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Outside the MMO Box: Darkspore

General Articles By Garrett Fuller on May 12, 2011

Outside the MMO Box: Darkspore

Darkspore is a unique game on many fronts. It has a core action RPG style mixed in with massive elements of customization. Also instead of playing one character you can command an army of mutants which you can choose and customize throughout the game. Mix this with some amazing planetary environments and you get a great RPG experience with loads of customization.


As super mutant soldiers built to battle the Darkspore, your characters become the main focus of the game. Each monster has special abilities that fit into a specific style: necro, fire, life etc. These can be upgraded as you go through the different boards. Players get access to new attacks and skills as they increase in level. Also there are lots of mutatution drops. Instead of gear you can customize your monsters with various mutations to make them stronger. Using the Spore creation tools players can spend loads of time customizing their monsters to their own designs. They still keep the basic template, but there are lots of options.

As you go through the game you unlock more mutants to join your army. Using DNA dropped from Darkspore you can buy new characters. This system allows players to change out their core team at any time to best match up against the planet they are attacking. Also, there is a system in the game which causes characters with the same skills as the dark spore to have a harder time fighting them. So you do not want to take necro vs. necro, as the attacks will not be as strong. You may want to switch to a different character to take on a necro planet’s dark spore.

The story behind the game and different planetary settings give great depth to the game. It has a very science fiction feel traveling from different planets to build new mutants and use DNA that has been scattered across the galaxy. The environments reflect this from lush worlds of tropical plants to planets torn apart by war and being held together by energy fields. As you advance through the levels the environments continually change so you are always exploring something new.  Mixed into these worlds are lots of dark spore monsters to battle. The unique creatures range from huge and powerful to small and annoying similar to any action RPG. Some of the boss fights are great fun and the unique design of the dark spore always has you fighting something new. Destroying a new boss and getting a great new mutation is always satisfying.

In terms of UI the game is very straight forward. It is mouse based movement and combat which can be adjusted. In many ways this is great for the younger crowd of gamers. There is an ease of play to the game which keeps it fun but still maintains a strong skill level needed. Skills are listed out on a hot bar and attacks can be made using the mouse along with movement. The maps are fairly easy to interpret and players always have a clear direction on where to go. Most players will be able to jump right into the action and begin playing without much help. There is a tutorial in the beginning which gives the basics and does not seem to waste too much time before getting the players into the action.

One area where Darkspore really shines is in the team design system. You do not enter a planet with one character, you enter with three. At anytime you can switch out to a different mutant to continue exploring or fighting. This helps in combat if you hit a swarm or rough spot. You can switch to a new creature and continue the fight. Building and designing your teams to explore the planets is critical.

Darkspore also has co-op play which gives players the chance to log into the network and explore worlds in groups. This widens the game play and allows friends to join up a night and fight it out with some mutants. Another aspect of Darkspore that may go overlooked is that it appeals to younger gamers. Turning off the gore effects will allow younger kids to explore new worlds and build their own mutant attack teams. The genetics and science behind the game make it fun for kids to learn and the different planets will give them a lot to think about.

Darkspore combines fun game play with a strong story line that is fun for all ages. Gamers can battle it out with genetic mutants across the galaxy as well as create their own monster armies. If you have a family at home with kids who are starting to grow into more complex games Darkspore is the perfect game.  The team at Maxis did a great job building the worlds and using the Spore custom engine to the fullest in order to give plenty of options to players. If you have time definitely check out Darkspore.