Evolve Stage 2: Can Turtle Rock's Second Attempt Succeed?
Disclaimer: Evolve is back in beta, so any issues I have are subject to change.
As some of you may know, Turtle Rocks' FPS hunting style game Evolve went free to play a week ago on the PC. This wasn't a surprise to many, following a disastrous DLC campaign which left a bad taste in many people's mouths -- especially those users who shelled out out over £100 throughout the life of the game for elements many felt should have been free or included in the base game.
The devs of the game summed this up best by describing it as a "DLC shit show." The player base shrank severely over the first year, with players dropping off rather quickly -- even soon after the game was released. Following the announcement of this shift towards free to play however, the count of Steam users has exploded -- leveling out at 51,126 players last Saturday.
Hunters become the Hunted
There are 4 classes (or hunters as they're known) to choose from in Evolve, and numerous characters within each class -- each with different weapons, play styles and aspects about them. You have the Assault, Trapper, Medic, and Support classes.
There are also a variety of monsters to choose from -- the Goliath, Meteor Goliath, Kraken, Elder Kraken, Wraith, and Gorgon. Both the monsters and the hunters are on a free weekly rotation, as is par for the course with free to play games these days. Alternatively, they're all unlockable through daily login bonuses or through silver keys, the game's currency.
Your job as a a hunter is to find the monster in what is a glorified game of hide and seek before it can reach stage 3 of its evolution. Upon reaching stage 3, the hunters become the hunted and the goal of the monster is to destroy a power relay located on the map. With each evolution, the monster grows in size and power, becoming exponentially more difficult to defeat in its final stage than in stage 1.
Now I have one key complaint about Evolve that I need to get out of the way early.
It's a serious issue I have with the beta and the game in general. There's is a problem with the design behind and idea of two monsters -- the Meteor Goliath and Elder Kraken. Both of these monsters render the originals (who are still purchasable) completely obsolete, as they do everything the originals do but better.
The Meteor Goliath, for example, is exactly the same as the original Goliath in gameplay and attack style; however, all of the attacks deal fire damage over time as well. The Elder Kraken is the same -- all of the Kraken's original issues and problems are addressed and the amount of shortfalls from the character are reduced considerably.
Personally, I can't get my head around why they introduced two monsters that are better in every way than the originals and that cost more. It reeks of pay to win elements to me, and makes me rather uncomfortable about the future of Evolve Stage 2 when it leaves its beta period.
Balance also seems skewed towards the monster player.
Of the numerous games I played, every single time we lost to the monster -- and vice versa, I won every game I played as a monster. This happened regardless of what stage in the evolution they found me at.
One of my games, where I was playing a Trapper against a Meteor Goliath, he attacked us as soon as we had exited the drop ship and managed to kill all of us. This may just be because of the influx of new players to the game, but it still left me questioning the balance changes that Turtle Rock has made -- especially those regarding the strength of the monster in its early stages and the changes made towards Trappers and Medics.
But again, this game is still in beta, so changes can still be made towards balance.
In the end I didn't enjoy my time with Evolve. The gameplay elements are as stale as in the original, and the future of Evolve seems questionable too me. Unless there is a severe overhaul in gameplay mechanics, I can see there being another drop off in players akin to the one that occurred after the original release.
Whilst currently the only way to gain silver keys is by playing the game, the fact you can buy perks (which improve your character) with a considerable amount of silver keys, and the fact that certain monsters are just upgrades of others, makes me worry for the future of the game. It might be free to play, but it looks like it may be pay-to-win.