Oh, Evolve. Such a fantastic idea on paper, such a dang difficult one to do justice to in practise. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and one of the game’s designers now has a clear view on what went so wrong for the title. Here’s why that promising 4v1 gameplay just didn’t work out, straight from the horse’s mouth.
Evolve arrived in early 2015, from Turtle Rock Studios and 2K Games. There was a fair amount of buzz ahead of release, and launch sales were definitely super solid. This wasn’t much of a surprise, either, because the concept of the game was truly compelling. An FPS with a bone-crunchin’, claw-slashin’ difference, it saw four players gearing up as a hunting team on a hostile alien world and working together to bring down a towering beast.
Here’s the kicker: said beast is controlled by a fifth player. That’s the hook here, and it’s certainly an enticing one. The stage was set for one heckola of a visceral experience, all told. Sadly, the playerbase soon started to dwindle. What went so wrong for Evolve? That very 4v1 concept, according to the devs.
Over on Reddit, Matt Colville, writer and designer for the title, laid down the problems the team had with that innovative concept. The way he sees it, the central concept of Evolve was a roleplayer’s fantasy, a power trip, but it didn’t convert well into the general competitive landscape of gaming.
Balancing was one of the core issues. For Colville, all the hunters were so different from each other, as were the monsters. There were certain abilities and powers that rendered mechanics of the game ineffective, or just didn’t work. “Lazarus broke all the rules,” he writes. “Maggie’s pet trapjaw broke all the rules.”
The key here was ensuring that all the playable characters, human and alien abomination alike, were distinct. This is key concept for so many games, across all genres: allowing the gamer to choose an avatar that fits their playstyle, but also keeping everyone on an even playing field. Evolve couldn’t achieve this, and competitive players knew it.
There are several other issues at play here. Also chief among them was the fact that the game really required teams of four playing together to work at its best, and the difficulty and expense of setting that up. Colville also acknowledges that the team were unable to get updates out nearly as often as they’d have liked (due to funding and other issues), and that the game just didn’t play like the competitive shooter that many had signed up for.
Sometimes, as fantastic an idea as 4 versus a playable monster sounds, you really want the monster to be AI-controlled. You don’t want to get embroiled in a DLC debacle, either. Evolve really is in dire straits now, with the servers being shut down in September, and it’s not hard to see why.