Evolve as a game is currently undergoing an… evolution (sigh), that has seen it take a substantial change of direction in progression, game-play and most drastically – price.
The second iteration of the game (which has been called Evolve Stage 2) has now been released as a public beta on PC for over 2 weeks. This has given me enough time to jump back in, collect my thoughts, witness the changes and report back on the games new structures, new class designs and new progression systems.
What was Evolve and why did it need to change?
Evolve was (is?) an asymmetrical, multiplayer shooter that pit 4 hunters up against 1 monster, all player controlled. The hunters job was in the name, they hunted the monster, trapped and killed it and had to work cooperatively and utilise each of their differing class strengths in order to succeed. The monster’s job was inverse – it had to evade, evolve itself to become more powerful and return to devastate the hunters by eliminating them or destroying their power supply.
When the game first launched in February of 2015 it was met with some criticisms. Not so much about the quality of the game itself but by its financial structures. The game was fun, it was polished, it felt exciting to play and it offered an experience of asymmetrical combat that was novel to many players. The problem was that the creators seemed to be focusing more on how they could sell future content and offer content packages before ever ensuring that the base game was properly balanced, replayable and offered enough content to players for their initial investment.
Even before its release, Evolve had a ludicrous, almost comical selection of options for consumers to buy into that left people confused and questioning exactly what they were getting for their money. Varying editions of the game, retail and platform specific exclusives, in game micro-transactions, a season pass and immediate talks of future DLC all on top of a full priced, multiplayer only base game.
People complained, spreadsheets were made and potential customers were getting turned off before they even had the chance to actually try the game. On top of all of this, Evolve didn’t end up holding the attentions of the players who bought into it for as long as they wanted to. With a dwindling player base and a game with an already intimidating financial model, something big had to change… and so it did.
What has been updated?
So now we are left with Evolve Stage 2. A game that, as it turns out, is an absolutely invigorating breath of fresh air. The developers needed to do something big to save this title and to their absolute credit they are well on their way to achieving it. Evolve at this point in time can’t even be considered a pay-to-play game because there is no actual way to spend real money on it. This will presumably change as the game develops and they introduce micro-transactions, but as of right now the game is completely free. For those who purchased it, all of the content that you previously had will still exist and you will also be rewarded with special founders exclusives and free content in the future (on top of some new players to actually play with).
For a product to alter its financial structure from one of the worst possible examples in gaming to the best, its just so… impressive. What’s equally impressive though is that the developers are also managing to make meaningful changes to the game’s balance, classes and progression, along with focusing more on the game’s health and longevity.
A full list of the updates to Evolve Stage 2 have been posted by Turtle Rock studios but they are far too long to discuss in full detail. Instead I’ll be outlining what I see as the most drastic alterations: class changes, shared doming and the progression system.
Class changes have been implemented to both monsters and hunters alike. Nearly every hunter and monster class received some kind of re-design but the largest changes (that I have noticed) were changes to the Trapper and Wraith. The Trapper now has less reliance on actually trapping and more reliance on tracking. Being able to track the monster better means the game doesn’t turn into a giant game of hide and seek and ensures more skirmishes throughout the game. The Wraith monster class has also received a big change removing its invisibility features and replacing them with a more active decoy. This change seems great for the games health and means that newer players won’t be completely baffled with how to deal with the Wraith. Finally, every monster class now has access to more skills earlier, making them more useful in stage 1 skirmishes.
Shared Doming is also a new feature to Evolve that now means that any class can capture the monster within the Dome, not just the Trapper class. This change means that the Trapper is no longer completely mandatory to the hunters success and a bad Trapper won’t ruin the game for everybody else. It also means that the hunters aren’t merely following the Trapper around but are instead actively involved in the tracking and trapping process. The dome also lasts for a potentially longer period of time now but its up-time is reduced by damage dealt to the monster or incapacitations inflicted upon the hunters. This mechanic makes it harder for the monster to merely run around the dome avoiding damage and means that the dome will come down before one team completely wipes the other allowing for escapes.
The System of Progression within Evolve has also received a full overhaul so that it can ready itself for the free-to-play treatment. The game uses Silver Keys as a form of currency that can be spent on perks, monsters, hunters, skins… everything! These keys are earned through play and so far it seems to be a decently fair system. Obviously things will change when real money gets introduced but as of right now it works well. The game also offers additional rewards for daily log-ins and daily/periodic challenges that benefit players for returning and give them incentives to keep playing and to try something new.
I am seriously enjoying my time with this new iterations of Evolve. Just having actual people to play with makes it a far more enjoyable experience than the original game once the player-base began to dwindle. Whether or not Evolve Stage 2 can hold people’s attention for longer is yet to be seen but they are definitely doing things right, so I have high hopes.
The game still isn’t the perfect version of what it could be but what beta product ever is? If the game developers can focus on further tightening match-making, ensuring rounds play out as fairly as possible without complete stomps from one side or the other and find a way to encourage players not to disconnect if they don’t get their preferred role or are about to lose… then I can see myself playing time and time again.
Evolve Stage 2 is currently only a PC game but we can expect to see it moving over to consoles as well once it becomes a finished product. I’m super pleased with the direction of the gameplay updates so far and we have been told to expect more updates on a weekly basis. There also isn’t a projected date for official release so console gamers will have to hold tight, but that may also mean that we can expect to see a lot more updates yet to come.