More on Evolve

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Real life. What a scumbag.

Well I have a hankerin’ to tell people about a bunch of cool things I’ve been playing, and first off that list is Evolve.

Honestly, it’s copped a ton of flak just around release – as of writing, Steam reviews has it rated as Mixed – only 67% positive. For Steam reviews that is absolutely shocking. That platform is designed such that, as opposed to other user-review sites, games are more inclined to be rated positively. This is because you usually have to actually buy the game to review it, user’s generally bother to review in an effort to get others to join in playing, and it requires minimal effort. If it required more effort, you’d be more likely to see mostly people who are very motivated (often by extreme negativity) rating the game.

However, if you take the time to read of the reviews, they’re almost entirely critical of the DLC and packages. To me that’s just ridiculous. I might do another whole article on why jumping up and down over DLC (even day 1 DLC) is just dumb, but there are several indisputable facts:

1. The gameplay is excellent. A typical Steam review: “A fun game that proves to be a unique experience, but doesn’t offer enough content to merit it’s $60 price tag”

2. 2K and Turtle Rock have screwed the pooch on the pricing/marketing model.

Even to this day, I have a hard time recommending the game, despite the fact I play it nightly, simply because it is SO expensive. Simply put, it does come down to content. If I’m having a great time, and there’s a lot of depth, it probably is worth the full price, but $80 USD is a very tough pill to swallow under any circumstance, let alone a game with samey maps, and 3 monsters. (12 Hunter classes is quite a nice number, but as they’re divided into 4 roles there is not quite as much variety implied there as you may think. Don’t get me wrong – each hunter does play quite differently, but they’re not worlds apart.)

Price aside, the game is just fantastic. I can easily recommend it for $50 – which is a price you can get it for if you shop at G2A.

Personally, I love playing as the monster. The Goliath, specifically. I’m not great at it, but I’m good enough to win perhaps 50% of the games. This also speaks to how incredibly well the game is balanced for a totally asymmetrical experience it is.

Goliath-Attack-Evolve

To give you an idea of the level of depth, here’s how a typical match plays out:
After everyone has picked their characters, they’re revealed to the other side. As the monster, I need to quickly note the characters, because they’ll greatly influence my strategy. I firstly need to note if the trapper has picked Maggie – because if she has, sneaking is practically off the table. Her trapjaw pet can sniff a monster out easily. Sneaking makes the sniffing process a bit slower, but since I move slower as well (and even being sneaky it’s practically impossible to not accidentally leave a footprint that she’ll detect from time to time) I’ll decide at this point if I’m going for a dash and bash, or a hide and seek strategy.

evolve-characters

Next I need to take down the name of the medic. They’ll be my primary target sooner rather than later… but I also need to note the support character. If they’ve picked Hank, then HE’LL actually be my primary. It’s practically impossible to kill a medic while they’re being shielded.

The game drops in, and while the hunters watch a 30-second intro movie (complete with party banter a la Dragon Age) I have a bit of time to get a head start. If they haven’t brought Maggie the trapper, I’ll usually take off in one direction nice and loud, then drop to a sneak and loop around. To the hunters, this leaves a clear trail of footprints that then go cold. For all they know, I’ve jumped ahead or climbed a rock. Generally, they take off in the same direction the footsteps were heading in the hope of picking up my trail. Meanwhile, I’ve sneaked in the opposite direction and start hunting down wildlife one by one.

You see, my goal is to eat as much wildlife as possible until I have enough “energy” (Dna) to “level up” (Evolve). At stage 1, I’m weaker than the hunters, at stage 2 we’re about even, and at stage 3 I’m more powerful than the hunters… but there is a lot of variation that can change this up. The monster has armour which you replenish when you eat wildlife and health which are basically an non-renewable resource. Every point of this valuable resource they chip off me is gone for good, so even if I get to stage 3, if they’ve successfully worn my health down and/or catch me without armour, I could still easily lose.

Conversely, if during our cat-and-mouse games I’ve managed to incapacitate hunters (they can be helped back up by an ally) they receive strikes. Strikes lower THEIR maximum health and furthermore, once you receive 2 strikes, every time you are incapacitated after that, you out-right die (which leads to a 2-minute dead timer. A significant penalty.)

I can’t keep up the sneaking forever, though, because each time I eat an animal there is a random chance that some carrion birds will spawn, giving away my general position. As soon as this happens, the hunters will know they’ve been duped and will swing around to the correct section of the map to keep looking for me. If I make the mistake of accidentally disturbing bird flocks by walking too close they gives away my exact position… and those birds can sometimes be surprisingly hard to see. (The number of times I’ve leap from a high point, glided hundreds of metres through the air, and landed smack into the pack of them…)

Once I know the gig is up: I can continue to sneak – afterall, they only know my general vicinity – or I can take off at top speed. Hunters can never keep up with me, but I leave a clear trail of footprints. If they play their cards right, they’ll be able to corner me into the edge of the map.

