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What You Need To Know About Darkspore

This week EA’s Maxis Studio unveiled their upcoming project Darkspore, an online action RPG written and developed by former members of Mass Effect and Diablo teams. You and three other friends are tasked to save the galaxy from the evil Darkspore by assembling and upgrading genetic heroes using the original Spore’s award-winning editor that has been tweaked for the new game. Here’s what you can expect when Darkspore hits PC and Mac in February.

Fiction
An ancient race called the Crogenitors experiment with DNA to create a new life form, genetically formed heroes that can be used as weapons in battle. To increase the power of these beings, the Crogenitors created a new – and highly unstable – type of DNA, exponential DNA (E-DNA). A rogue Crogenitor used the E-DNA on himself to build up power and eventually spawned evil creatures called the Darkspore to hunt down and destroy the Crogenitor race.

Crogenitor survivors hid away in their space ships until their automated systems could come up with a solution to stabilizing the DNA. One thousand years have passed and you wake up from your slumber to a message on your computer screen that indicates the E-DNA has been stabilized. Now it’s time to get revenge on the Darkspore. To do so you must reconstruct an army of genetic heroes and upgrade their strengths using the loads of loot you’ll acquire on your journey.

Character Customizaton
The biggest element of Darkspore is trampling enemies in order to collect the genomes and parts you’ll need to beef up your army. The team at Maxis brings back the original Spore’s creature editor with a few extra tweaks so you can make the best use of these collectibles. For starters, stats are now represented as bars as opposed to numbers to help players get a visual sense of progression as opposed to arbitrarily boosting digits. One of the biggest changes, however, is the ability to customize your creatures to make them look how you want without having to sacrifice specific stats. Shoulder pads are usually limited to shoulders in other games, but if you want to make it a knee pad instead you can. If you want to add a piece of armor because it’s pretty, but don’t want it to affect certain stats, there are flair slots that will allow you to add parts with no effect on your numbers. All objects can be changed for size and orientation as well.

There will be five character types to choose from and are referred to as “genesis types.” This includes Bio (plants and animals), Plasma (fire and lightning), Necro (zombie), Quantum (time, space abilities), and Cyber (robotic). These types fall into three classes including Sentinel  (large tank-like character), Tempest (fragile, attacks from afar), and Ravager (speedy, emphasis on melee). This just adds another dimension to character customization in Darkspore.

So what about the creatures you created in the original Spore? We’re told you won’t be able to import them. The focus in the game is to unlock heroes the team has created as a base in Darkspore and then customize them as you collect different parts. However, your skills with the original Spore editor can still come in handy. Maxis will encourage the community to use the original editor to create enemy NPCs for Darkspore. The team will provide a frame and challenge the community to customize them. The best work will be seen in Darkspore. These individuals will also get an achievement added to their account if their creation makes it into the upcoming game. Maxis is still working out the details.

Risk vs. Reward
With the scores of minions you’ll combat in the game, there will be plenty of pick-ups and rewards to aid in character customization. At the end of each level you’ll be rewarded with medals and other rewards based on your performance. This opens up a risk vs. reward element to gameplay. Once a level is complete and rewards are shown, you can “cash out” so to speak and collect your earnings, or risk the loot for a greater prize at a higher difficulty. This is something the team hopes will keep players interested in continuing the game for extended periods of time for maximum rewards.

Replayability
Maxis places a huge emphasis on co-op play and replayabilty in Darkspore. While there is a single-player campaign, the team says you’ll get the most out of the experience by building off the strength of your live teammates. We’re told every time you play through a level it will be a completely different experience. The levels themselves are fixed, however a new set of enemy NPCs will show up each time for a sense of unpredictability. Plus AI difficulty will be decided based on your performance as you progress. The team says this was inspired by Left 4 Dead. Darkspore will use an AI director system very similar to Valve’s hit co-op title to create a dynamic experience for every run through.

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