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‘Evolve’ a game of disaster or to desire?

‘Evolve’ a game of disaster or to desire?

By: Aidan Cullen

“Evolve’s treading water in the ocean right now. It’s gotta keep moving to stay afloat, but there’s no shore in sight.”

At some point in their life I’m sure everyone’s been given the whole riot act on gambling. For me it was from my Dad about a decade ago and the quote he left me with was this: “never gamble more than you’re willing to lose.” Now I’ve not always kept to that rule, and sometimes I’ve been rewarded for breaking it… most of the time I’ve been screwed for breaking it, but I’ve remembered it is all I’m trying to say. 

Why did I bring this up? Well my Dad had a pretty good point, but I think there’s something a step higher we’ve all had to teach ourselves eventually: how to spot what’s a gamble in the first place. 

Here’s a question for all those Steam users out there: how many times have you bought a game on early access? 

There, a perfect example of a gamble. Will the game be good, or will it tank harder than a 50 minute Nasus? (For you non-league players, that’s tanking pretty freaking terrifyingly hard). 

Almost every steam gamer has made that bet at some point, and if it goes wrong, I personally think we as the customer are to blame. We rolled the dice and we deserve the consequences, good or bad. 

On the 10th of February, I gambled £54 on a less than finished game via steam. Now this game didn’t have a small budget like most in development games, but it was very small in terms of content on release and its reputation was put through the ringer in a big way. 

I bought it because its gameplay was top notch and it held the potential to start a whole new genre of games, but make no mistake, I was rolling a dice. I was prepared to lose, and from a lot of people’s perspectives I probably did. 

After all, Evolve is seen by many as one of the biggest triple-A flops this year and it’s probably the most hated game in recent history. 

But weirdly enough, there are still a lot of people interested in Evolve. At least on Steam Evolve was free for the last weekend and its player base there hit over 9000 by the end of it. That might seem puny for what was designed to be a triple-A DLC based monolith of a game, but when you consider its average player count up to that point was 500 at peak times you can see why the jump was incredible. After all, its biggest flaw is its sustainability... 

It just can’t keep people playing. 

That’s right; its biggest flaw isn’t in its shitty marketing (It surprised me too). As I doubt few people don’t know Evolve’s main notoriety comes from its shady sounding DLC plan and the braindead moves of its producers 2K Games in actually selling the damn thing. 

Yeah no, while it pisses me off to see a company that influential make that many mistakes in terms of creating a likable sales style or image, the game’s DLC plan is actually very beneficial to both the game’s players and it’s community. Hell... I bet I can convince you in a few bullet points, hopefully you’ll see the simply insane amount of free content you get when you play evolve: 

 

  • Starting off with the stuff everyone already knows, every map that Turtle Rock Studios’ release is completely free of charge (not to mention they’ve kept their promise: no DLC has ever separated the community, everyone will always be able to play with everyone). 

 

  • All new gameplay updates are free of course, but we’re not just talking patches. We’re talking its new ranking system that matches League of Legends’, the semi-new Arena game-mode and any new customisable map features Turtle Rock Studios develop in the future, such as the newly added weather customisation. 

 

  • But that’s just what’s free on the surface, let’s talk about what you’re not paying for every time store content comes out; the hidden free content behind the pricing everyone objects to. Every time a new hunter/monster (£3.99 per Hunter and £7.99 per monster) comes out you get a new challenge to face, whether you buy them or not. 

 

I could leave it at that I guess, but in fact the reasoning behind my last statement is a little complicated AND important; it’s pretty much the reason Evolve’s ever going to be worth buying. I’ve tried to find a quick explanation but there isn’t one, so here’s a fun hypothetical for you: 

Imagine you get Evolve... even if it’s just because you’re friends are into it, and because that’s the only reason you’re playing at all, you only ever play as the Hunters together (the only team that’s actually a... well a team in the first place). 

Now of course every time a new hunter comes out you feel crap, because you have to spend £3.99 to get anything new and interesting. Damn 2K Studios and their cash cow Evolve… DAMN THEM! 

So we wait around a month or so brooding and a new monster comes out, which doesn’t really matter to you on the surface because you only ever play as hunter anyway. So on the surface there’s no reason to care... 

But the next game you play, you run up against the new monster… holy shit, what the flying fuck is that thing? It’s some kind of massive Spider, aaaaand it’s shooting webs at you. What the hell, are those a legion of tiny baby spiders? 

HOW DO I EVEN BEAT THIS THING? Before you know it you’re entire team’s dead and you’re reeling a little in response, but that was new. That was fun! 

The next part of Evolve is figuring out how to actually deal with that monstrosity; what can it do, how to avoid it and which Hunters do that stuff best? etc. etc. Let me save you the suspense, it’s a fun time to be playing, at it’s completely free of charge whenever it happens. 

And the same works to a slightly lesser degree in reverse when you’re the monster, except this time you’ll be playing as the Goliath when suddenly the enemy’s Jack (the most recently released Trapper) is holding you back with his bare hands. How is he doing that? More importantly, what can you do to counter it? 

