reviewed on PC
You create different types of units with mouse gestures and position them near one of your bases. I believe it's a bit of over-creativeness here; it's nice to control your web browser with mouse gestures, but it's not fun to create a unit, which you could have made with the click of a button, with a mouse gesture that the game sometimes doesn't even recognize. You have to remember lots of different gestures which go from line pointing up to line pointing down to smaller line pointing up and then coming back down to create new units.
However, the game does give you a handy summary of all your units and how to create them on one of the menus. One of the things I missed dearly while trying to find one of my units in one of the gigantic maps was a minimap, that could be used to find your units. Presently, you have to select the units through a menu and then follow an arrow which points vaguely into the direction of your units - and since most of the time the Darwinians are scattered throughout the whole map and there's no way to find them quickly you will be frustrated frequently having to search for a green dot on a green background.
I also found it very bothersome when my units just disappeared. I was trying to group two groups in some island so I selected the first group and sent them to the island, then I selected the second group and guided them to this same position only to find that the units I had left there earlier were missing in action.
But don't get me wrong, gameplay is a fresh variation from the usual create buildings to train units RTS game. After creating them you can control where your units move to with the left mouse button. Most of the times that's all the micromanagement you need to do since your units automatically do anything that requires their attention nearby. At other times you need to click the right mouse button to access the more special functions of your units, such as shooting.
Up until now everything sounds perfect, but then comes the annoyance of moving your units in the map. You have to select the units by task switching or by left clicking on them and then clicking where you want them to go. This sounds excellent, until you find out they can't do much more than walk a straight line. So if you want to walk in a 'C' shaped island you have to follow your units throughout the whole island or they will drown.
This brings another minus, there's no way to tell your units to stop, so if one of your engineers decided he wanted to use a building that's across a sea of red virus he will keep walking to the building without any regard of any orders you might give him. This is specially bothersome when you want to send some engineers with your warriors to rescue the red orbs and your engineer decides he will be better off somewhere else and leaves your troop's protection. You could either protect your engineer or keep fighting with the squad, either way you will most surely lose lots of Darwinians.
Darwinia is a very interesting game with a fresh new concept and new gameplay mechanics for the Strategy genre. It finds inspiration from many other great games, mainly Tron and Uplink, but it also takes some things from games like Command & Conquer and Warcraft III. While it relies heavily on micromanagement, there's a lot of group control while moving the Darwinians. Unfortunately, many parts feel unpolished and I'm still wondering why are Darwinians so important for AI research if they are so stupid they can hardly move in a straight line.
For every creative and interesting concept in the game you will find a frustrating issue that prevents you from enjoying it. If you liked Warcraft III's new focus on micromanagement you will find much more challenge in trying to handle your units and issuing orders without losing control of your squadrons. Either way, for its budget price you won't be able to find anything better. Props to Introversion Software, one of the last (if not the last) garage programmers, for making a very deep and creative game. It had the potential to be a hit but it makes a pretty good showing nonetheless.
No Pros and Cons at this time