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When the player connects to the Darwinia server, the world has been hit by an infection of a very nasty computer virus and Dr Sepulveda, the scientist responsible for creating Darwinia, is at his wit's end and starting to seriously consider wiping out the whole project, and two decades of research just to stop the virus. The player showing up gives him hope that his digital world can be saved.
Over the course of the game, the player visits a number of unique locations, with Dr Sepulveda giving pieces of history for Darwinia in most of them. Towards the end of the game, some very nasty forms of the virus are encountered, one of which can actually destroy the souls of Darwinians.
The game was praised for its retro-inspired graphics and unique-but-intuitive control scheme, but sold terribly due to its retro-inspired graphics and unique-but-intuitive control scheme.
Introversion Software has since made a multi-player sequel called Multiwinia. It has also been released on Xbox Live Arcade as Darwinia+, combining the basic game, the rocket level that served as the second game demo (now considered an epilogue), and Multiwinia.
This game provides examples of:
- All Your Powers Combined: Viruses can "evolve" into more complex forms if left alone for too long. In addition, some viruses can consume souls and lay eggs, which spawn more viruses.
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit: You can only control 3 programs (controllable units) at the start of the game, and can upgrade it to a maximum of 5.
- Artificial Stupidity: Programs only attempt to move in straight lines. They will happily run up an unclimbable slope (and stay there forever), or right into a wall of instant death. Justified by the fact that you're supposed to treat your programs like action game protagonists, not like RTS units.
- Darwinians can climb slopes, no matter how steep, but will often get stuck on bodies of water and occasionally get stuck on buildings.
- Badass Normal: The Darwinians themselves, once they get weapons, can hold their ground with quite ease and blow minor viruses out of the system. That is, until the computer starts rolling in jumping spiders.
- Beat Them At Their Own Game: Infected Darwinians can take over Armor (in battle cannon mode) the player has set up for the regular Darwinians.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: Most of The Virus could count as a digital version. Do not zoom in if you're arachnophobic.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Infected Darwinians.
- Bug War: The plot can basically be seen as this in a computer. Played straight to the point where you can't feel any sympathy for The Virus.
- Cannon Fodder: In Biosphere, you need to use the Darwinians to punch through the enemy waves of infected Darwinians.
- Crapsack World: In Multiwinia especially. Four tribes of mutated Darwinians are in a constant state of war. No side really knows why the fight even started. Meteor showers and nuclear strikes are commonly used, to the point where "WMD" refers to something other than nukes. To top it all off, Death Is Cheap and souls come back all the time to just keep fighting, unless of course the dark forests get to them, in which case they haunt the ruins of battlefields for all of eternity.
- Death Is Cheap: Because Darwinians get reincarnated soon after death.
- Death Is a Slap on The Wrist: Programs can simply be rerun for free, and getting back to where you were before is usually just an inconvenience, since any building you've reprogrammed can be used as a starting point. Dead Darwinians can be reconstituted at an incubator as long as the souls can be collected in time.
- Demonic Spiders: In the form of - of course - giant spiders. They are so tough that the only way to kill them quickly is by using explosive weapons, but their favorite combat maneuver is jumping into close combat, so you have a hard time killing them without losing some of your own units to friendly fire.
- Due to the Dead: If you see a bunch of Darwinians get killed, chances are pretty good that you'll see a bunch of kites launched as the souls drift upwards off the playing field.
- Enemy Summoner: Spiders jumping and laying eggs.
- Fan Sequel: You're encouraged to make your own once you finish the game, and some fans have made some pretty big ones.
- Geo Effects: Forces move slower when climbing hills, faster when going down them, shorter throws when throwing up slope, and longer throws when going downslope. Thanks, physics!
- The Goomba: Virii, which are present in large numbers.
- Instant Win Condition: As long as you complete the objectives, regions can remain as infected as you want.
- It Runs on Nonsensoleum: The justification for the retraux visuals is that the Darwinian world is the result of a bunch of old, notably crappy computers running in tandem as a parallel processor. Sepulveda didn't anticipate the Darwinians that eventually showed up, and was instead doing research on creating a new type of video game.
