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Last month, on the 8th of July, EA put me on a plane and took me to Redwood City, near San Fransisco, so I could get a sneak peak of two of their latest games. Both games were never show to public yet. The group of lucky ones who did get to see these games was really small. There were thirteen journalists from different countries and media. There was someone from the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf and there was someone from insidegamer.nl. Mark from Simsplanet2 was also present. And I, Lex, better known as Xelles, from Sims3nieuws.nl was there too.
This preview will be about the first game I got to see, called Darkspore.
To be clear from the very first word: Darkspore is nothing like The Sims 3 and many of the visitors of our website will have never heard of the game. But they probably do know the original Spore. While playing Spore you saw the evolution of your own created creatures. Darkspore will be completely different from this original.
Darkspore is not a sequel of Spore. It is a complete new game, which only has a few elements you could compare with Spore, like the beloved Spore Creature Creator. Darkspore will be a so called Action RPG game, so it is a whole other genre than The Sims 3. Although not every Sims 3 player will like Darkspore, there will still be a group of people that will be interested, including me.
What is Darkspore?
It is paramount to know that Darkspore is an online game. If you do not have an internet connection you cannot play this game. This game is completely focused on playing with other people, but also battling against them. There will be two types of game-modes, co-op (teamwork) and player-versus-player (battling against each other). You could play the co-op levels by yourself. But it is much more fun to play it together with other people.
Darkspore will give you the control of squads. With these squads you need to complete the levels. Every level has its own foes which all need to be defeated to reach the end of a level. Now it probably sounds easy and boring, but I can assure you there is so much more necessary to complete a level.
Every squad will consist of three creatures. While playing a level you will be one of these creatures, but you can switch between creatures any time during the game. Every creature has its own health meter and also its own qualities and skills.
Playing with three creatures at the same time
If you ever played a game like World Of Warcraft, you know that RPG’s often contain three types of creatures, called a tank, healer and a DPS. A tank will be a creature with high quality armor and also a lot of health. A healer can, like the name already gives away, heal other creatures. And a DPS focuses on doing as much damage as he can. Darkspore has the same kind of principals. You have to make sure your squad has three types of creatures in it and that there is a perfect balance between their different roles. The most obvious combination of creatures for your squad would be: a tank, a healer and a DPS.
The fact that you do not have one but three creatures to control, will give a lot of opportunities. It is not only that you will not die that fast, because there will be remaining two creatures still if one dies. But you can choose a suitable creature for almost every possible situations. And if you play co-op, like you are supposed to do, these opportunities will be doubled. If you play with 2 gamers you could choose between six different creatures. One of you could select a tank and the other one could go for a healer. Or if you want to do a lot of damage in a small amount time you both could select a DPS.
During the preview we all got an own squad with, obviously, three creatures in it. I had a pretty armored figure who like to play with fire, a strange alien who mastered sword fighting, and a rather fast spider who shot his enemies with some kind of laser. Normally you get to select your own squad before you start a game.
Every creature has two standard attacks, specific for this creature. My magma-fire being could drop meteorites and become a pain in the head for his enemy this way. Every creature also has a group skill, like a healing spell for instance. This skill can only be used as long as that creature is alive. So in total you have three group skills, but if one of your creatures dies, his group skill will become unusable. Last but not least there are passive skills. These are skills that are always active and you do not have to activate them. A possible passive skill could be the one which lets you regain some of your health each time you hit a creature.
There was only one level we were allowed to play completely in two people a co-op mode. At first it was hard getting used to playing the three creatures at the same time and to get acquainted with their skills. But after a short while we got the hang of it and our play became better.
In our level there were several different creatures we had to fight, all of them having different skills. I thought these skills to be reasonably well worked out, because you had to adjust your strategy slightly every time to beat these creatures. Although just bashing into a group and hack and slash them was effective as well … in the beginning. But this was not an option in beating the (end)bosses. You had to evade their attacks and then, at the right moment, attack the boss yourself. Thereby trying not to hit his shield, which off course would not have any effect and only raised the chance to be hit yourself.
It really was a blessing we got to play this level with the two of us, because on several occasions we really needed each other’s help. Especially when being trapped in some sort of magnetic cage that slowly drains your life away. Your partner must try to free you by killing the creature that is trapping you. And besides that it simply is more fun to go through the levels with a group of people and attack the ugliest creatures together.
The difficulty level will be adjusted according to the size of your group going through the level. The maximum group size is 3. So you don’t have to worry a level will be to difficult if you want to try it.
