Darkspore[Beta] Review — Diablo in Space

I would like to start off this review with a brief disclaimer: The review itself is based on a Beta version of the game so this review will not include bugs or technical issues with the game and will instead focus only on the gameplay. I would just like to let those know that didn’t get a chance to play the game what to expect when the game launches next month.

As soon as the game started my immediate thought was that this is like a Space-age Diablo, as it’s a hack and slash click-fest. You begin with only one Hero and you make your way through forested and space-type environments on your way to eradicating all the Darkspore. The Darkspore is a class of creature that has been injected with a class of EDNA that has become unstable making them powerful and evil, and they are spreading across the universe.

There are four genetic types of heroes: Plasma (fire and electricity), Bio (plant and healing), Cyber (robotic), Quantum (manipulate space and time) and each one has a unique set of abilities, but it should be noted that if you fight a Darkspore of the same genome you will receive double the damage and it does not work the other way around.

Theses genetic types are broken down again into three heroic classes:

Ravagers are similar to Rogues in other games. They are powerful fighters, very quick and agile and dealing high damage, but with a low resistance to damage themselves. They specialize in both melee and ranged attacks, making them very diverse hit-and-run fighters.

Sentinels are similar to Tanks in other games and are immensely strong and durable. Sentinels specialize in powerful melee attacks and raw defense abilities. They can easily plow through hordes of tough enemies, and shrug off attacks that would normally cripple Ravagers and Tempests.

Tempests are similar to Mages in other games. Like Ravagers, they are not very resistant to damage but have powerful abilities. They specialize in ranged attacks and support abilities and are able to quickly heal partners at a range, set up defensive structures, summon small combat companions, and fire off long-range blasts of damaging energy.

Now that you understand the breakdown of the classes and heroes we will get into what makes the Spore series shine and that is the customization. They actually name the area of the game The Editor, as you can manipulate just about anything on your hero whether it be their spikes, eyes, noes or horns or the upgrades that you acquire from enemies. You stretch, skew and move each item in any way that really suits your fancy. After you have completed pimping the way your hero looks you can then add variations of colours and textures to really make each hero your own, for when you take it online.

Speaking of online play, that is a big part of the game, the chat is is always prevalent in the lobby and is rampant with requests to party up and play through levels, and you can have up to eight people in a party and you all share experience and items. It works quite well and if very fun, though voice chat is something I would recommend for the future.

The game is not all customizing and chatting it does have plenty of fighting and enjoyable combat at that. First off, you are provided with four magical attacks of your chosen hero and you get one other magical ability from each of the two additional heroes in your squad, all of which consume Power which is quite limited. There is a strategy to choosing who you want in your squad before each level to ensure you have the magical abilities you want. Aside from using various magical abilities, you are generally going to be using your main physical attack that is used by simply clicking and holding your cursor on an enemy until it dies.

The real draw to this game, for me at least, is not the combat or the customization it is the collecting the various upgrades and items that you gain from defeating enemies and raiding Obelisks. Must like Diablo there are Unique, Rare and Pure items in order from most common to least. At the end of each level, you also have a chance to use medals awarded to ‘roll the dice’ for a chance to get rare or pure items as well. You can double your chances by saving your medals and pushing forward to the next level without editing your hero and trying again with tow “rolls of the dice’ which can net you two pure items instead of just one.

Addictive collecting aside, the actual terrain and exploration is definitely the most bland and uninteresting part of the game, you are essentially traversing small platforms connected by bridges to find your way to a teleporter that will take your to the next area to do it all over again, and you repeat this process three to five times per stage. Within the first eight levels you only get to see two types of environments, space and forest both of which don’t change very much as you progress through them, and what  is worse is that in the forest levels it can be very hard to see pick ups that are dropped by enemies, which can be imperative as Health and Power pickups disappear after a short period of time. This problem may be expounded because the graphics are on par with Stracraft II and hardly at that.

If you enjoyed games like Diablo for their collecting, and customization of your hero then this may appeal to you, but if you are looking for deep gameplay and interesting terrain to explore then look elsewhere. Of course many things could change before the game comes out, but these main points I mention are quite a large part of teh game already and seem unlikely to be removed or changed to may satisfaction.