Although Evolve’s initial announcement was quite exciting, one thing that didn’t blow me away was the Goliath monster, which essentially seemed like a larger version of the Tank from Left 4 Dead. It’s a natural point of inspiration, given that Turtle Rock Studios teamed up with Valve to develop that game, and therefore a good starting point, but it just wasn’t distinct enough, and quite a tame design for a beast.
Thankfully, with the announcement of a new monster in the form of the Kraken, Turtle Rock has managed to create something quite unique and very exciting. It’s not an entirely new idea for a creature – it’s a Lovecraftian beast, with strong ties to Cthulu – but it’s something that hasn’t really been done in this medium before, and shows that they’re going beyond standard monster templates, taking cues from other works of fiction.
When facing the Kraken, Evolve’s core gameplay remains the same as ever: it’s still four hunters versus one monster, and in this match I took the role of Hyde, who was the Assault class of the group in this case. He’s equipped with a mini gun for long-range attacks, and a flamethrower for close encounters, while his support items include toxic grenades to flush the enemy out from hiding and a personal shield which stops any and all direct damage. He even has a jetpack for getting around quickly or scaling vertical walls, though that’s not unique to the Assault class.
Since the Kraken can fly in his second stage (which it achieves by feasting on wildlife and evolving) verticality – and that jetpack – does play quite a big role when taking it on. My methods often included flying over behind the monster, switching on the shield, and going wild with a flamethrower, attempting to cause as much damage as possible.
But that’s skipping ahead – first you’ll need to track the beast. Our group’s Trapper class used their bloodhound-like alien -a Trapjaw named Daisy- to pick out the Kraken’s scent. Following her could be a challenge at times, and it was always tempting to run ahead and slay the Kraken before it could evolve, but the game truly works at its best when you stick together. You see, while the Assault’s abilities may be rather standard for a shooter – they essentially boil down to “shoot the enemies as much as you can” – the Trapper is more of a unique class, using a mobile arena and harpoons to incapacitate the Kraken, whether in its first or second stage of evolution.
Beyond the Assault and Trapper, there are also the Support and Medic classes. While, in this particular round, the Support failed to use their abilities – involving sentry turrets and UAVs – to our advantage, the Medic was useful in cloaking himself in order to heal the group. There’s a good mixture of characters, with eight announced so far, each offering different abilities to create something suitable for everyone.
The Kraken is a powerful threat though and the player controlling the beast spent most of the time running away, hiding and feeding on other wildlife. We had to fight that these creatures too, including grotesque crocodile-like creatures and giant insects, while navigating the environment. The Kraken may be the most intelligent creature, due to the human control, but it’s certainly not the only danger present.
And because they were so good at hiding and we were pre-occupied with taking on most of the other wildlife, the player controlling the Kraken soon managed to evolve to stage two. It was at this point where we realised the situation: we had to take this monster down, and fast, before it could escape and become even more powerful. After a few failed attempts at a mobile arena deployment, we finally trapped the beast and what followed was one of the most fun co-operative experiences I’ve had in quite some time.
Although my abilities did revolve around shooting to kill rather than being tactical, the whole team found their strengths and worked together to take on the monster. The fact that it was controlled by another player brought a brilliant, competitive edge to proceedings. With Zeus-like lightning powers and electrical pulses, the Kraken didn’t put up an easy fight, knocking us around the mobile arena before escaping elsewhere.
What we had dreaded all along came next: the behemoth had reached stage three, and our only option was to retreat and protect our core. The story here was quite vague, but it didn’t matter; we were lost in the moment, taking on a cosmic monstrosity, but we simply couldn’t do enough damage against our powerful foe.
The Support fell, and was brought back by the Medic, but he soon succumbed to the power of the beast. Using my shield, I managed to get right into the action and revive the Medic from the brink of death, but soon the Kraken unleashed a massive lightning blast and I was left as the only survivor; I had gone from the hunter to the hunted and, with around a third of their health left, the Kraken finished me off.
Evolve plays better than I could have ever imagined. It’s a totally new experience, even if there are clear ties to Left 4 Dead, and hopefully it’s robust enough to not boil down to the same match every time. Thankfully, due to the nature of the gameplay, with the villain being controlled by a player, each instance should be quite unique. The Kraken is a brilliantly designed foe, and I can’t wait to see what other entities exist in the world of Evolve. And, while playing as part of the team of four hunters was a great experience, I can’t wait to be on the other side and play as the monster.