Suggested Evolutions

So I played the Evolve beta over the weekend and then made a video about my experiences with the game where I use the phrase “I played the Evolve beta over the weekend” about a thousand times. Fortunately, the new SnackieCakes video guy (yes, there are different guys… now) edited most of that out. What he didn’t edit out is about 11 minute of my largely critical thoughts about Evolve. Check it out, and let’s have a heated conversation about what is probably already your favorite game.

Evolve Snapshot

Evolve is in a pretty rough spot technically, but that’s normal beta stuff and I remain confident that Turtle Rock Studios will ultimately be able to produce a reasonably polished experience come this February.

I am much less confident that the game won’t go the way of Titanfall – which is to say: be exciting and different for about a week and then, because of a lack of content and some serious design issues, go the way of the dinosaur mech.

The comparison to Titanfall highlights my first suggestion: plentiful, unique game modes. The Evolve beta included only “Hunt” wherein the hunters… hunt the monster (it’s tough not to keep repeating yourself with this game). There’s also a power relay to protect, but basically it’s all about killing the monster. I am sure that there will be other modes come February, but none have been announced – which is concerning because there has been hype; we’ve heard about the Goliath, Kraken, multiple hunters for each class, things that Turtle Rock Studios is obviously excited about and ready to share with us – but no modes, just empty guarantees that the game will be diverse and dynamic.

I’m not sure it will be diverse and dynamic… but it can be! How?

Through unique game modes with interesting win/lose objectives. Think Left 4 Dead 2 and Scavenge. Scavenge isn’t just fun, it’s a smart twist on the world and gameplay of Left 4 Dead. Much of the greater game strategy is to stick together and move cautiously (witch!), but Scavenge mixes that up by introducing new strategies: scatter to collect gas cans as quickly as possible, stay together for a slow but safe approach, or mix and match with smaller teams.

Evolve will benefit from modes that similarly differentiate the greater game strategy. Maybe a reverse Hunt where the monster is already max level and the hunters must escape. Or a series of randomly generated sites that the monster must destroy and the hunters must protect. Or a mode that sees a faster, weaker monster (through mode buffs/debuffs) and multiple objectives the hunters need to take simultaneously!

Or lots of things, really. Just so long as they can mix up the game and makes each match feel like you’re playing “Hunt” or “Escape” instead of just “Evolve.”

Next up is strategic diversity within maps and modes. Every time I started a game I knew exactly what would happen for the first five or ten minutes; I would be either running after the monster as a hunter or running away eating wild life as the monster. I knew it would play out this way because there weren’t other meaningful options available to me – which is exactly what needs to change.

Evolve Map

There are currently random fauna that grant buffs when killed or consumed (by either the hunters or monster respectively), which is a great addition to the maps except that the buffs are random and the locations are unannounced. That might sound a little hypocritical of me, but the issue with the randomness is that some of the buffs are super meaningful (+35% damage, +35% movement speed), and some of the buffs are super meaningless (+200% jetpack recharge), which makes the choice of: chase the monster or go after buffs pretty unequal because the buffs might just be a waste of time – and their unannounced location increases the costs of looking in the first place.

A better solution would be to take a mechanic from the League of Legends jungle, wherein there are specific monsters with specific buffs or rewards, and choosing when to take them over when to take other objectives is a tough and exciting decision. Their locations could still be randomized to differentiate each map play – but those locations should be marked on the map at the start of the game. Suddenly, the choice becomes more interesting: chase after the monster or tackle some challenging wild life for a huge power boost (while also giving the monster a chance to become stronger).

In addition to better, more consistent buffs, the maps in Evolve could use some different sub objectives to create more interesting choices. Maybe there’s an overrun generator the hunters could clear to start up an electric fence that will shrink the map and make the monster easier to catch, or a chained up super fauna that could be unleashed by either team with devastating potential, or special equipment to be recovered for an extra kick in a fight.

Again, lots of things. There’s plenty of potential within the framework of a single monster against four hunters, I just hope that Turtle Rock Studios won’t rely solely on the concept and will instead work to create genuinely diverse, dynamic gameplay through a focus on objectives and strategic diversity.

We’ll see. At least they’ve got the combat down.