplayer arena games are all the rage, and it looks like The Darwin Project will be a welcome addition to the genre when it hits Xbox One and PC in early 2018.
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