PS. This entry is dedicated to my buddy Mark. Together we have conquered dungeons and overcome challenges only 0.17% of the population today can relate.
For many years, I have identified the web address Darkspore.com with Mark’s personal site. I vividly remember it was one fine afternoon, when I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green in front of Somerset 313 (which was still under construction), Mark messaged me saying that he has sold his domain name. Right there and then, I guessed that a new game was in the making, due to a strong association to another game called “Spore“. I was right. Darkspore is indeed a new game based on Spore.
EA Game has sent me a beta key to try out the new game. Of all the beta testing I have participated, this beta testing is surprisingly smooth, with a decent level of features available to play. What is Darkspore? It is sci-fi based action role playing game with an option to engage other players online to play with you. You could – I suppose – solo your way through the leveling and gearing. But the game rewards better XP (experience point) if you choose to play with others. I have tried out the campaign mode (or the co-op mode). I have yet to tried out the PvP mode (player-versus-player). Subjected to final changes as the game is still under development, you start the game with two heroes, who look like those strange bug life form coming from the Spore universe. Upon completing the tutorial, you get to pick one more hero to complete your squad of three. Each hero can fulfill one of the three roles: tank, damage, and heal. As you level, more heroes are unlocked for you to recruit into your squad.
“This is the arsenal screen. The three heroes on the left are my current squad. As for the line of heroes on the right, some are available for my picking.”
For this day one of beta testing, I have picked a squad that has a tank, a damage, and a heal. To be honest, all the bug-looking characters look the same to me. Hardly something I can identify with, but I was eager for some good action. So I have headed to the navigation screen and selected a multi-player option.
“This is the navigation screen. As you level up, you can pick harder challenges, which come with better reward I suppose.”
Matchmaking is not the only way to form groups. I have tried out partying with players on my friend-list too. I am not sure how the multi-player matchmaking algorithm works. At times we have a group of two. At times we have a group of four. Darkspore comes with a chat window as well. Since I am familiar with other MMO (massively multi-player online), I felt at home with the lobby and party chat.
“This screenshot was taken during the actual game play, with a party of three. Bottom center is the action bar. Bottom right is the squad of three.”
The game play involves a lot of mouse-clicking, which is simple enough most of the time. Left click is to move to a spot and right click is to move and attack. Each hero comes with a health bar and a power bar. Abilities that consume power can be accessed through the action bar at the bottom of the screen. The beauty of this action role playing game – in my opinion – is the option to switch heroes in the mist of the battle. The tank can charge ahead and take the punishments from the enemies. The damage class can focus on bringing down the enemies fast, from near or far depending on the hero’s nature. And the healer can stay at the back making sure that the party is safe and sound. Loots are rolled automatically as the party members walk over the items on the floor. The currency of the game is DNA, which is useful from equipping my heroes to buying weapons and upgrading the ship and etc. At the initial level, the game appears to be generous on the potions that refill the health and power bars. These potions can be found as enemies or structures are taken down.
“Boss fight can be relatively intense. But if everyone knows what they are suppose to do, it is quite trivial (thus far).”
Fortunately so far, I have grouped with players who know what they are doing. We stayed together, switched heroes as the situation called for, and helped each other when one of us was trapped. Range attack can be avoided, same applies to the enemies who may stand out of the line of fire or area of effect damage. Each campaign so far involves maps of multiple stages. Portals to the next stages are open once the obelisks are found. Once we have completed a campaign, there is an option to collect the reward. Or, continue to the next campaign and aim for a higher reward if we succeed, lose it all if we fail. During this beta testing, I was only able to continue two times. To go beyond, my ship needs to be upgraded. I noticed that the chances of rolling a rare reward is tied to how well I have performed during the campaign. As in what the exact formula is, I have no clue at the moment.
“This is the editor screen, whereby you can equip your heroes, or even change the color and shape of this bizarre looking bug.”
At the end of each campaign (or a series of campaigns), you can customize your heroes, from the look to what he or she (or it?) uses. I realized after spending some time of playing the game that my heroes level up as I equip better items onto them. How does that reconcile with the overall XP and level of my squad, I do not know. Items can be equipped to all my active and inactive heroes. The item stats can be overwhelming, even to the seasoned players. I have struggled quite a bit on what should be given to which hero. Fortunately, some items are specific to a single class. I can imagine as I collect more heroes, managing the inventory could be quite a task.
“This is the inventory screen. Useless items can be sold for DNA, the currency of Darkspore. DNA can be used for upgrades.”
Darkspore is indeed a fast action game and it seems pretty easy to play. Those who love online hack-and-slash games would love this one. Each campaign seems to only last 10 minutes or so (It may get more tedious later, I do not know). In between campaigns, there are cut scenes too. Personally I am not that immersed into the storyline, as yet. The videos remind me of Perimeter’s, with the same monotonous narration of some alien stories. And I am finding it difficult to relate to the heroes who look so bug-like. I think Darkspore is one of the games whereby the more time you spend in playing, the better your arsenal of heroes will become. This game may well be a good stop gap before Diablo III is released.