Darwin Project Review (Xbox Game Preview/Early Access)

March 22, 2018

Review by Amin Azoor

Full disclosure before we get into the meat of this review, I’m not a big player of Fortnite and I’m a newcomer into the world of the battle royale genre. In fact, as a 33 year old male whose last major bout of online multiplayer was Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare I wasn’t sure what to expect from Darwin Project and I was expecting to be slaughtered to the point of no enjoyment by overly hyped tweens spouting insults about my mother, much like every other online multiplayer game I’ve ventured into on Xbox Live in the past decade. However, I was pleasantly mistaken and despite being thrown into the genre with little to no experience I thoroughly enjoyed the Darwin Project, currently available through Xbox Game Preview.

First impressions should be left at the door when it comes to Darwin Project, as at first glance it’s quite easy to dismiss the game as a simple cash-in on the popularity of Fortnite. While I haven’t yet been sucked into the hype for that game, I can see why there’s room for another similar title in the genre. However, my first experience with Darwin Project was a let down, as before I even played a single game I headed into the games “Dressing Room” to customize my character. I’ll cut the game some slack here as it is still in early access, and having an extensive amount of variety in character customization is probably not too high on the list of priorities in development at this time, but it was still disappointing that I couldn’t even give my avatar a bald head to even closely resemble myself – also at this stage the only character model in the game is male. Sorry ladies!

If you decide to jump in and join the Xbox Game Preview for Darwin Project, then by all means pick a US based server as when I selected an Australian one my time was spent mostly in the lobby waiting for the mandatory ten players that is required before the match begins, due to what I assume is a limited amount of Australians with access to this game preview. On selecting a North American server though that’s where it all changes and there’s players a go go!

At the beginning of the match you’ll be dropped into the map with absolutely nothing in a vast cold snowy terrain. No ammo, just an axe and nothing but just your wits to survive. Since I was so used to the good old days of online multiplayer where you could run and gun and sneak away with a kill here or there, this was a big adjustment. To gain the abilities to use armor, arrows, shields or powers you have to go out and actively hunt down resources and spend time crafting your abilities. What’s fantastic about Darwin Project is everyone literally starts out the same with no clear advantages and it’s up to you to plot your game plan.

The one map is split up into seven zones in a vast area that takes a while to explore. From scrounging up resources, your character can gain access to a variety of ways to kill your enemy rather than the old fashioned circle strafe and shoot like back in the day. You can charge towards your enemy slashing at them with your axe, or you could pick them off with a variety of different attacks via your bow and arrow while protecting yourself with temporary invisibility or a shield for a limited time. Darwin Project will make you think about how you go into each encounter and what skillset you’ll use to your advantage. In my first few games I spent my time hunting down “electronics” which gave me access to powers, but which also left me vulnerable to attacks from other players with only my axe to defend myself. In later games, I’d spend most of the time chopping wood and collecting leather to craft arrows and gain cloaks to keep me warm so I don’t freeze to death.

Oh yes, if being chased around by nine other players wasn’t enough to put you on your toes you’ll have to pay attention to your HUD and keep an eye on vitals, because there’s a good chance you’ll freeze to death if you’re not careful. You may also find yourself at the mercy of another player because you can’t craft any arrows due to needing the wood to make a fire to warm you up to save you from death. All of these little factors come together so well and means each player goes into the game with different strategies to survive and ultimately be the last one standing. There’s nothing more satisfying then a kill due to outsmarting the other player and in my opinion there’s an element of skill that leads to your wins and not just blind luck. I mentioned earlier that the maps are huge and as the game goes on, one by one each zone is shut down making the playing field smaller and smaller and more and more hectic.

Players can also set traps to snag other players and there’s a smug satisfaction you get when an opponent comes charging at you with a flight of arrows that would make the cast of 300 scream that it’s excessive, only to see them get caught in a bear trap you laid earlier… as I said, whatever your approach to the game is at the end of the day outsmart and outwit your opponent.

Upon your death, there is still entertainment to be had as you can follow the progress of other players in the current game, which can be quite an entertaining duel to watch. I also haven’t even started to talk about the Director role that also plays a huge part in Darwin Project. The Director role is separate from the other 10 players in the game, and if you choose to take on the role (which can be done after playing five games in a normal match) the Director can hugely influence a game. As a Director you can shut down zones and make the map smaller, and manipulate the game in a Truman Show manner by either assisting some players by adjusting the gravity so everyone jumps sky high, or placing a manhunt on one of the players. There is an unprecedented level of freedom as the Director and is a very unique and worthy playing mode even if at first glance it seems passive and it’s more than just spectating other players play the game.

Overall, Darwin Project is a highly entertaining start of what’s to come. It’s quite promising and the few shortcomings it has I’m willing to overlook since it’s still in development, and considering this is my first foray into the genre of battle royal games it’s peaked my interest into playing it more. Bring on the full release!



-Very easy to get into
-Once you get the hang of it and find a strategy and game plan that works for you it’s a very satisfying experience
-The Crafting Wheel feature lets you customize your arsenal to the specific way you want from the get go


-Customizing your character is severely limited
-Only. ONE. Map.

Overall Score: