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Have You Played... Darwinia

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Once the most-discussed game in the then-small indie world, Introversion’s offbeat RTS feels like a lifetime ago now. It’s a game about ushering scores of AI life around a half-retro, half-futuristic landscape, seeking to escape a digital apocalypse, and I suspect it was ahead of its time, at least in terms of audience appetite.
It looks beautiful of course, with its 80s-arcade-as-dream-sequence art style, but it’s the languid, slightly sad atmosphere which really sells me. Its hapless pixel people seem that much more alive than any hyper-detailed space marine, as they totter and wobble and scatter and die. I feel compelled to protect them, which is a profoundly different motivation to the RTS norm, of feeling compelled to destroy.

There are weird difficulty spikes and the controls have their issues, but Darwinia was and is a singular offering. God only knows what we can say RTS is now, but this was a conscious attempt to do things differently, and to do it with style. It’s a pleasure just to watch it move.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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