The co-op side of Darkspore is where things really get interesting. Like the single player, each person brings along three characters that they can switch to on the fly and since Darkspore support four player co-op, you can essentially have 12 of them 15 possible combinations of characters present.
I sat out the co-op play after playing through a mission solo and let Tally get her hands dirty.
As I jumped into a co-op game of Darkspore with a guy who I believe was part of the PR team for Darkspore, I started with a ranged hero. I quickly switched to melee when I noticed that he was playing a ranged character, too, as it looked like we’d need someone who could go toe-to-toe with the enemies and take the majority of the hits. For the first few minutes playing it, I attempted to play it similarly to Diablo II or Demigod. I happily hit my number keys 1-5 (these are the skill buttons) to see what kind of effects they had. I soon noticed, however, that unlike the previously mentioned games this wasn’t a very good strategy. All of your skills cost a good chunk of power (the game’s mana bar) and this power doesn’t come back (or, if it does, verrrrrrrrrrrry slowwwwwwwwwwly). Little blue or green vials drop on the ground to give you a slight power or health boost, but these vials dropped few and far between. We soon found ourselves in a situation where it would have been very beneficial for me to utilize my healing ability that one of my heroes had, but I had been out of power for a long, long time. The moral of the story? Use your skills more strategically and not willy-nilly.
But there were other important lessons I learned as well from my brief time playing Darkspore. I was very intrigued by the idea of switching my heroes whenever I wanted to for the sake of using the most effective hero possible for the current situation (think like in the single-player experience of Trine). Though I had been warned there was a cool down between switching heroes, the length was more substantial than I anticipated. So when you switch to one of your heroes, make sure you’ll want to stay on him for a little while! Don’t switch to a squishy guy to use his awesome ability in the middle of a horde of enemies, then not be able to handle the beating you’ll be taking.
Creature Editor: It doesn't give you the freedom that Spore did, but it's still pretty open ended.
Nick and I were assured that the game was built with special emphasis on co-op, so expect a scaling of difficulty the more players you bring in (more enemies, for example). We were also told that there would even be some special creatures or encounters in co-op mode, such as a Cager creature that ensnares a player in a net. Ensnared players cannot break out on their own, so other players will have to pay attention and break them out when they get trapped.
Darkspore surprised us, not only wasn’t it the game we expected, but the things it did do we really liked. It’s easy to see that careful consideration was given to co-op players and there’s a fair bit of customization thanks to an indepth editor that not only lets you place parts you pick up just about anywhere, it lets you customize the color of your character too. This means that the chances of players have the same character in co-op are pretty limited.
Darkspore is entering a beta phase shortly and then releases on March 29th for the PC.