Darkspore PC Review
Even the genetic heroes, which you pilot through Darkspore’s plentiful but ultimately samey alien worlds, are a bit of a disappointment. Supposedly, these warrior-beasts are your own creations and the means by which you’ll reclaim the Crogenitor empire. As Darkspore’s title implies, an adapted version of Spore’s creature editor figures in prominently to the creation process.
Character creation is really more like character customisation, however. There are 100 genetic heroes for you to unlock, but each one comes with a base from which you’re only really able to build on by adding bits here and there, rather than build from scratch. You can add the bits on wherever you want, scaling their size and changing the skin tones of your entire creature, but it’s hard to feel any attachment or personality stem from this process. It’s like comparing an original watercolour to a painting-by-numbers.
The process is also utterly transparent because the genetic traits you’re grafting on to your heroes have nothing more than a statistical effect (i.e. animations are unchanged). Darkspore tries to present genetic tinkering as a powerful tool at the core of the game, but it’s no different than the inventory systems for other action-RPGs. Bolting a Thermic Spotter on to your back in Darkspore is no different from donning chainmail, except that everyone understands what chainmail is and it therefore doesn’t feel as arbitrary.
Darkspore; mainly they just bleed everywhere
The overall impression, then, is that Darkspore is nothing but a conventional action-RPG that, like Spore
, struggles to live up to the expectations surrounding the core technology. That doesn’t make it bad, but it does make it unexciting with a side of boring – and it’s further wounded by a few technical glitches. The bugs don’t cripple Darkspore, and stay mainly on purely annoying level, such as being unable to log in and play the game until you’ve opened the ‘Forgot My Password’ box, but they don’t improve the already bland lot.
The more you play Darkspore, though, the more these faults start to drift into the background. The harder levels especially can become deeply tactical as you learn to decode the jargon and shuffle around Necro Sentinels and Quantum Tempests in your squad line-up, balancing abilities. Playing Darkspore in co-operative theoretically adds to this strategic potential, but in reality we saw relatively few players online, and communication was strictly utilitarian. The attitude that drips out of Darkspore’s community is one of mercenary disinterest.
Mercenary is probably a good keyword for Darkspore, as the few really interesting ideas that the game presents tend to tie into this ethic. At the end of each level you can, for example, opt to gamble all your accrued items and experience on your performance in the next stage. Get through in one piece straight away and you’ll increase your odds of bagging rare items; die and you lose everything.
The times such as this, where Darkspore almost becomes interesting, are few and far between however. Even when they do show up they feel curiously at-odds with the overall experience.
As a Spore-Diablo mashup, Darkspore ultimately fails to capture the brilliance of the latter, or the theoretical creativity enabled by the former. As an action-RPG, though, it drip feeds enough of the genre’s typical moreishness to keep you in a trance-like play state. Darkspore is almost perfectly suited to playing when you’re looking for nothing more than a sedate click-fest where you don’t actually have to engage your brain in any meaningful wa—