Thursday, February 19, 2015

Evolve Review

Digivolve into Champions!

On paper, Evolve is a dream come true. It’s a squad based first person shooter that’s a current gen exclusive, has different character types that all feels useful, a variety of maps and modes to play on, and the ability to play as three separate monsters, each with their own play styles and controls. I should love everything about Evolve, and while I do think that it’s a very good game and a ton of fun, I’m not sure for how much longer I’m going to be loving this game.

Evolve tasks you as hunters that are sent to save the planet Shear. Shear has been colonized by humans and have been living pretty good lives, but they made the terrible mistake of colonizing a planet with giant monsters on it. The monsters begin to attack the humans and kill them, to the point where the entire planet will be eradicated of human life if the monsters aren't stopped in five days. So you and you various squad mates have to make save the humans in five days and kill as many monsters as possible.

Now while I’m sure the plot sounds riveting and very interesting, there is no single player mode in this game. All of the story elements are either told in the opening cutscene, or through basic character interaction before missions begin. The whole “five days to save the human” plot line is only apparent in Evacuation mode (more on that later), so the plot takes a back seat to the gameplay, which doesn't bother me all that much. Some games have a focus on story and some have a focus on gameplay. I don’t get mad at a Mario game for having a non-existent plot, and I’m not mad at Evolve either. As a matter of fact, I really enjoy most of the characters included in this game.

Each character belongs to one of four classes, each of which is invaluable when fighting the monsters. There are Assaults, which deal heavy damage and are the main offense of the group, the Trappers, who try to contain the monster and make sure it doesn’t escape the hunter, Supports, who provide back up to all squad members and serve as the most balanced characters in the game, and the Medics, who try to heal squad mates. Each class has three different characters with different personalities, weapons, and abilities. In trappers alone, while everyone can lay down a mini arena to cage the monster, Maggie can lay down tether lines to bind the monster in one spot, Griffin can lay down sound spikes that will react if the monster passes it, and Abe can tag a creature or monster and follow it. Every player will find a character and a class that works best for them.

And then you have playing as the monster. I love playing as the monster! There’s nothing quite like becoming a giant, indestructible monster that’s only goal is to kill its enemies. There are three different monsters as of right now. You have the Goliath, who is all about offense and defense, the Kraken, whose forte is air maneuverability, and the Wraith, whose focus is stealth and speed. Each monster has their own benefits and disadvantages, but the gameplay for each of them is pretty much the same.

Each monster has a large amount of health and a rechargeable layer of armor. Armor recharges by eating wildlife on the map, while health does not recharge once you start losing it. Once you eat enough wildlife, the monster can evolve into a stronger form that boosts its health, offense, defense, and size. Each monster can evolve up to three times, so the longer a match lasts, the more difficult it becomes for the hunters. Having a group of hunters fight a Stage 1 Goliath is much more preferable than waiting for him to become a Stage 3.

In total, there are four different gameplay modes for players to choose from. There’s Hunt mode, which I by far my favorite and the most simple. The hunters have to kill the monster and the monster has to either kill the hunters, or destroy a power relay that becomes available when the monster reaches Stage 3. In Nest mode, there are 6 eggs throughout the map. The hunters have to either destroy the eggs or kill the monster, will the monster has to keep the eggs alive for 10 minutes or kill the humans. It’s alright, but the results can be pretty varied depending on whose playing. Defense mode is essentially horde mode for the humans, while the monster tries to destroy 3 power generators with a countless spawning of minions. This is probably my second favorite mode just for how intense matches can become with competent opponents. Then there’s Rescue mode, which is pretty underwhelming. It’s a game of who can save/kill five survivors first and I’ve never played a single game of it online. No one wants to play it. It’s that boring.

As for Evacuation mode, it’s a random assortment of five different matches that will always start with a Hunt and end with a Defense. The rest can be voted on and be affected by the results of previous matches. If the monster wins a round, maybe the monster will be able to spout man eating planets throughout the next map for hunters to fight against, or if the hunters win a round, they get mini turrets to fight the monster. The game touts several hundred thousand Evacuation mode combinations based on stages, environmental hazards, and modes, but none of the seem really significant to me. It’s just a new way to play the game.

And… that’s it. That’s really all there is inside of the game. Though I really don’t like to admit it, I just described nearly every feature that the game has to offer. I’m not hiding anything for you in this review. You get 12 characters, 3 monsters, a bunch of stages, and four ways to play. It doesn’t really seem like a lot of content, and to be fair, it really isn't. Once you've played as each character a couple of times, played each mode a few times, and unlock perks like avatar images, there's nothing to keep people coming back to it with the exception of multiplayer. 

To be fair though, this game was designed with multiplayer as the sole focus. While you can play the game by yourself, playing online is where the real fun of the game is. It's like Titanfall is that regard, just replacing giant robots with giant monsters. Playing online and with friends is a blast, especially when you can communicate well with your teammates. If you can't, you might be screwed royally when fighting the monster. Conversely, if you're playing as the monster, your life could be a lot easier if you have someone that wants to be the hero and Call of Duty their way to you. There is no solo efforts here, and bad communication will get a player killed very quickly. 

Which is why online multiplayer is a double edged sword. If you have a great team, great! If your team sucks, then you'll lose quickly and become aggravated. It all really depends on the luck of the dice. Personally, I always play online with a friend locally and we communicate all the time while playing, but I can't imagine what it would be like to drop into a game where I can't communicate with people and I'm the Assault. I should lead the charge and deal the most damage, but when the medic decides to run ahead and be a hero, then it will only end in death. Many games I've played have ended based solely on poor communication between teammates. 

The silver lining to this whole situation is that at least the developers, Turtle Rock Studios, says that they are going to be providing the game with healthy DLC. There will be two new monsters, and four new characters to play as, one for each class. That's great and all, if it wasn't for the fact that each one of these updates is going to set you back a ton of money. The newest monster, the Behemoth, will cost $15, while each new character will cost somewhere in the range of $5-$8. I wouldn't mind putting down that money (especially since all of that is included in the Season Pass), but then you have that compounded with the $136 in Day 1 DLC. Yes you heard me, $136 for Day 1 DLC. To be fair, it's mostly cosmetic stuff like costumes and skins, but the fact that they released over 40 bits of DLC to squeeze money out of the consumer is ludicrous. It's not necessary to play the game, thank God, but adding on additional costs from DLC, the base game is $60, while the rest of the essential content (essential meaning monsters and characters), will cost somewhere in the range of $35-$47. The DLC practices of Evolve are absolutely greedy, no two ways about it. Skins should not be sold for $3 a pop and should be included in the game. They're freaking skins after all! None of this will affect my final rating, but this whole paragraph should serve as a consumer awareness about Evolve. Know what you're getting yourself into when you buy this game and be prepared to send extra money. 

I'm glad that I played Evolve. It was a fun game that gave me a lot of great thrills and fun stories to tell with my friends. I feel like Evolve is going to be one of those games that I'm going to play every once in a while once a new piece of DLC comes out. I'll play it for a few weeks, then get bored of it. Even now, I've played it for a little over a week and I feel like I've seen everything the game has to offer me. The only thrills I can get from the game now comes from online matches that have the stars align to make things interesting and fun. The mechanics are there and the foundation for a great game is there, it just needs to longevity to make it truly spectacular. 


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