Friday, April 3, 2015

Quick Review: Evolve

Hey everyone, I've finally had a bit of time to get back into this. So, I figured I'd give you guys a quick review of Evolve.

So, Evolve is made by Turtle Rock Studios, best known for the Left 4 Dead series, and is available on the PC, Playstation 4, and XBox One. I played the XBox One version of the game.

The game is based on a planet named Shear. Located in a remote part of the galaxy, humanity has been colonizing the planet. However, the colonies are being attacked by monsters. A former planet tamer (wow, a guy who tames entire planets huh?) named Cabot is tasked with evacuating the colonists still left on Shear. He gathers a large crew of various types of people (trappers, medics, assault types, and support types) to hunt the monsters and help complete the mission.

From here, I could choose to play as the monster terrorizing and destroying the colonies, or I could be one of the hunters hunting that monster. I tried both sides of the conflict. I'll start out with playing as the monster first.

I chose to play the Evacuation game type as it is a series of matches that have changes depending on if you win or lose the previous matches. At the start, the monster gets a chance to run and hide (though there is an achievement for attacking the hunters in the first 30 seconds of the match). The monster is given various possible powers to choose from. They can be upgraded by leveling your monster up. Leveling is accomplished by eating various animals scattered around on the planet. As a level 1 monster, your armor and health are low. Fighting the hunters for me at this stage always ended in me losing. I also found that I did not enjoy being at this disadvantage because AI hunters were really quick to find me usually. I found that trying to sneak everywhere was too slow because I was not eating enough animals to level fast enough, yet moving quickly left too big of a trail. Only once or twice did I manage to balance this out to level up.

Once I did level up though, I noticed that instead of having no chance against the hunters, I suddenly had small advantages over them. Things that stopped me cold before, such as traps that are designed to lock you in place, now were much easier to break free of. My attacks did more damage. I felt even with the hunters. I still lost most of the time once I was found, but its wasn't as quick a death.

The one time I hit level 3 with my monster, I found that I had become the powerhouse. Now the hunters needed to be afraid of me. My attacks were much more powerful than theirs. I could still lose, depending on the state of my monster once I reached this stage, but I could feel the power the monster had at this stage compared to the earlier stages.

Playing as a hunter was much different. Hunting the AI monster was frustrating. I often found that I was lagging more and more behind following tracks and getting to flocks of birds eating leftover monster meals. I started trying to anticipate the monster's path based on the tracks and birds, but often found that I guessed wrong, or, if I did guess right, my AI teammates were too far away to put up a trap barrier (think of it as an arena locking the monster in the area so you can damage him) to do any real damage. I managed to kill the monster once while it was level 1, but only once.

Playing through, I found that I tended to get the monster close to death while it was level 1, but it would get away and manage to hide long enough to get to level 2, and continue to stay out of grasp to get health back as well. From here, it became a countdown. If I could find it quickly enough, I could find it more than once or twice before it reached level 3. As long as I could do that, I had a chance. Once it hit level 3 though, I was fighting to run the clock out basically.

While playing evacuation mode as the hunters, I noticed something. Maybe it was just me and how I played, but I could consistently win the first two rounds/matches. Supposedly, this game me advantages. At times it did, but I found that often, from round/match 3 on, the monster seemed to get some sort of AI boost that made it impossible to beat. Once, I was supposed to kill monster eggs. The monster could hatch them into level 1 monsters to help it attack me. I had an advantage of defense turrets being online, I killed one egg quickly and rushed to the next egg nearby. Things were going well. Suddenly, while halfway done killing the egg, the main monster and a minion hatched from an egg show up. The minion rips us to shreds as a level 1 monster while the turrets basically shoot rubber bullets at him. I lost that round. The next round, because I lost the previous one, all monsters started with extra armor and at level 2. This made me lose that round, and so at the end, I was overwhelmed in the first minute. This happened multiple times, and it did not matter what advantage I had or what type of match was. I could not win.

While the game has online multiplayer, I did not enjoy my matches online. It was probably bad luck but either the lobby was dead silent except for me, or full of small children screaming.

I did further research on the game after trying it out. It seems that there are known balancing issues that have not been addressed at this time. I imagine that could be part of what I was experiencing in the game as a hunter. Also, the game is very DLC heavy and has been criticized by many for content being purposely withheld to be sold as DLC later. I cannot say if that is true or not, but it is definitely there.

Overall, I do like the concept of the game. However, with random difficulty spikes, known balance issues, and sometimes extremely incompetent AI, I felt frustrated and annoyed. My last impression of the game after playing was negative, which I did not like. In the end, I put the game away wishing Turtle Rock had just remade Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 for the XBox One as a combination game. Or just given us Left 4 Dead 3.

My Score: 65/100.

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