The Darwin Project for Xbox One preview: A new way to battle royale

Big name games like PUBG and Fortnite have ushered in a trend set around the battle royale genre, in which numerous players fight with one another until there's only one man or woman left standing. 100 player servers, huge map sizes, and fast-paced action are the hallmarks of battle royale.

However, The Darwin Project, a title that recently released in Early Access, flips those components on their heads. Instead of 100 players, there are only 10. Harsh weather can spell doom if you aren't prepared for it, and due to the small two kilometer map, playing cautiously is crucial, lest you're caught out in the open. Along with some other interesting ideas, these are the core elements that make The Darwin Project a fresh take on the genre.

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Survive the elements

Every player starts off matches in The Darwin Project with three things: an axe, a bow, and light clothing. Immediately, you're faced with a big concern: staying warm. Your shirt and trousers is far from adequate protection from the icy chill of nature, so chopping down wood for a fire is necessary. However, doing so makes noise and if you get carried away with your tree cutting, you could end up getting killed by a player looking to score an easy kill. Likewise, a fire will give away your position, so use them wisely.

Though you can eventually find resources to craft a fur cloak later on, the cold is a constant problem that demands attention. Aside from the typical "gas" (which is also in The Darwin Project) that reduces the map size over time, other battle royale games have never tried to make the environment itself a hazard. It works excellently here, though, and trying to balance warmth with visibility to other player is a strategic challenge.

Kill them, kill them all

Darwin Project

Darwin Project (Image credit: Scavengers Studio)

Unlike most battle royale titles, The Darwin Project's sandbox of weapons and items is fairly small. Everyone has a bow and an axe, but bows require arrows, which are crafted from wood. Aside from a few other pieces of equipment you can find or make (such as armor) this is what you're stuck with.

It may seem boring that there are so few items in the game, but it makes battles over the types of special equipment that are there even more intense than it would be in, say, PUBG. High-tech loot that is occasionally spawned acts much like Hunger Games' cornucopia; a chance for a huge advantage over your foes, but you'll definitely have to fight for it.

Easily, the most groundbreaking aspect of The Darwin Project is the ability for player "play God". The Show Director is a role that players can fill in which they can control what happens in a match. Ranging from altering someone's temperature to turning them invincible, Show Directors have the ultimate last say in every death or other event going on in a match.

The power is certainly able to be abused, but I found that most Show Directors tend to be fair and moderate, opting to never interfere too much. It's a crazy idea, but it works incredibly well, and it will be amazing to see what kind of cool ways Show Director players will be able to change up matches in the future.

Your thoughts

What do you think of The Darwin Project? Let me know.

The Darwin Project is available for $14.99.

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.