Free 'Darkspore' beta runs until April 1

What do you get if you splice a
Sims offshoot with a quest to save the galaxy? It's
Darkspore, sci-fi offspring of creature creation game
Spore, and the Steam Network is hosting an open beta for all those with a PC and online access.

Spore was designed by The Sims' mastermind Will Wright and, while he now works as a consultant to the games industry, Spore's central components have found new life within Darkspore's extensive character editor - and there's a hint of World of Warcraft or Torchlight's dungeon-raiding escapades in the resulting game.

The beta is to test various online modes, both co-operative and competitive, while the single player campaign remains under wraps pending Darkspore's April 26 release. That'll be one week after Steam's own ingenious puzzler, Portal 2, and three before well-anticipated role-playing adventure The Witcher 2.

The Darkspore beta can be obtained from Steam's product page, http://store.steampowered.com /app/99890 or, for those with the Steam service already installed, directly from steam://install/102800.

Official website: http://www.darkspore.com

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