Darwinia is a game that I've been playing off and on for the past 10 years. It feels like a blast from the past, but it tries to be even more old school.

Screenshot of Darwinia, showing friendly and enemy Darwinians, squads, and upward floating souls

This game is set in a virtual theme park called Darwinia hosted on thousands of 68k machines. Dr. Sepulveda has been working on this place for 10 years as part of AI research. Due to some initially unknown reason, you came here just as a virus broke out, and started destroying everything. It's an interesting real time strategy game, but feels like a first person shooter, due to the movement mechanics.

Goals are usually quite simple: destroy all the virus on the map, but most missions have some kind of novelty going on. Because this is world is made of computer science, you run and use programs to achieve your objectives. Squad is the most common, spawning soldiers armed with laser rifles, grenades, and other goodies later on. Engineers do useful things, like capture buildings and collect souls of destroyed Darwinians and viruses. Since Darwinians themselves are independent, you need Officers to tell them where to go. About midway thorough the game, you get the Armour program, which is an amphibious vehicle and battle cannon.

My strategy is rather formulaic. Move engineers around the map to capture everything. Squads sweep out the virus, with engineers collecting fallen souls. Finally, I move the Darwinians around. Many maps have structures which station Darwinians. Operating them are often part of the mission objectives. Later missions are extremely aggressive on territory control, as swarms of enemy Darwinians pose Very Big Problems. To stake my claim, I install battle cannons and monitor the situation.

The simple graphics are quite colorful (almost cartoony) and are made of old school flat shaded polygons. Visual glitchiness of an object determines it's health. There exists an option to make polygons look more pixelated, but I turned it off for a cleaner look.

Introversion Software made Darwinia. I consider Introversion the grandfathers of the modern indie game movement. They've gone almost bankrupt too many times that it's not funny, and they have too many 'that saved the company' events. That isn't going to happen anymore, because of Prison Architect.

This game comments on many parts of computer science and life. The intro sequence shows you zooming in on this world from a visualization of the internet. Darwinians discovered other things 'out there', so they included it in their renderer. To construct your 'Armour' platforms, raw polygons are ripped out of mountains, which are refined to simpler primitives to build from. If not immediately collected, souls float upward to the central soul repository. When they are streamed down, a pattern buffer reimages them. Once, Sepulveda's webcam turned on, and his face became the sky for a moment, so the Darwinians started making Easter Island face rocks. This made him realize what he means to them. One nasty strain of virus completely destroys everything it touches, even souls. Ghosts linger in place, and will forever. This is the only form of death that Darwinians know.

This is one of the most unusual strategy games that I have ever played. It is worth checking out.

Posted under Gaming.

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