Evolve is quickly shaping up to be my Game of the Year.
I know, I know, that’s a big statement considering the game actually isn’t out yet, but I’ve had extensive hands-on with it -- likely more than any other games writers in Australia, and each and every time I’ve rested my scaly mitts on it, the experience is both rich and unique.
I’ve talked at length
about Goliath and the other classes
, and I’ve also spoken to
Turtle Rock co-founder Phil Robb (more than once, actually) about how all of this both came to be, and fits with the as-yet unannounced full retail package, and can now also cross off my list a few playthroughs with Evolve’s latest beastie -- the Kraken.
It’s probably easiest to talk about the differences between playing as Goliath and Kraken in metaphors. Goliath, for example, is like a walking, hulking rock
-- he’s lumbering and mean, strong and heavy. Kraken on the the other hand, is organic and fluid - it’s like he’s constantly shifting through a body of water
, especially when he’s hovering. So we have two metaphorical elements that serve as foundations for your experience with each, but their depth in relation to these elements is vast and open -- how you’ll choose to take advantage of all that’s on offer will mean the difference between filling your belly, or winding up as a trophy on a hunter’s wall.
The Kraken is marginally bigger than Goliath thanks to his long tentacles. And as mentioned earlier, instead of jumping, he’s actually capable of floating and thus plays best as an AoE, ranged beastie (though arguably, the size of all the monsters means every attack is effectively AoE-based, but I digress). This is best exampled by way of his abilities which include a series of electricity-based attacks -- one of which builds over a few seconds, allowing you to aim specifically at your target(s) before unleashing its mighty power. If you manage to strike at the centre of your pursuers while they’re grouped, you’ll send them flying off in separate directions, allowing you, while up on high, to work out how best to cut your hunters in half -- the obvious choice here is to take out the medic -- especially if it's Lazarus (who is capable of reviving downed players as one of his main abilities), but ultimately it’s the Kraken’s ability to think from afar and avoid as much up close and personal damage as possible, that is his main draw for me.
In contrast, the Goliath is most powerful up and in your face -- the experience with him is far more personal, and so playstyle will be the ultimate choice by which you decide to play. The monsters still have traits in common, such as sneaking and lunging to escape more quickly, and of course evolving. But their attacks and player-recourse are miles apart.
In two separate playthroughs with the Kraken I chose different methodologies -- in the first, I played to evolve; to become more powerful and attack the team once I was juiced up and take them out that way. The problem with this was, the longer I took to take them down, the more powerful they also became because of the perks they’d taken from around the map, and map knowledge itself. The final battle was a mighty one, but one I wouldn’t win in the end, so next time around I didn’t waste any time.
In my second Kraken romp, rather than scoot off quickly to avoid the dropping-in hunters, I waited out of sight not more than roughly 70-metres from their drop-zone. Here, lying in wait, I launched myself into the air and dropped my uber Lightning Strike on them, sending them flying. I immediately dropped and unleashed my electrical charge (called aftershock) which further scattered the group while doing massive damage, before closing in on their medic and flailing my tentacles at him to drop his health to zero. Knowing the others were coming to his aid, I used my wind-push ability (called Vortex) and sent them flying again before finally pummelling the medic to such death that he had to wait to respawn on the dropship to be able to come back into the map. This meant two things: I could focus quickly on the rest of the team and try to kill them all before that timer reached zero (meaning the round was won), but risk taking critical damage myself, or let them regroup, duck off and evolve quickly, and do it all over again.
I chose instead to further decimate the team by taking out their tracker in the same way, and once she was bound for the dropship, I left the remaining two licking their wounds and actually found time enough to evolve to stage two -- pouring all my ability points into the Lightning Strike and Aftershock. I then ambushed the team again (who, admittedly weren’t really playing well as a team), and did the same thing, only now as a more powerful monster (and them with no perks because I’d rocked the team earlier) meant separating and singling them out was a breeze -- the Kraken’s ability to quickly escape the field of battle means it’s far more difficult for the Assault class to really do the damage he’s capable of, and so I left him last but victory was assured, and it was electrifyingly sweet.
I should point out that winning my second battle was done in less than 10-minutes (roughly sevenish), while my first loss was almost a 20-minute game.
The Cthulhu-inspired Kraken is a wonderful addition to the monster side of things, and his juxtaposition in movement, ability and approach show just how thought out every aspect of Evolve is, and we still have another monster reveal on the way (one both founders of Turtle Rock have told me I’ll lose my shit over). It’s also worth noting that it looks spectacular. Running off CryEngine 3, Evolve is one of the best looking games destined to land this year, and on Xbox One, the platform I played on, it was one of the most impressive games on-show at this year’s E3 expo.
With an October release month announced and just one more cast of characters and another monster yet to be revealed, alongside more maps, game-modes and a single-player campaign, there’s still plenty more under the hood for one of 2014’s most exciting prospects. Top all this off with confirmation from 2K and Turtle Rock that the game will have dedicated servers in Australia and you have one very, very promising game. Maybe even Game of the Year.