We currently have two big titles when we talk about battle royale: the most popular one is Playunknown’s Battleground from Bluehole, while the contender is Epic Games’ Fortnite. This forms a path for developers who might want to dive into the genre and make their own unique approach which led us to Scavengers Studio’s Darwin Project.

Platform Previewed: PC
Other Platforms: PC, Xbox One
Developer: Scavengers Studio
Publisher: Scavengers Studio
Release Date: Spring 2018
This preview is based on the closed alpha weekend invite by the developers.

Initially revealed at Microsoft’s E3 press conference back in June, the user interface somewhat points its similarity to the likes of Overwatch and Paladins. But of course I didn’t know much of the game until it was slowly revealed after it was announced. Then, playing the likes of PUBG and Fortnite’s Battle Royale made me think: will there be another battle royale game that could contest these well-established titles?

Sure, PUBG and Fortnite Battle Royale can take in 100 players in each match, but with Darwin Project, that number dwindles down to only 10 players in this alpha build. So who on earth would like to test this game out when it launches if doesn’t support 100 players in a match? It’s going to be boring as crap, right? Let me stop you right there because Scavengers Studio’s take on the battle royale genre is uncommon. It has more of that competitive edge compared to the likes of PUBG and Fortnite Battle Royale thus making survival as one of its core gameplay mechanics.

Your arsenal of modern rifles are replaced with a bow and arrow, and an axe. While it does have that resemblance with Fortnite’s crafting mechanics, it’s not about building walls or a bunch of stairs to climb the tallest mountain, no. It’s more on crafting your own arrows (different kinds if you loot more materials), making your own armor, and even taking advantage of electronics to craft your own shield.

You also need to create a bonfire to keep yourself warm as the coldness of the Northern Canadian Rockies will eventually kill you. But be warned though, lighting up a bonfire will get yourself exposed on the enemy’s radar. There is also a hunting mechanic where the player can investigate broken woods to reveal the enemy’s location temporarily on their view. Adding a hunting mechanic makes the game more interesting and fun, this added element completes the essence of it being a battle royale game. Are you also a trap master? You have bear and cage traps at your disposal. Crafting is made easier for players. It’s easy to grasp and pretty straightforward and that’s what I like about Darwin Project.

Survival is key to victory, and you won’t fall behind if you did not get the chance to pick up that shield potion in Fortnite Battle Royale or a vest in PUBG; you can craft them once you get leather and wood materials. No more arrows? Good, use your axe and slay your opponent. There is no disadvantage when using the axe unlike in Fortnite Battle Royale. You can even raise a flag to let your enemies know that you want to team up. In addition to its gameplay, you will also have permanent upgrades such as a shield that makes you invincible for 10 seconds at a time, become invisible, or teleport. These add to the enjoyment factor making Darwin Project an entertaining battle royale title.

Since the game only features 10 players in each map, the arena feels big. In games like PUBG and Fortnite Battle Royale, the playable area tends to get smaller as time passes by. However, in Darwin Project, each zone will close which forces the players to move to a different section on the map. This gives a nice touch when it comes to shrinking the play area as you’re given a chance to evacuate one location.

However, there is one thing in Darwin Project that bothers me most – the dedicated server list. Don’t get me wrong, it’s better than peer-to-peer. But in this current alpha build, players can only join on specific servers, however, the concern I have is if Scavengers takes this into its final build, then it might be problematic if they decide to leave out the matchmaking option – which I doubt that they will. But there might still be a chance that Scavengers will add matchmaking, because other battle royale games even support this feature. I hope that in the end, Scavengers Studio will eventually put matchmaking.

When we talk about the game’s overall performance on PC, well, pushing it to Epic settings with an Intel Core i5-4440 and an MSI GTX 1050 Ti GAMING X 4GB made the whole system freeze. I had to do a force restart and it made me conclude that an entry level GTX 1050 Ti 4GB graphics card can’t handle an indie game such as this on Epic.

My experience throughout the Closed Alpha Weekend of Darwin Project was gratifying. Winning your first battle royale match in the game gives that rewarding sensation, and it’s a delightful way to start your day. There’s a lot of potential in this Scavengers Studio’s upcoming battle royale title, and I hope to see more of it when the open beta starts soon.