Evolve turns 1 today - is there still life in the monster hunter? | PCGamesN

Evolve turns 1 today - is there still life in the monster hunter?

Evolve birthday

Happy Birthday, Evolve! The co-op monster hunter is one year old today. I bet you’d completely forgotten about it, hadn’t you? And that’s no surprise: Evolve’s had a turbulent 12 months when it comes to players and community. 

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When it launched in February 2015, Evolve started life like any big-budget shooter: with players by the bus-load. At its peak, the game was rocking over 27,000 players simultaneously. Unfortunately, despite pretty positive reviews across the board (Metracritic scores it 77, and more importantly we gave it an 8), Evolve’s player count plummeted in March, maxing out at just under 7,000 players. And this was just the start of a steady decline. 

As the months passed player numbers continued to dwindle. July saw a peak of just 808 concurrent players, with the average count being 420. A free weekend in September saw the figures leap, with a high of 9,084 concurrent users, but that spike was just a fleeting moment in time. 

And now here we are, as the first candle gets blown out on the cake. The last 30 days have seen an average of 385 players playing Evolve, with a peak count of 944. So while we’re far away from the tides of players who came rushing to see what co-op monster hunting was all about last year, there’s still a bit of community left in Evolve. It’s small in comparison to other year-old titles (for example, Battlefield Hardline currently peaks at around 3,000 players), but it seems like the tiny community is exceptionally loyal.     

Evolve slim

So if you’re coming in from the cold, just what kind of experience does Evolve provide one year on? 

Getting into games isn’t the hour of waiting I’d anticipated. Between clicking ‘find game’ and being sorted into a match, the longest time elapsed was one-and-a-half minutes. Unfortunately, games are rarely full. Typically there will be one player taking on the role of the monster, and about two others handling hunting duties. The rest of the slots are filled by AI bots. 

The big problem caused by this is that AI bots are no replacement at all for human players. While they can happily run around and perform actions within their programming, they’re not smart enough to react to quick changes in the monster’s behaviour, which is naturally unpredictable since it’s a human behind the controls. They’re also impossible to coordinate with. You can’t create fun strategies with lines of code.  

That’s a shame, because the dedicated following Evolve has could do with buddies. It’s obvious players now know exactly what they’re doing. Efficient and effective with weapons and gadgets, they don’t do all that bewildered running backwards-and-forwards that was so common when we first visited the planet of Shear. But they don’t have enough intelligent teammates to create a squad capable of taking down a player-controlled beast.

Evolve Torvald

So if you’re into playing the monster, Evolve’s current state means it’s very easy pickings to level up. But are there any benefits for hunters these days? Well, there’s a very interesting loophole that’s presented itself, precisely because games are never full. How do you fancy playing some Evolve DLC without spending a penny?

As noted earlier, most games of Evolve are made up of human players and AI bots because the player count isn’t high enough. Because Evolve is dependant on all the hunters’ skills being utilised effectively, you can swap places with the AI to control other hunter classes. This is very useful if you’re playing an assault but need to quickly play as a trapper to thrown down a bubble arena.

The fun part though is that the AI often chooses characters from the DLC pool. The game has been designed that DLC would never split the community, so you can fight alongside players with paid-for characters. When those characters are AI bots, you can simply hop into the pilot seat. And just by tapping a key, you’re suddenly playing a brand new class you didn’t pay for. 

It’s a fun exploit, and the random selection that the AI makes with each match means you’ll never know what options you’ll get until you’ve got boots on the ground. Part of the joy is cycling through games to try and have a go with all the characters. 

Evolve Lennox

The loophole doesn’t stretch as far as the monster though, as you can only select to play that role at the start of the match, and obviously there’s no way to choose DLC you’ve not paid for from the character select screen. 

One year on, I feel a bit sorry for Evolve. Twelve months ago I awarded the game a very good score, and to this day I think it’s a solid, well-thought-out shooter that offers a unique angle. But not everything that’s great strikes a chord with players. 

This may be Evolve’s first and only birthday it survives. If you’re in two minds about heading back to Shear for a bit of a celebration party, I think you should. It’s best to go in with the expectations that you’ll likely have a underwhelming time as far as strong competition and tactics go, but there’s still fun to be had in its systems, toys, and that loophole. It likely won’t hold your attention for more than a couple of additional hours, but you may be able to see why a few hundred people are sticking around, month-in-month-out, to keep the planet’s monster problem at bay. 

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nikrel avatarMrAptronym avatarAever avatarneo606 avatarFattox avatar
nikrel Avatar
nikrel(1 hour played)
2 Years ago

I think so much locked behind paywalls turned off lots of people.

Fattox Avatar
2 Years ago

If this had released for a regular price and no DLC in sight, i would have probably hopped onboard. Watching the pre-release gameplay game me a L4D co-op kind of vibe (though entirely different objective).

They could have even added the DLC bit by bit later (think Payday 2) and i probably would have bought some. Or 90% of it, like i did with PD2, woops.

But releasing with a low amount of content and having to piece a fuller experience together from the DLC? No way. And now their ship has sailed.

MrAptronym Avatar
2 Years ago

I think the developers shot themselves in the foot here. They hyped the game incredibly hard and announced a torrent of pay-for DLC. No one I know bought the game, and it was almost entirely due to the DLC. My friends and I talked about it, but we weren't biting.

No one wants to buy a full price game when they are already expecting a bunch of further little transactions, and the transactions were so thoroughly in the forefront for Evolve.

Aever Avatar
2 Years ago

Fix the game, make the base game free for everyone, sell good DLC. If the game picks up and a decent sized community forms, start considering good cosmetic DLC (no, not different colors for weapons). Pets? Everyone loves pets.

Do that and maybe you can turn this ship around, because currently it is heading straight for the scrap yard.

neo606 Avatar
2 Years ago

Their forums are blocked for the public, and they call the steam community TOXIC... wtf is this sh!t. It's a joke, they should be out of jobs...

How can you call your customers toxic? WTF!!!