Darkspore, developer Maxis' foray into the RPG genre, has gone far enough under the radar of the general public that it requires an introductory paragraph to explain how this isn't a sequel to Spore. Despite the name, and the Maxis pedigree, it's only faintly related to Will Wright's take on evolution. Built partly out of the recycled material of Spore's creature creator - what's widely considered the best thing about Wright's game - Darkspore is an action-RPG that takes notes from Diablo while giving you the ability to morph your hero character with new parts that you unlock using DNA as an in-game currency.
Despite being a traditional dungeon crawler, with the added conceit of being in space, Darkspore is hardly a Diablo clone. Surprise hits like Torchlight helped to propel the genre into this decade, and Darkspore attempts to bring to the genre novelty features alongside elements of other titles, and both of these are genuinely welcome.
The game is better suited to quick play sessions. Each planet you visit includes four missions, with each lasting around 15 minutes and the final ending in a boss fight with waves of reckless enemies running amok. Your basic objective in each mission is to make your way toward a teleporter, which whisks you to a new area once you have wiped out all enemies in your mission.
Who are your enemies? Well, the story is that the Darkspore are a race of creatures that have gone to the dark side thanks to a rapidly mutating virus. This is a virus created accidentally by the most brilliant minds in the galaxy, the Crogenitors, while experimenting with E-DNA used to make their warriors more powerful. And the result is a war. The Crogenitors are nearly defeated by the Darkspore, and you play the role of a surviving Crogenitor who has been kept alive in suspended animation. Your job is to reconstruct an army of warriors, the Genetic Heroes, using stabilised E-DNA and take out the enemies.
And to do that you have three basic classes. Sentinel, Ravager and Tempest, which in order take over the roles of tank, melee fighter and ranged magic. Beyond those three classes you have five races which determine the abilities of each character. The Quantum genesis race can instantly transport across the map, for instance, and Plasma genesis wield fire and so on. And it has an effect on how you deal damage: you'll deal less of it if you're up against the same racial type and vice versa.