Thursday, January 22, 2015

Evolve and the "Evolution" of Gameplay

The Evolve Open Beta ended recently and I'm still not sure what to think. After the Big Alpha they had last year the game has taken many strides forward as game development progressed. The Beta was fun, especially when playing as one of the Hunters. Still, I just had this nagging feeling after playing through a few rounds. That feeling of familiarity. The game's hype is similar to that for Titanfall and how when it first came out was simply amazing game. It was fun, always plenty of people to play with, simple gameplay and immensely fun. Now Titanfall lobbies take a long time, barely anyone is playing and with it being an online and multiplayer only game the replay value at zero. Titanfall came out at the right time in the market as Xbox One fans were chomping at the bit for a game to put their new system to the test and Titanfall fit the bill.

I bring up Titanfall as it was a multiplayer game, online only, no story campaign to speak of and had a bit of grind to it to get the new gear. Evolve is also a multiplayer co-op game, but you can play it solo with bots as the other hunters and monster. There's still no story or campaign modes, but I can see the Evacuation mode trying to be one and after playing the Beta you definitely have to grind if you want to unlock new characters or pay money to unlock them all. Evolve does have more substance and variations to keep you coming back and playing more versus what Titanfall had, but even then it can only pull you back so many times.

I had the most fun when playing as one of the Hunters. You get a chance to play each of the different classes a number of times during the Beta, except for the Support class, didn’t come up too much. You rank what character you want to play in terms of playing most to least. This comes into play mostly when you are playing with random people and not friends, so the chance of you not playing the same class each time is quite high. I quite enjoyed playing the Assault and Medic most of all; the Medic role is pivotal to any team staying in the fight.

The times I played as the Monster were horrible experiences. I figure I just didn’t play the Monster class enough to learn the quirks and best battle strategies. From playing as the Hunters and watching tons of Evolve on Twitch I saw what you can do with the Monster. I saw folks playing as the Monster dominate a team of Hunters without evolving once and other times just playing with a team of Hunters before destroying them all. There will be moments like those and 2K has touted the fact that Evacuation mode has over 800,000 different possibilities with the way it plays out. Is that enough though to keep people playing?

That's what has me worried about Evolve. Destiny was all about the grind and online only. Evolve has the action-packed gameplay and each match will be different, but do you want to spend each round using only one weapon just to unlock that next level? There are going to be people who don’t want to do that and will pay for a pre-order to unlock it all or the DLC for new characters, but is that how it should be?

Turtle Rock Studios has stated that all new maps will be free and if your friends have the DLC and you don't you can still play games with them. This way it doesn’t separate the players into a two-tiered game ecosystem. They've done a great job with game design in that regard, but it just doesn’t feel like Evolve is the best value proposition. When you're playing Evolve with strangers it makes playing as the Hunters a lot tougher. Nobody talks to each other. You need a good strategy and communication to win against someone who knows how to play as the Monster. Once Evolve comes out and people get their hands on it I feel new players are going to struggle hard to catch up on the curve.

This game will definitely be fun in the beginning, but if you don’t want to pay to unlock everything it will quickly turn into a grind trying to get that one last weapon used enough to get the next character or stronger perks. That's what ruined Destiny for me as I played what it had to offer and was left with the grind to get to that max level. Looking at Evolve, I feel like they're going to keep maps and content coming, but paying $15 for one Monster is just a bit much. Evolve could have a great future ahead of it or fall onto the pile of forgotten games. We won't know what category it will fall into until months down the road. Evolve is a fun game for sure; I just feel it will be a flash in the pan versus a momentum-sustaining game, similar to Titanfall. We'll see what happens when it launches on February 10th.


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