Here’s one for the card gamers. A port of North Star Games Evolution, with online play, or a single player campaign against increasingly fiendish AI.
Days gone by I used to love an oul card game. A strict rule set, a finite deck, and a mutually available number of stratagems for you and your opponent. Yet more than any of those reasons, it’s the competitive aspect I enjoy. Not merely playing the game, but playing against your opponent. Considering what they might hold, how they might employ it, and how to counter. And that’s exactly what gave me so much enjoyment with North Star Games’ Evolution.
Evolution has been, most recently, delayed into Q1 2019. The developer cited issues with the multi-player aspect, though they expect to resolve these prior to launch. We got a review code from North Star Games, for Steam PC, and I’ve played plenty of the single player campaign, but did not test the online mode. More on the campaign later, now for the gameplay.
Evolve… or die.
Up to four opponents compete in Evolution for food around a watering hole. The deck in the middle dishes out 4 cards to each player per turn, with three phases in each round. Phase one sees each player throw a card in the middle, thus determining how much food will be in the watering hole this turn. This is the first available strategy for players, do I splash the hole, and ensure there’s enough food for everyone, or do I try to starve my opponents?
Phase two involves playing your hand. Each card has an assigned trait to be used, or any card can either pump up your species population or increase your creature’s body size. Bigger populations mean you can gather more food, and bigger body size makes it harder for predators to gobble you up. Each species is represented by a paw, with population in green, body size in blue, and traits, the cards up top. Each population can have up to 3 traits. Therein lies the crux of the strategy. Do I go herbivore or carnivore? How about playing defensive, and burrow, or climb? Maybe I go cooperative, and try snare all the food before my opponents? Do I go offensive, full carnivore mode, and try to devour my enemies?
Phase three is the feeding. The food cards played at the start will be now unveiled, revealing how much fodder there is the munched. Feeding is turn-based, with a poker-style “button” determining who is first to act each round. Considering your place in the round is paramount here. If you’re first to moe, and you go full carnivore, your opponents will have time to respond in kind. The strategic considerations do abound!
The presentation and outlay are very simple but fit the game perfectly. The theme of being an intrepid explorer is held to throughout. A David Attenborough impersonation even greets us with some voiceover work, though most of the game is text-based. Early levels serve as the tutorial phase, starting very simple, and growing more complex. The learning curve is gentle, though you will meet your match at some point, whereby levels can be replayed as often as you need. New areas are unlocked around the map, as you play, with new species being encountered along the way. Apex predators serve as bosses. Though more often than not, these “heads-up” style one on one encounters can be easier than the four-player matches.
There’s a ranking system, starting with Field Intern, and peaking with Nobel Laureate. Good luck to anyone trying for the top rank though, I got stumped by the intermediate difficulty opponents, finishing as a lowly Ph.D. candidate! According to their website, North Star will also introduce an online monthly tournament, which could be fun for any brainiacs out there. Climbing through the ranks will also unlock new species designs, though these are only aesthetics.
If card games, or tabletops, are your thing, you’ll definitely enjoy Evolution. It’s easy to learn, and hard to master, to use an old cliche. Evolution is a game for the morning commute, or your lunch break, taking ten minutes to beat the next level or your friend, and keeping the old grey matter active. The game design is colourful, without being gaudy. Though having a variation of the single playable watering hole would be nice. It does get dull after a while. Given each level is repeatable in the campaign, and the (predicted) depth to online, there’s enough replayability within. There has been no price point announced, so I can’t comment on value. Evolution will be released in Q1 2019 for PC, iOS, and Android.