“After unstable Exponential DNA escaped the lab, it mutated into hordes of creatures known as the Darkspore. Now you have awoken from hypersleep and must assemble your arsenal of living weapons and join the battle for the galaxy…”
Quoted from Darkspore’s overview page at: http://darkspore.tumblr.com/overview
That pretty much sums up the goal of the game nicely. Darkspore is a fairly fast Action-RPG game that can feel very hack-and-slashy at times, in a good way. It’s almost Pokemon-esque in that you collect new heroes as your Crogenitor level increases. As you unlock heroes you can customize their looks (and stats) by giving them items and changing their colors, skin tones, weapon size, body part size, etc, etc. The hero editor is EXTREMELY in depth and based off the Spore editor. Many of the items you place onto the heroes you can change exactly where it actually shows up visually, thus making no two characters similar.
Graphically Darkspore is beautiful. Very vivid environments with plenty of areas to explore, and extra environmental objects to destroy. There are many different enemies and heroes with a large amount of variability per level to keep things fresh and exciting. Some environments include: caves, space docks, jungles, frozen wastelands and many, many other types of environments to play through all with their own unique flair. The UI is very sleek and clean, providing information necessary while not being overly intrusive on your gameplay.
So what is different about Darkspore to make it worth your time?
Well, there’s a couple things. First off the levels are old school Mario style for their layout. Anyone remember stages 1-1, 1-3, 2-2, 2-4, etc? That’s how Darkspore’s stage layout works. Beyond that, you can “chain” your levels together and continue on for quite some time in order to try to gain bonus rewards. As of right now in open beta the max stage is 6-4, with every “stage” having 4 levels in it. After playing for about 6-7 hours I’ve only been through up to 3-4, so that’s a fair amount of gameplay left. This nets me the mid 20s to high 30s in level on my characters, with stage 6-4 being Darkspore levels 54-62. I have heard that there’s up to 18 stages coming for release, but that could just be speculation. Either way there should be plenty of content for most gamers to enjoy.
It is also intended to be played in groups or with friends, yet you can still play it solo. You can play with up to 3 friends (4 people total in a group) to burn through the Campaign levels, and can even get matched with other players through their system.
Next thing I can mention for uniqueness to Darkspore is the squad system. As you collect heroes you can equip items on each and set squads of 3 heroes up at a time. While playing Campaign or PvP’ing you have access to those 3 heroes at any time (with a short cooldown) by pressing the Q, W, or E keys to swap heroes out. Beyond that each hero has 3 abilities and one passive, with the third ability being a “squad ability” which allows you to use that ability no matter which hero of your squad is currently active so long as that hero is in your current squad. This creates some very cool opportunities for combos and strategy to plan squad layouts around your particular heroes.
According to what I’ve heard there is also an AI system in place that scales enemies based on your performance to always offer a challenge. While the game was challenging at times, I can’t say I really noticed it a ton. Another thing to note is there is infact PvP for Darkspore. I have a very limited experience with it but currently there are unranked and ranked 1v1, and 2v2 matches to play. Judging by my experience there is a matchmaking system in place to pair you up against people of equal levels, but it’s not extremely good. I have little experience with the game, but spent some time kiting, dodging abilities, etc against my opponents and still generally lost all 3 of my heroes before even killing one of theirs due to not enough life or not being able to do enough damage. That is probably my biggest complaint about the game as a whole.
Overall Darkspore seems like an enjoyable experience with plenty of customization options and replay value heading into the future. Speaking of replay value, the developers have said they will be looking towards spending a majority of their development time on what the community wants more of. Be it PvP, or Campaign missions or whatever they find people enjoy the most, so it’s certainly good news for the future of the game. Plenty of action, customization and social interaction net Darkspore a solid 4.5/5 rating. If you’re interested in checking out some gameplay footage checkout http://www.justin.tv/socioz and search the videos for Darkspore to find a previous livestream of some action!