Monday, 3 November 2014

Evolve Big Alpha Impressions

Evolve is a game I can see being a love it or hate it kind of game but not for reasons of mechanics, performance or size but because it will live and die by who you play it with.  For those not in the know Evolve is a multiplayer game for five people set on a distant alien world called Shear which has been colonised by humanity.  The populace are however threatened by rather large and intelligent beasts which can if left unchecked destroy vital equipment for the colony and likely spell doom for the inhabitants.  So the game has one of those players taking the role of the monster who must eat to gain evolution points and become much stronger, larger and gain new abilities to either destroy the equipment or kill the hunters who are run by the remaining four players.

The dynamic is very cool with the hunters being very powerful at the start and the monster being relatively weak by comparison unless it can isolate a single hunter.  However if the monster can evolve it quickly becomes a genuine threat and can very easily overwhelm the hunters in a stand up fight requiring tactics to change on the fly and in essence they become the hunted.  It's fun and when it all works it is amazing fun but the key thing there is when it all works.

My issue with the game judging from the alpha (this can change between now and final release) is that you need a group of players who all know what they are doing from the get go, otherwise the game becomes a short chaotic mess fast and can leave you feeling very frustrated or downhearted with the game.  Being the monster can be quite stressful because you need to be on the move immediately and eating as much as possible to stay ahead of the hunters.  Sadly the maps are kind of small and although match start is always random I can see the maps becoming very familiar quickly and thus new players will be at a huge disadvantage very quickly against veterans who know the layout fairly well.

It's a nitpick but I can only really see Evolve being a fun game with five players who know each other and want to have a laugh.  As a solo players running as part of a pick up group or PUG will be getting a mixed bag and no doubt some abuse from other players if they aren't completely up to snuff with the tactics and abilities of the different playable classes.  Putting that aside though the game runs very smoothly and looks amazing at this early stage of play.  The maps ooze atmosphere and have plenty to look at.  Verticality is a key part of the game for both the hunters and monster with both teams having the means to reach high points in the map for scouting and ambush purposes.

The classes are pretty fun too with no single class feeling overpowered or dominant over the rest.  The medic does the usual healing but plays a key role in slowing the monster down and highlighting it to team mates along with creating weak points on it's armour with it's high powered sniper rifle.  The support can drop massive artillery, shield allies from damage and cloak for retreat or revive purposes.  The assault tanks the monster and can be invulnerable for a short period along with laying mines and engaging at both long and short ranges.  Finally the trapper can keep the monster restrained with both harpoon traps and energy arena's to keep it from escaping along with laying down fire with their machine gun.  There are other hunters to unlock with their own powers and tactics although I cannot comment on them since they were pretty hard to unlock in the short alpha we had.

The monster team can be one of three types, although we don't yet know what the third one will be we do know that the first is the large Lizard type called Goliath and the second is the Cthulu like Kraken.  Both play very differently and require very different approaches to hiding and attacking.  Goliath is a brute who specialises in breathing fire, throwing rocks and generally pounding the hunters to death with it's massive clawed fists.  The Kraken however uses area of effect abilities and ranged lightning attacks to ambush the hunters and fly away from danger.  Both monsters look amazing and their animations even at this stage are slick to watch.

To close this I would strongly suggest playing this with friends if you want the most out of the game.  It's not bad as a solo player but be prepared to get a mixed experience this way.  The graphics are amazing which isn't surprising given the engine being used (Cryengine 3) and the sound design is excellent.  I can see Evolve receiving numerous downloadable packages that add more maps, monsters and hunters over time and if they don't I think it would be a real shame.

Watch me play and narrate over this long and very fun hunt from the alpha.  Thanks for reading and have a good one folks.


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