I decided I couldn't wait any longer for the Linux version of the Darwinia demo to come out so, a few days ago, I downloaded the Windows version and took it for a test drive.
First things first, this game is oozing with style. The still screenshots hint nicely at the look of the game, but to get the full effect you need to see the game in motion. Sound, although not as impressive as the visuals, is very well done - from the little confirmation bleeps and bloops to the sound of dying virii. Yes, virii. See, the world of Darwinia - if memory serves me correctly - is(or was, we'll get to that later) a theme park of the virtual variety. Then all hell broke loose, and there are evil virii trying to take it over.
Darwinia, for the most part, is an RTS in the classic sense; but there are quite a few nifty features that set it apart from the rest. The first is the "task manager". Much like the little sidebar you have in, say, Starcraft - the task manager is responsible for unit creation among other things. What makes it unique is the "gesture system", much like the one in Black & White, where you draw certain symbols with the mouse to get the desired effect. Once you're used to what the gesture for a certain action is, this is a much easier system than the old-fashioned sidebar approach.
Another not-so-common feature of Darwinia is the squad. I know that doesn't sound as special as it's supposed to, probably because it's a word that's used in most games nowadays. Darwinia's squad however, is a group of four soldiers which are under your direct command. Sure, left click on the map and they'll go there, but right clicking will cause them to fire at wherever the mouse pointer is, giving the game a bit of a Diablo-esque point and click hack and slash feel. One more interesting feature is the way you move Darwinians around. They can't be directly controlled, so only by promoting a Darwinian to an Officer, which can order other Darwinians around. As you might have guessed, there seem to be a lot of opportunities for some very deep gameplay here.
I, for one, am thoroughly impressed by the one level packaged with the demo, although it's lack of a mid-demo save feature is responsible for my not finishing it yet. The Linux version of the demo is supposed to be out by the end of February, and with the release date of the game(March 4th) quickly coming up it should be Linux-demo-fied soon. If you have Windows and can't wait, don't. The file is only 10.8 MB to download so, even with a modem, it's worth downloading twice. The fact that it's so freaking cool is just one thing, the fact that it comes from an indie developer(Introversion Software, who also did Uplink a while back) pushes it into obvious territory. I will buy this game, no doubt about that.