It’s rare I can get to stage 2 without at least a brief skirmish. It’s a bad sign if they’ve caught me at stage 1, or immediately after evolving to stage 2 (you use all your armour’s energy to evolve, so you start a new stage essentially “naked”) and, to be honest, this is pretty common.

So the trapper drops a dome around the area called an arena, and I’m cornered for a good 60 seconds. If they’ve just caught me after an evolution, every point of damage they do is permanent. So what do I do?

Evolve-Alpha-Gameplay-Medic-Val-Kraken

So many things…

Perhaps I might try and hide. Playing hide and seek; cat and mouse. The arena is limited, but I can leap around and climb on high points. I can see them through rocks, but they have no such tools (barring the likes of Griffon’s “sound spike” sensor.) I can’t avoid all damage, but I might be about to avoid the worst of it with a little ring-a-round-the-rosey. Once the arena drops, I make like greased lightning (… that’s a lot of cliche’s I’ve used. Too bad. I like ’em.) and put as much distance as I can between them and me to try and build up armour and maybe evolve to stage three. By this point, they’re likely hot on my heels, and each time I stop to eat I’m in danger of letting them close enough to entrap me again. This second stage of “hot on your heels” depends heavily on the tracker. They might be using Maggie, as above, and they’re basically always hot on your heels, or Abe who has likely got a tracking dart on you. You might be able to stay ahead long enough for it to wear off, but it’s unlikely… he only needs to catch sight of you again to keep you tagged up. It might be Griffon, with sound spikes scattered around the map. You’re likely charging across the map now, trying to stay ahead of the hunters… charging straight into the areas they’ve already been and Griff has put up sound spikes. You can sneak to avoid them, but it’s a tough balancing act. You need to get far enough away from the hunters for the sneak to work, but there’s not real way to tell if you’re in the sound-spike radius or not, which will make the location you initiate the sneak pretty obvious.

Perhaps instead of playing hide and seek (perhaps there is not enough hiding spots) I decide to take the dome down. To do this, I need to incapacitate the trapper. So, Griff, Maggie, Abe – whoever you are – woe is you. This is where remembering who is playing which character is important. You can make out their siloutte’s, but they’re so damn SMALL compared to you, I find it pretty tough sometimes. Especially when the support class starts winking people in and out with a cloaking field.

Perhaps I charge into the trapper and send them flying, but the support raises a shield over them, and the medic starts healing them. What to do? I need that trapper down FAST – every second the assault is tearing up my hitpoints – perhaps I could focus the medic? Maybe I just toss a rock or two at them to keep them distracted? Maybe I hit the trapper with as many knock back moves as I can to separate them… get us enough “alone time” to take that dome down. Maybe there is a native of the planet that can help me – crocodile creatures called Tyrants that pull hunters into the water, or carnivorous plants that gobble hunters up like venus fly traps, can disable a hunter until a friendly shoots them free.

It is very easy to lose the game here, and it all comes down to reading the situation. Hide and seek? Take down the trapper? How to take down the trapper? What’s the lay of the land? What creatures are there nearby?

After I get out of that dome (IF I do) and we’re playing the “hot on the heels” game, I then look to have as much takeaway food as possible. Kill, eat, keep moving. Even better if I find a fresh kill that the hunters or other wildlife has left for me. If I can get enough energy to evolve, I’ll look for an area with plentiful wildlife that is also as far from the hunters as possible. This allows me to evolve, and quickly get my armour back up before they catch up to me.

When we reach this point, it is end-game time. I can usually tell who’s going to win – how much of my health have they whittled away? How many strikes did I put on them? If the hunters choose to avoid me at this stage, I can always go to the middle of the map and destroy a generator that’ll win the game for me. That never happens. Many hunters will retreat back to the generator when they realise the monster is going to evolve to stage 3 (a bad mistake IMO – why not try and catch him while his armour is low?) and then it’s a fight to the death. A final brouhaha that could go in many different ways.

I’ve had games where the monster, all but destroyed, has escaped from the final fight, eaten a bunch of wildlife, and come back multiple times after recharging their armour. I’ve had games where a final hunter has escaped, and waited until his allies respawned, dropping back on the monster before he could finish off the generator.

Honestly, it’s a thrilling, deep game – but there is not as much content there as you’d want for the price. DotA, and similar MOBA’s, have 80+ characters to choose from, and each is vastly different. This leads to practically endless replayability and costs 1/3rd the price. The game works for me, and I’m pretty certain I’ll get my money’s worth — but the same won’t be said for everyone. If it was $30, absolutely. For $50 – yes, probably. More than that and consider it only if my above story makes you VERY wet in the pants.

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