Let’s face it, Spore was not the game it was hyped up to be. It lacked gameplay and did not have the lasting effect that everyone had anticipated, even with some amazing technology backing it up. Let’s fast forward to the present day where we are taking a look at Darkspore, the evil, better looking cousin to Spore.
To make things clear, Darkspore shares only a couple things in common with Spore and for good reason. The name Spore remains in the title and with it comes the connotation of creatures, genetics, and science fiction. The story behind Darkspore is fairly simple: The Crogenitors (alien scientists) mastered genetic engineering and of course, it became unstable and turned all subjects into “The Darkspore”, an evil hive mind entity that is trying to take over the galaxy. The story is of no consequence but I would not pass up the cut scenes or the flavor text because it is oozing with theme and really got me into the mindset when playing. The second part of Spore that is present in Darkspore is the creature creator. Now penis-monster jokes aside, the creature creator is one of the greatest and most user friendly customization modes that you will find in any game. You can take all the loot from the game and incorporate it into your hero. If you find an arm from a chest, you can pop that onto your desired hero for a stat bonus. It is a very easy and intuitive system and gives the player an amazing amount of room to tweak their heroes. With these two main characteristics of Spore being integrated into Darkspore, they have created a very competent action rpg that is a hack and slash loot fest that is one of the most addicting games I have yet to play this year.
The creature creator gives you full customization of your heroes
The gameplay is very similar to Diablo or Torchlight so if you like this style of action-rpg, you will feel right at home here. You begin the game with a squad of three creatures (also known as heroes) and you immediately are beamed down to a planet, where you have to slay your way through Darkspore until you get to the final boss of the level. You only control one of your three heroes at a time, but you can hotswap between them throughout the level but note that there is a cooldown after each switch. Once you finish off the level boss you can decide if you want to stop and collect your prize or continue on for bigger and better rewards. The longer your chain, the better your reward. I thought this risk/reward system of chaining levels together was a great innovation and really made for some tough decisions. What makes it worth it is when you finish a long chain and you get an epic item that you have worked so hard for and can immediately put on your hero and SEE the actual difference it makes.
A huge component of the game is team composition. Your heroes do not level up directly, but your Crogenitor level increases as you kill enemies and complete objectives. What the Crogenitor level does is grant you access to hero upgrades and more importantly with each level you gain you can unlock a new hero. Darkspore has one hundred heroes to choose from so the higher level you are the more variation you can have in your squads. The heroes all have different genesis type (read: element) associated with them: Necro, Bio, Cyber, Plasma, and Quantum. The abilities are usually based around each genesis type but also the character class of the hero. Each hero belongs to one of the three classes: Sentinel (tank), Ravager (dps), and Tempest (mage). Personally I liked constructing squads that had one of each class because I like a balanced party that can take on any situation. What sets Darkspore apart from other games of its kind is that each of the heroes have a shared power that can be used by all other heroes in the squad. Now if you think about the one hundred heroes you have to choose from and the team abilities accessible you have a huge amount of possibilities for squad power combinations that you will never grow tired of using all the different heroes. You are never stuck using the same hero for the whole game, but if you find one you like and works well with your playstyle you can keep in them in your squad indefinitely.
Hero abilities can be combined for extra mayhem
I’ll quickly comment on the level design, graphics, and music. Everything looks great but it is not mind blowing or breathtaking. Each of the levels feels unique and this goes a long way when you are doing planet after planet. The music is perfect for a sci-fi setting and Darkspore is no eye-sore but it can run on a modest machine so it is a very accessible game in the hardware department.
You can play Darkspore solo which is fun in and of itself, but the game really shines when you get a group of friends (up to 3 others) to journey across space and rid the galaxy of the Darkspore threat. You will find that as you add people to your group both the enemies scale in difficulty and have increased health. The payoff to this is that there are more frequent and better loot drops, so it is a win-win situation and an incentive to play with more people. Even if you do not have a group of friends to play with, Maxis has included a great matchmaking system that will pair you with people of a similar level. Every time I was up late at night, trying to sneak a couple levels in before bed I could always find a group of randoms to play with and I had my delicious loot bonus.
I really enjoy the fact that you can finish a level in 15 minutes or continue on and play for hours. It is a very player friendly game and it makes for an amazing co-operative experience. If you can only make it through one level and then are summoned away from your desk for whatever reason, your party can continue on without you and you can join them in the next level.
Form your own galactic police squad with up to four people
Even though I really enjoy the story and theme of the game, it is not why I play Darkspore. The customization of the units, addictive gameplay, and the mutliplayer all come together to form one great cohesive experience. The game is streamlined in that there is a ton of loot to be acquired, you can spend as little or as long as you want tweaking stats and making your heroes look exactly how you want. The game looks and plays great and I cannot stress enough how much better it gets when you have co-op partners to play with. With the plethora of heroes and abilities to use, you will never grow tired of unlocking all the different facets of Darkspore. It is truly great game that should not be passed up for any reason other than not owning a computer.
Darkspore takes the best customization elements from its predecessor and mixes them in with an addictive game style and comes out with a recipe for success.