Review: Darkspore - PC

by Steven Williamson on 31 May 2011, 10:04 2.75

Tags: Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA), RPG

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Multiplayer mayhem

The finished heroes can be made to look quite impressive close up. The tactical view, however - while it can be zoomed in to show heroes off to their best - is better left zoomed out for game play, so you don't really get to see the change in appearance at all. A lot of time could be spent positioning the objects too,however objects are quickly replaced and they generally end up getting stuck on anywhere. It is possible to create detailed objects, which give the hero a more permanent look and feel, but it makes little difference to the in game look. It would have been nice if the game did instant replays, and fly pasts when a particularly fine move is completed -to show off your creations. Sadly, this would probably get in the way of the multiplayer mode, which is of key importance to completing the game.

The fact that this game cannot be played without an active internet connection (even in single player mode), and the way the interface is geared, leads me to the final part Darkspore is intended to be a multiplayer co-op or PvP game. Many of the heroes special powers like "the tree of life" from Sage only make sense if more than one hero is active at the same time (which is not possible in single player). When the game is booted up, players are connected to a multiplayer lobby (and chatter), where people talk in a coded language about what they wish to play. This can make make being noob rather daunting, when you just want to do a few solo missions to learn the system. The game can be played with up to four people and as it progresses it reaches a point where it is impossible to play alone.

Playing in a group with a good mix of melee, range and healers can be the difference between completing and failing a mission. As you can switch at any time between three different heroes, it is possible for everyone to go for glory every once in a while rather than being force to just play a support role. As later levels have enemies that can paralyse you it becomes unrealistic to play the game alone. So the system does provide a way to try to team up with others called “Match Maker” however the best way to get a game is to build up a network of in game friends that fit with your playing style, as playing with selfish players can ruin the game and waste time.

While this game was supplied on DVD and installed without issue, getting it to play was an another matter. While the instructions didn't tell you you needed to create an EA account, provide a url for creation of this account, or explain when starting the game that the EA download manager must be installed, instead it came up with a cryptic message about the game not being available for play. After installing the manager and rebooting the system (something required but not forced by the install), and setting up the download manager with the EA account, it finally started, before embarking on an eyewatering 1GB download.

Sometime later Darkspore was finally ready to play, however even when the game starts - despite the download manager recording your user name and password - it is necessary to type your EA account password every time you start Darkspore. This is particularly annoying as the program appears to have some problems with the keyboard on the password entry screen. Even the manual is only available online, not even included as a PDF and the whole game can be downloaded from EA, so it did make me wonder why supply a disc at all. This does make the purchase non transferable, and the game's profile is for one user - not really usable by multiple family members. Sadly the game has a number of annoying issues where you can be kicked off the server, losing access to your team and any chain bonus. Hopefully, with a patch, these will be resolved soon.

Continued overleaf...