My concern is, that all levels will start to look alike after a while, certainly when they all have an endboss. So I asked Maxis during the question hour if all levels would have an endboss. They told me there will be an extensive campaign in the game telling you a story during gameplay. Sometimes there will be movies to connect things to each other. Each time you play the levels will differ from each other, will stage on different planets and end in different ways. And there will certainly not be an endboss at each of them, but what it is exactly they do to create a difference between the levels, they did not say.
But one thing is sure, the game will never be the same. All NPC’s (computer controlled characters) you have to fight will differ every time, even when playing the same level. So you will never be able to tell which creatures are best to add to your squad, because it is always a surprise what you will encounter. In general that will be fun and nice, because it adds a lot of dynamics to the game. But on occasions it can be quite frustrating, because chances are you will meet the same creatures to often and that it will be those you find hard to beat.
Adjust and improve creatures
Like a lot of other RPG’s, the creatures of DarkSpore all have their own stats. The stats will improve according as the level of your creature increases and when you find items that improve the stats of the creature. This is the list of the different stats you will find in DarkSpore:
- Health: The amount of live the creature has.
- Power: Kind of mana. Using abilities costs Power.
- Strength: The more strength, the more damage you do and the more health you have.
- Dexterity: Doing more damage and having more dodge. Especially useful for ‘Rogue’ creatures.
- Mind: Doing more damage and (I think) more Power.
- Crit: More chance to do critical damage.
- Dodge: More chance to avoid an attack.
- Deflection: More chance to avoid a spell.
Of course this game too will be about improving the stats of your creatures to the best possible level. But more important with this kind of games is often if it was worth the amount of time spent in doing so in the end. With that I mean there has to remain a sort of challenge after having reached these high stats. By adding the player-versus-player mode this could prove to be quite interesting. When lots of people have developed their high-level creatures they will start battling each other, which could easily become fierce competitions. I hope Maxis will develop a clever system that will urge you to play again and again, even after having reached the highest possible in this game. It was a pity they didn’t reveal anything about this PvP-mode during this preview.
The true reason for naming this game Darkspore lies in the usage of the Creature Creator and the storyline of this game. The Creature Creator is an almost exact copy of the one used in Spore, with slight adjustments. Now you will be able to adjust your own weapons and armor. I am not sure what to think about this feature. Chances are I will use it rarely, being the kind of person just wanting to be skilled in a game, completing the levels with success. The looks of my creature while doing so aren’t that important to me.
The more creative players amongst us will be able to go completely berserk in creating the most brute armor and weapons, though. The looks of your own creature can be changed little to none, if I understood it right. But NPC-creatures can be created almost from scratch, based on a basic creature you get. And those are the ones you will see in your own game and battle against.
The look and atmosphere of the game
Last but not least, I would like to discuss the atmosphere of the game and the graphic aspect.
The game stages on a couple of different planets, so basically you are somewhere in outer space. The game is a bit dark, or at least the environment. The creatures and objects have very bright color, so it is easy to recognize them. I noticed that the world and creatures of Darkspore have a lot of details.
The atmosphere of the game was really nice and fitted the game perfectly. This of course is mainly caused by the great graphics. The game is supposed to look a bit sci-fi and Maxis definitely succeeded, especially when you look at the menu. The whole menu looks high tech and I thought it looks pretty well organized.
This game is a complete different game than The Sims. But personally I like it. I also play League of Legends a lot with my friends, which is a game similar to Darkspore. But it is not only comparable to League of Legends, you could also compare Darkspore to Trine. When you play Trine you also control three creatures and during the game you need to switch between them. Darkspore has also got some elements of Diablo and Torchlight. It is not deniable that Maxis got their inspiration out of other games, but in my opinion it seems they have created a good mix.
We still have to wait whether this is a perfect mix or not. We only saw a very tiny bit of the game. But the co-op mode seemed promising and will probably be a lot of fun to play because you need to switch between your three characters. But the story, the different levels and the diversity of the creatures will mark the game. It is really hard to give a conclusion of the game because we just haven’t seen enough. I guess we will have to wait for the final result.
It is a pity we did not get to see more about the Player-versus-Player mode. My expectations about this are really high and I hope there will be more information about it soon. I have become more interested in Darkspore and I will keep reading, watching and listening to all the information until its release.
I would like to thank EA for this great oppertunity. Darkspore wasn’t really a game I would’ve expected to see. Nevertheless I did very much enjoy being there to Preview Darkspore. Thanks EA Games!
This Preview is written by Xelles and translated by Fransor and Wimhuiskamp.