- Killed Off for Real: The fate of any Darwinian killed by the Soul Destroyers.
- The Lifestream: The Soul Repository, which also acts as the world's power source (it provides solar energy).
- Minimalist Cast: Not counting the nameless Darwinians and The Virus, Dr. Sepulveda is the only named character in the game.
- The Missingno: Tripods
- Mook Maker: Eggs are laid by Spiders and Spore Generators. Triffids are more dangerous, because they launch larger eggs from a distance if it detects any enemy.
- Our Souls Are Different: Digital souls. The manual explains what a digital soul is, though the game itself says little. Suffice to say, they're as important to a Darwinian as our souls are to us.
- Digital souls are basically Darwinian AI, encoded as a form of computerised DNA. The glowing, physical object is just the way the game represents that chunk of code. It mentions how the most successful souls reincarnate pretty much as-is while the less successful start fresh as a template based on the most successful, leading to a continued evolution of the Darwinian race. One level has you recapturing this template, the Pattern Buffer, from the virus.
- Also, one type of virus can destroy the Darwinians' souls, leaving behind ghosts in the world.
- Paper People: Darwinians.
- Pixellation: A non-censorship example. 3D programs and enemies have pixellation filter to either make it look more retro, or to indicate damage.
- It could have been also done to show that the programs and enemies are foreign to the Darwinians' world, as it and the Darwinians themselves are rendered without pixelization.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Have a Darwinian repeatedly bonking its head against a body of water or the side of a building or something? Promote it to an Officer. Then terminate the program. Then collect the soul with an Engineer and hope they're not quite so stupid in the next life.
- Retraux: Its presentation.
- Sequel: to Uplink. Various news stories in the first game hint towards the plot of the second, and you're implied to be a hacker, much like the ones featured in Uplink, at the beginning of Darwinia.
- Some Dexterity Required: Earlier versions of the game had a complex gesture system which was replaced with a simpler menu by default.
- Thank the Maker: The Darwinians consider Dr Sepulveda to be a God. They've even made statues of him after he accidentally sent his webcam video data to the Darwinia sky rendering system.
- The Virus: Darwinia, being a computer, has been infected by a particularly nasty one, which is responsible for all the enemies you face.
- Futurwinians from Multiwinia, too. Opening a box will occasionally call in a Flying Saucer (theorized by fans to be an Uplink hacker's connection) that will abduct any Darwinians nearby and convert them into a new, silver-colored faction on the game board. These Futuwinians are created with the Mind Control Ray Mk. 2, which converts their opponents into new Futurwinians...who thanks to the mechanics of the game, also possess Mind Control Ray Mk. 2. Not fun. Curiously, the actual remnants of the Virus, while annoying if you trigger it, are just a little more powerful then beginning players.
- Video Game Caring Potential: Darwinians act very eerily human-like. They explore when they're bored, they jump in the air when they're excited, they run away and scream when they're scared, and they even have funerals (specifically, if they see a soul ascending because you didn't collect it, they'll release a kite to guard it on it's way to heaven, as Dr. Sepulveda explains). It's really hard not to become attached to them.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: On the other hand, you can send them marching into a large cluster of The Virus, your squads can throw grenades at them, you can promote every single one into an Officer and then execute them, or you could make them walk a really long way to get to their destination.
- You Require More Vespene Gas: Notably (for an RTS) averted. Digital souls act as a kind of resource, but they're only useful for creating more Darwinians. Beyond that, the only real resource is program space.
- Shout-Out: Damn near everything in the game is a shout out to something or other; Cannon Fodder, Tron, Centipede, Space Invaders and the ZX Spectrum to name but a few. Hell, Dr Sepulveda even looks like Clive Sinclair.
- Zerg Rush: Possible, once the Darwinians have weapons and your officers have the 'follow me' order. Get enough together and you can overwhelm most enemies through sheer weight of numbers.