Darkspore Review for PC

Darkspore Review for PC

Super Powered Alien Crab Elephants Do Battle!

In 2008 Spore promised us the world but delivered nothing more than five barebones games and a pretty interesting character editor. Darkspore, EA and Maxis’ follow up to their sim-everything disappointment, didn’t promise the world. Instead, it promised us a decently enjoyable, top down, Diablo-esque, sci-fi RPG using what was perhaps the best part of the original Spore, the character editor. It’s basically Maxis’ first foray into the action RPG genre, and it shows. The game is a little rough around the edges, but is, as previously advertised, decently enjoyable.

Darkspore Screenshot

In Darkspore you take the role of a Crogenitor. What is a Crogenitor? As far as I can tell it’s some sort of weird, hand-wavey magical scientist thing that is a master of DNA and making new creatures or something. You see, a long time ago a special type of awesome, mutagenic, Ninja Turtles-like DNA was discovered in deep space, and being the scientific bastards that we are, we obviously started using this DNA to create experimental, super-powered hybrid crab-elephants (or at least that’s how the story goes down in my head). Unfortunately the DNA goes out of control and creates the Darkspore, which are also super-powered hybrid crab-elephants, except they’re evil, which my scientific colleagues tell me is a bad thing. So, to deal with this horrible monstrosity, you and the rest of the Crogenitors run the heck away and go into cryogenic sleep. This turns out to be a bad idea considering you basically just let the Darkspore overrun the galaxy. Flash forward some time later when you wake up from your sleep and the A.I. in your ship tells you, “DOY, you just let the Darkspore overrun the galaxy!” Then it’s off to clean up your galactic mess … and this is the entire game.

OK, so I embellished the plot a bit for the sake of comedy there, but it really doesn’t get much better. Your ship’s A.I. is the primary vehicle (see what I did there?) for storytelling, and it’s a bad one. It prattles on about the planets you visit and the events that took place before the game even started, but it does so in absolute barrages of exposition that you just don’t care about because it takes forever and distracts you from the action. You never really get to interact with anyone or anything important over the course of the game. Everything is basically told in past tense. This might work just fine for the original Spore and other simulation games, but if you are going to make an action RPG you need to write a story that actually has relevance in the here and now. As it stands Darkspore’s story is really just an excuse to push you on to another planet (i.e. another dungeon) and get you grinding some more levels. Honestly, it all just became “blah blah blah” to me after the first few minutes anyway.

Darkspore Screenshot

Luckily enough, Darkspore’s gameplay is nowhere near as boring as its story. Throughout the game you design creatures for battle which you then sort into parties of three. You only get to control one creature at a time, but you can freely switch between the creatures in your party whenever you like.

Your creatures don’t really level up in the game. Instead, you level up, and each time you level you basically get a chance to futz around with the DNA of another creature. You can purchase some overall upgrades for your parties, but all-in-all the strength of your creatures is determined by the items and body parts you equip them with.

You also aren’t making creatures from scratch like you did in the original Spore. You are actually modifying pre-set heroes, and while you still have a lot of flexibility with the system, there are some stats that act as a starting point for each hero. For example, each hero falls under one of five genesis types (basically a simplified elemental system), one of three classes, and can fight either melee or ranged. These give the hero his “starting abilities,” so to speak, and most heroes have some unique abilities they bring to the fray as well.

Darkspore Screenshot

Everything else about your creatures is determined by what you equip them with. Just like the original Spore, you can equip your creatures with a variety of body parts, each offering their own boosts to your creature’s stats and abilities. However, in Darkspore you can also equip your creatures with weapons and armor. The creature editor is exactly the same as it is in Spore, and equipping your creature is as easy as snapping a new part on. Once again you can futz around with your creature’s markings, color, and appearance to get them to look exactly how you want, if you’re the obsessive type who likes to play dress-up with super powered hybrid crab-elephants.

The actual gameplay is pretty basic. You hop into a dungeon and start slaughtering your enemies on your quest to reach the end goal. Click an enemy to attack it, click a space to move, hammer on your number keys for skills; it’s the basic Diablo formula. The only real quirk to the system is the genesis system, in which creatures of the same genesis type deal and receive double damage against each other. So, basically you just have to be sure to bring creatures of a different type to whatever you are currently being swarmed with.

