This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to EA's PC action-RPG Darkspore
, which reviews claim is "much more focused and addictive than Spore
currently earns a score of 75 out of 100
Game Informer's Phil Kollar scores Darkspore
at 8.5 out of 10
. "Don't let the name fool you," he urges. "Darkspore
has virtually nothing to do with Maxis' 2008 release, Spore
Kollar explains: "Darkspore
's 100-plus creatures may look like products of Spore
's character editor, but they're all pre-created and the only customization available to players is moving body parts around and making them bigger or smaller. Luckily the gameplay that takes the place of this customization is much more focused and addictive than Spore
takes many of its cues from genre standouts like Diablo
. "You work through stand-alone levels, destroying out-of-control genetic monstrosities (the titular Darkspore
) and gathering equipment upgrades (mostly in the form of new body parts rather than weapons and armor)," Kollar describes. "You also gain levels, but they represent your overall progress rather than individual heroes' strength."
"This is where Darkspore
breaks from the action-RPG tradition. Rather than powering up individual heroes, each level gained allows you to unlock a new creature (up to a total of 100)..."
"Maxis' track record from the past few years stands as evidence that innovation does not always equal excellence in video games," Kollar admits. "Spore
is an infinitely more unique and nuanced experience than Darkspore
, but in the end, Darkspore
is much more likely to stick around in the gamer psyche. It may not do anything particularly new, but the way it polishes and riffs on known gaming conventions should leave you happily clicking on bad guys and collecting new body parts late into the night."
Nicole Tanner at IGN gives Darkspore
a 7 out of 10
. "Rather than play it safe and continue in the genre it knows best, Maxis has moved in a whole new direction with its latest release, Darkspore
," she explains. "Though it has 'spore' in the title, Darkspore
has very little in common with Maxis' last release. Instead, Darkspore
is a Diablo
-style hack and slash that's a laudable first effort in a new genre for Maxis, but there are areas where you can tell the developer is out of its element."
"...The large variety of heroes and the customization element really are Darkspore
's strongest points," Tanner praises. "There are both melee and ranged heroes in each of the types and classes, meaning you can easily put together a squad that matches your play style. It takes some trial and error to find out how you like each hero's unique abilities, but the sheer variety of options keeps the gameplay interesting for a long time."
"But even with all of these features, Darkspore
could use some improvement," Tanner notes. "While some areas of the game look really pretty in an Avatar-like way, others are just bland and boring. Additionally, your heroes look a bit out of place in some of the environments that enhance a black outline around them. This makes them look more like stickers placed on a background rather than characters in a cohesive world."
"...There are some really great things about Darkspore
," Tanner assures. "The vast amount of customization options and the simple but fun battle system kept me interested enough to overlook the poor execution of story. However, a broken competitive multiplayer system and a single-player experience that forces you to excessively replay level after level in order to get powerful enough to continue make it obvious Maxis needs a little more practice developing games that aren't simulations."
Games Radar's Michael Yavish rates Darkspore
at 6 out of 10
. "Whether you loved it or hated it, Will Wright's 2008 title Spore
was an astoundingly beautiful game backed by incredible technology," he begins. "We like to think that they're a series because both games have the word 'spore' in the title, not because they are alike in any way, shape or form… because they aren't."
"For those of you looking to sink your teeth into another god sim, Darkspore
isn't going to be your cup of tea," Yavish assumes. "Maxis Software decided to eschew the 'let's create a multi-genre simulator that encompasses everything in the goddamn universe' approach for a simple action-RPG that relies on competent proven game mechanics. The unfortunate side to this is that while Darkspore
is by no means a bad game, it doesn't bring enough new things to the table to justify treading such old ground."
Yavish isn't impressed with Darkspore
's core gameplay. "Imagine a thoroughly bastardized version of Diablo
and you should get a good idea of what Darkspore
is cooking," he warns. "Combat consists of a 'left-click on anything you want dead' setup.
However: "Each Hero has two special abilities exclusive to it and a third team ability that can be used by any Hero on the team regardless of who you're controlling at the time. This applies a nice strategic element to how you assemble a particular group."
isn't great… but it's not bad, either," Yavish concludes. "The story is absolutely forgettable and the level design is boring, but the gameplay is competent and the bedazzling genetic monstrosities along with the copious amounts of loot you've collected are fun. If you're an action-RPG fan who simply cannot wait for Diablo III
, give Darkspore