The universe of Darkspore has seen genetic manipulation grow severely out of hand. At first, Crogenitors scientists were content with creating the ultimate army of genetically superior creatures, known as Living Weapons. But then they discovered Exponential DNA; a substance so powerful, it could alter and perfect normal DNA at enormous speeds; making evolution seem like a joke. But as all tampering with nature goes, it would be soon enough that Living Weapons crafted with this E-DNA took a turn for the worst. As the E-DNA was very unstable, it began mutating out of the control of the scientists and soon, the beasts affected turned into Darkspore.

As more creatures were affected, the galaxy began to grow dire and soon a war emerged where the Crogenitor race was easily outmatched by the natural selection they had started. In their final hour, the scientists hid away select groups of Living Weapons throughout the galaxy, together with a program that would ultimately stabilize this E-DNA.  These chosen warriors would later rise back up and fight the Darkspore usurpation with their stabilized, new, evolved state. And while it’s not completely logical that the Darkspore couldn’t locate these hideouts during aeons of research; such is the premise of the game.

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An early shot of my Wraith Living Weapon in Darkspore, complete with flying shoulders.

Darkspore is partially the sequel to Maxis Software’s 2008 hit Spore, but without the cutesy and with a severe twist. More oriented on combat, a set story and character customization, this action RPG builds on its predecessor, but then leaves all the evolutionary build-up behind. Now, the goal is to eradicate the world of the dark threat and to aid you, you will get the help from legendary Crogenitor champions. Divided into 3 classes and then split again into 5 genetic types, these heroes scattered throughout the universe will help you in your quest, as you collect and change between them in a group of 3 beasts. Activated abilities create support or powerful suppressing attacks to aid the party. Also, each hero will have a passive ability to aid them with a specific trait, such as an advanced critical hit rate.   And as you progress, the abilities of your team will become more in tune with each other and you’ll be able to combine some special feats together.

Before each stage, you can view some information about the planet’s enemies and adapt towards their weaknesses if necessary.  To keep you engaged in the game, there are a few systems to ensure a maxed out gameplay experience. For instance, you can redeem rewards or keep playing to get a chance at much better rewards. Of course, loot hounds will always push themselves and go further into the increasing challenge without redeeming objects.  Furthermore, a medal system increases the drop rate even more with set goals, such as defeating all enemies, which honors players that don’t simply rush towards the end goal. This all works very well and keeps the pace as fast as you’d like yourself. Although, in co-operative play players will require to communicate as to not frustrate others.

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Living Weapon Vex in-game in Darkspore. He can actually pop out of the face mask.

The genetic elements each have their own strength and thus switching between heroes during gameplay can be quite the advantage. Luckily, this is only a button press away and so combat remains fluent throughout playthrough. Additionally, there are equipment and items to be found, which may also contain a certain genetic type to aid that particular hero. A level and power system create an additional customization. This is all pretty well implemented and the constant action sense of combat is therefore quite consistent. Attacks and abilities are easily performed and are divided in a clear interface.  Also, movement throughout a map is fairly straight forward. So, the action RPG feel is always present in your party of heroes. Later, you’ll also be able to collect new heroes and upgrade these to your liking.

Darkspore wouldn’t be a decent successor if the Editor from the original Spore wasn’t present and thus upgrades also come with their own customization. As you unlock more equipment and such, more customization options can create a unique hero for each character. Again, you can fiddle away at all sides and thicken, lengthen, widen, shorten and do all sorts of manipulation to the smallest amount of details on the Living Weapons. This is basically half the fun of the Spore concept and many will spend countless of hours just building a hero to their liking. But this is also a clever way of creating a deeper connection between players and their party, as nothing is as empathizing as a creature made with your own two hands. Personally, I enjoyed creating mini-tanks out of each creature the best I could.

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It’s about to go down in Darkspore. Ready your Area abilities!

The premise of Darkspore does look intriguing. Visually, the game still looks appealing, but promises to add a lot more flash than the original with all abilities and such available. If anything, Darkspore looks to be a promising RPG twist that could potentially offer a lot of unique gameplay with all customizations, classes and genetic types in mind. With all those combinations and added equipment, the individual aspect of each playthrough could well create countless hours of gameplay fun. The action orientation of the game can only benefit this. Darkspore is highly addictive in all its facets and may well gobble up all of your free time if you let it. Be on the lookout for its launch on March 29.

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