Microsoft’s E3 trailer for The Darwin Project opens on a desolate night as a man furtively tries to warm his bloodied hands by a fire. Turning away to investigate a noise, he doesn’t see an assailant sneaking up behind him. After a flurry of combat, both men lay dead as another competitor reveals herself. Suddenly, the sky lights up and victory music blares across the arena as an announcer obnoxiously breaks the mood to declare her victorious.
This trailer’s abrupt departure from its suspenseful and methodical opening has garnered criticism from gamers. After the battle royale set-up, they weren’t expecting another Esports wannabe.
The Darwin Project is another of Microsoft’s E3 press conference “not really exclusive” exclusive announcements. The title, developed by Scavengers Studio, will have a time-locked, console first Xbox release before launching on PC. Apart from the cringey play-by-play demonstrated in the second half of the trailer, Xbox also managed to sneak in a tease for the game’s Mixer compatibility.
All Mixed Up
Mixer is Microsoft’s attempt to usurp Twitch as an online streaming powerhouse. Began as Beam, Mixer re-branded when it joined with Team Xbox in 2016. In addition to significantly reducing the delay between caster and viewer, Mixer seeks to add more interactivity to streaming.
We get a look at this mechanic briefly during the trailer. One combatant receives a forcefield from an audience member in the heat of battle. It’s a potentially interesting mechanic. One that is easily overlooked due to the constant babble of (what I presume is meant to be) the Streamer.
None of this is made any clearer by Scavengers’ website for the game where the Mixer functions aren’t mentioned at all. Instead the developers promise a competitive multiplayer third-person survival experience. Here, players must not only survive each other, but also the extreme weather conditions of the Northern Canadian Rockies. While the premise isn’t drastically different than similar games, all the added mechanics make what could have otherwise been an enjoyable Hunger Games style event feel bulky.
The gameplay features a cluttered HUD with an announcer desperate to make every move feel extreme. It’s difficult to imagine survival elements feeling like anything other than a hindrance as players rush to secure the best weapons and abilities before their enemies.
The Darwin Project is still in alpha so it’s possible that this trailer won’t be representative of the final game. Regardless, it appears the devs still need some time to decide how they’ll market the game going forward.