Remember Spore? The game where players get to create and experiment through five stages of evolution. Put that into sci-fi dungeon crawler where you battle worlds of hostile alien creatures to avoid destruction and you get Darkspore.
Darkspore is an action role playing game developed by Maxis, renowned for its simulation titles such as The Sims. It is a brave attempt by the company who tries hard to make a breakthrough in this genre. And even though the game might carry the word "spore" in its title, there is little resemblance to the original Spore.
Darkspore tells a tale of crogenitors, a race of scientists who learnt the technology to create genetic heroes until an outbreak of unstable research mutates creatures aroud the galaxy. This is where your own genetic heroes come into play, that is to save the universe from a certain doom. However, the story does not get anything interesting more than that.
There is no interaction with the AI or heroes in the game and your missions in the story is as straight as a ruler with the narrative briefing you on the story. While the game hints a possible turn-off for those who are looking forward to an exciting story, there is something in this game which keeps you going and brings the game back into positive light.
The mindless hack-and-slash title does offers some meta-gaming choices such as the variety of different items to a pool of 100 pre-created heroes from five genetic traits. In fact, these little customizations to your arsenal of weaponary will determine your overall stats of your hero in the game. You will get to decide how armour is worn and a gamble to hold your loot for greater rewards if you survive the next level.
Putting these nifty choices and modifications together, you will set out to kill Darkspore minions for experience points and level up to unlock more heroes. In the game, the player is put in control of three heroes, switchable with the press of a hotkey. You will navigate and explore areas from lush greenery to space stations killing Darkspores. Rinse and repeat till the final mission. You will gain different items for your heroes and also "DNA" which are necessary to unlock certain abilities and gameplay modes such as PvP.
Online gameplay puts you in either cooperative or Player versus Player (PvP). In cooperative mode, you will pair up with three other players to complete the levels. Looting of items is determined by a dice roll which decides the item your team mates and you will get. No doubt the game levels were designed more for teamplay as it gets a steep inclinement in difficulty at later levels. Again, interaction is non-existant even with your partners, your mission is a plain obvious: kill all hostiles around you and return to base.
PvP is burnt out and lacks competitiveness. Ladder gameplay is not present in Darkspore PvP and there is nothing more than killing someone who is much weaker than you or get killed by a overpowered opponent. Maxis will probably need to do more than adding a patch to give PvP some value in the game.