After completing a level, you get the option to get your loot and return to your ship to further modify your heroes. However, if you are confident in your party, you can basically forego this and go straight on to the next level. If you do this, you “chain” the levels together, upping your XP and item gain. It’s a very simple risk/reward game that makes the game more fun for daredevils and hardcore gamers. There are also option objectives and side quests, but the main quest never diverges much from “go through this dungeon, kill these enemies.” It can get a little repetitive.

Playing the game in co-op mode makes the game way more fun. You can play with one to four players, and each additional player gives you a hefty XP and item boost. It also ups the difficulty of the enemies, but overall the game becomes much easier with a few buddies around. Still, there is a bit of grinding involved, so be prepared.

At level 10 you unlock PvP mode, and I didn’t have fun with this mode. Moreover, I haven’t met anyone who has had fun with this mode yet! There are no balancing mechanics involved. Anyone, of any level or any skill, can go up against anyone else. This means that more often than not you’ll either destroy your opponent or they will destroy you. Oh, who am I kidding, more often than not you just get destroyed. There’s no real point or purpose to PvP either. Sure you got bragging rights and all, but co-op is just more fun.

Darkspore Screenshot

The presentation of the game is nothing special. The best graphics can actually be found in the character editor. The environments are all kind-of bland. You just hop from generic sci-fi stereotype planet to generic sci-fi stereotype planet, and it never gets much more interesting than that. A couple of my friends tell me I’m being too hard on the game and that some of the environments are pretty, but let me say this. I didn’t like Avatar. I don’t want pretty, I want interesting, and I didn’t get interesting.

The sound is okay, but that’s all it is. There’s a little voice work in the heroes’ grunts and catch phrases, but not much. The music is similarly nothing special. It’s good quality, but it kind of feels like stock sci-fi adventure music.

Now I know I’m coming down a little hard on the game, so let me wrap this all up in one neat package. Darkspore is fun. There are lots of flaws with it, but at the end of the day it’s still fun. The character customization options really stand out, and the feeling that you actually have such massive control over your stats, abilities, and even eyeballs, is really enjoyable. Sure, the game never gets to the level of depth that games such as Baldur’s Gate or Diablo get to, but it’s a decent diversion when all is said and done.

But that’s all it really is, a fun diversion. Maxis really doesn’t have the whole “storytelling” thing down yet, and a couple serious errors in pacing and online play prevent this game from becoming a classic. Most likely, we will all have some fun with this game for two to three months, and then the community will dry out as we start waiting for other big action RPGs to be released. If you are interested, you might as well pick it up now while there’s still a thriving online community. You could do a lot worse, but you could do a lot better. I wouldn’t regret buying the game, but I certainly wouldn’t be missing anything if I didn’t.

I think we have to just admit to ourselves that Spore and Darkspore are really not the grandiose sim-everything games Maxis wanted. They are just fun little wastes of time, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The graphics aren’t bad, they are just repetitive. However, if you are looking at generic sci-fi space stations and planets that look like James Cameron’s Avatar’s little cousin, then it is pretty enough. 4.5 Control
I honestly can’t complain about the interface. It worked for Diablo, and it works here. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is nothing special and the voice work is minimal for anyone else, but the A.I. honestly gets annoying sometimes. It’s not bad enough to seriously detract from the game, but it’s certainly not memorable in any meaningful way. 4.0 Play Value
At the end of the day I had fun with Darkspore, and you will too. Might as well play it now, though, because its online community probably won’t last long. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Build a powerful squad. Collect dozens of genetic heroes and create the best three-member squad for each level. Switch between heroes on the fly for the right ability against each enemy.
  • Make each of your heroes truly unique with loot collected throughout the game. Nearly limitless arrays of combinations are at your fingertips for a truly individual gameplay experience.
  • Defeat the Darkspore with your personalized squad in the solo and co-op campaign, or challenge other players in PvP.
  • The AI Director provides players with a new experience in every play-through. Evaluating the players’ performance, the AI Director switches strategy through the level to offer fresh and unexpected challenges.

  • To top