When it comes down to it, the fundamental problem is we aren’t used to separating the content you play as and the content you get to play against because usually they’re one package, but when it comes to Evolve they are very separate things, and one is always free. 

And thanks to Turtle Rock Studios, you always get to play against new stuff when it comes out for free because no content can ever separate players from each other a la COD map packs. Evolve is a game that keeps on giving free of charge, despite how it seems on the surface. 

So when we actually talk it out, the only content Turtle Rock Studios ever releases that gives ZERO benefits unless you pay for it is, of course, skins… which admittedly are hardly worth it in the first place, but... that’s fine! Do as I do, just don’t buy them

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Now, having said all that, is Evolve as it is now worth its full price tag? Well... yes and no. 

Because as Evolve produces content at a truly glacial rate, there’s still very little to play as of yet and very little coming out to play against either. Of course as long as you play both monster and hunter equally, there’s plenty of content and it comes out fairly frequently, but unfortunately that’s just not the case when it comes to most players: everyone’s got a preference. 

I personally play a lot of hunter when I play Evolve, because I enjoy the teamplay and camaraderie of overcoming challenges with others. That’s not to say I can’t cackle as I tear apart hunters as a monster, but I’m always going to be playing more hunter games, and this gives me first-hand experience with Evolve’s lack of content production because since its release over 6 months ago, Evolve has only released one additional monster to face

This is, unfortunately, our fault as much as TurtleRockStudios. I‘ve only just started playing Evolve again since July, and I’m a huge fan and supporter of the game to boot. With player bases as low as 500 on steam and as high as 3,500 on PS4 which is its best-selling edition (or... not that high I guess), Evolve is in pretty dire straits... 

In fact, it’s amazing it’s still getting content at all in my opinion. To quote a friend of mine, Evolve’s treading water in the middle of an ocean right now. It can only survive as long as it keeps moving but the shore is nowhere in sight. 

But as I said, ironically a lack of content is not its fatal flaw; it’s just part of the process. I imagine the content included was meant to go up exponentially once it released to critical acclaim and became a bestselling IP for 2K Games, but as we all know that just didn’t happen. 

Evolve’s definitely designed to be Triple-A through and through, that is to say it’s designed to have an insanely large community to fuel expansive growth but as I’ve said repeatedly Evolve barely has a PC player base at all and none of its console player base figures can even be compared to the likes of the Call of Duty levels it would’ve required to make progress. 

And that’s probably why it’s community integration in and out of game is in actuality really… REALLY bad: 

When was the last time you saw a big YouTuber play Evolve, even with their friends? Yup, that’s literally why the game is dying. As silly as it sounds, because Evolve has basically become an Early Access game desperate for both funds and any kind of player base it NEEDS good media connections to keep its dwindling fans on-board until the DLC train comes in, and they simply don’t exist. This thing has been known time and time again to kill new indie games in their cribs, and let’s be honest... Evolve is being smothered at the moment pretty badly by its media cred. 

As of this point I’ve merely shared a different perspective on Evolve’s content problems and potential, but if I’m going to wrap up, I could do it in many worse ways than sharing my opinion: 

Evolve’s a damn good game through and through. Its gameplay’s fun, unique and breaks the mould set by modern shooters. It’s definitely suffering a content breakdown right now, but I can’t help but imagine coming back to Evolve a year from now and seeing 10 unique monsters to track down and take to pieces, 24 hunters to crush into dust free of charge, all of this content I can play against free on 30 maps. Yeah, that sounds pretty goddamn awesome to me, and I know it’s possible because I’ve actually PLAYED the goddamn game. Trust me; this game’s potential is fucking insane

But that won’t ever happen, because Turtle Rock Studios will be lucky if they can shell out 3 more monsters next year at the rate they’re progressing. If I were to guess I’d assume for the moment 2K has cut down on their funding: TurtleRockStudios’ game just isn’t selling so you can’t really blame them if that’s the case, it is the smart financial decision, but seeing as they’ve been making so many bad marketing decisions they can swivel on it: I’m blaming them plenty. 

All of this sucks for everyone involved of course: We miss out on a great game, a new genre and game developers get even more incentives to stick to rote formulas in game design. I can’t tell you Evolve is worth its cost flat out or even that it ever will be, but it still sucks to see something like this die... And no, this isn’t a sponsored article, though by all means if TurtleRockStudios want to pay me I’m not going to refuse, but we can’t keep saying we want new and interesting things without taking a few risks, and that’s just not happening right now. 

But then again, I’m not losing anything I wasn’t prepared to. I followed my Dad’s advice after all, and I’m prepared to lose my £54 trying to support this game, I’m just not quite as prepared to see this beauty of a game and all it stands for abandoned by the very community that wanted new and interesting things here and now. 

They just weren’t willing to bet on it then. 

Maybe we should now.