Evolution Review (PC) :: Darwin Reborn

Evolution is a digital board game developed and published as card-based strategy game by North Star Digital Studios. The game has a release date on February 12 on Steam.

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When you imagine board games, you generally imagine physical games with ‘boards’ to go along with them. But how would you feel playing the same board game digitally, or even online, with your friends? Well, digital games have their own place in the gaming world with a fanbase of their own. Evolution is one such game which is a digitized version of an actual board game, and the digital version surprisingly pulls of some twists to make the game interesting.


EVOLUTION

DETAILED REVIEW


Gameplay Modes

Evolution can be played both offline as well as in online modes. The singleplayer mode has two main modes – Skirmish and Campaign. The Campaign is a small walkthrough for the actual board game, which makes you play in several ‘environments’ till you get a hang of the actual game. There’s no real ‘story’ to be had here, only a demonstration of various game mechanics and strategies that one can use in ‘actual’ games. The AI game allows players to test their skills against AI opponents, with the same set of rules as the Evolution board game.

The game features a tutorial which teaches the basics of the game but fails to properly describe some aspects. For instance, it took some time for me to figure out in what order the creatures are allowed to feed, which helped me strategize even more. Players should focus on playing this only for knowing the basic mechanics, and develop their own strategies for achieving victory.

Multiplayer is where the real fun is. Gather up to 4 players together, and compete for the rights of ultimate survival. Every environment is up for the taking, and your species is up and ready to compete for survival. Well, of course, the main fun is seeing your friends rage when they are wiped from the game board, but I’ll let you experience the fun without going into a lengthy description of it.

Mechanics

Evolution’s mechanics stay true to its name. You start with one species, one that is among a few others, competing for food in an environment. You multiply, grow the size of each species, try and grow another species, and force them to adapt. Your goal is to consume the maximum amount of food and develop a set of species with adaptations that stands the test of time – and Mother Nature herself. You got a deck of cards, a species to start with, and your wits to make it happen.

The game plays in two phases – the deploy phase, when you create new species, increase the size and number of the species and adapt your species with various traits to enable them to survive in the environment, and the feeding phase where every species feed on the available food in the environment. The total of the food consumed, the adaptations used, the number of species surviving each with their collective pack sizes are counted at the end of a fixed number of rounds, after which the person scoring the maximum is declared the winner.

 

 

Cards are your most precious resource in the game. Maintaining a respectable hand at all times is recommended if you want to survive, and eventually win. Cards can be used to create a new species to contest the environment. Cards can even be used to boost a species’ population or increase their body size. Cards can be used to make your species adapt too! Not to forget that there in the first phase, you are required to send a card to the “pool” of food to generate additional food in the environment, to allow all species to feed. The card mechanics look astonishingly complex at first, but with a few games, they start sinking in. All cards have some trait printed on them.

The game supports two main types of body types for species – carnivores and herbivores. Herbivores survive by eating the food in the pool, while carnivores prey on herbivores and smaller carnivores. Food is generated at the start of the round by sending a card to the “pool”, which generates food equivalent to the number written on it. The real strategy lies in handling carnivores, who need to feed on other species with a body size smaller than it to survive. One attack by a carnivore eliminates one member of the attacked species – so it isn’t long before a seasoned carnivore knocks off species from the environment entirely. Carnivores cannot feed on the food in the pool. If a species does not get enough food to sustain its population, some of the creatures in a species may die off. One possible addition here in the future might be the omnivore type, who can feed on other species or on the food in the pond.

The strategy of the game lies around managing the various ‘numbers’ intelligently and using them to your favor. Trait cards can always help you wriggle out of a problematic situation, and to ensure your population can grow reliably. The main way to maximize food for all of your species is to ensure other species don’t get enough food, and traits help a lot here. A “Long Neck” allows your herbivores to reach out to food which is otherwise unreachable, while “Foraging” allow you to gain extra food whenever you feed. “Warning Call” and “Hard Shell” help protect your herbivores from attack, while “Pack Hunting” helps your carnivores prey on herbivores who have enacted defensive measures to protect themselves. There are a lot of cards to play with, and a lot of cards to unlock as you play the campaign. It is important to grow your existing species, so that you can slice off a big share of the food, and even share it around (with trait “Cooperation”) so that your species grow faster, both in terms of population and body size. Knowing how much food to release so that your herbivores grow while starving the other herbivores in the environment is another secret crucial for success.

The game does have boss stages, where it’s only you versus an alpha of a species. These “alpha” species turn out to be just another species (which is somehow named differently than the others?). Defeating them unlocks more options for an AI game later, so it makes finishing the campaign once intuitive to enjoying casual games against the AI later, which is an innovative way to make players invest time in the game.

Sadly, the game’s AI fails to be impacting. Even the strongest AI in an AI game makes mistakes, allowing you to pitch in and take advantage of it. This makes games feel less interactive sometimes, especially when you can predict the AI’s moves before they go for it.

Sounds and Music

The game’s music is mesmerizing, and you can find yourself sinking into the boots of the expedition who have ventured out to study the animals in some desolate world. Some sounds of the game stand out from others, especially the “roar” which a species gives when it turns into a Carnivore.

Graphics and Optimization

The game lacks a bit on the graphical aspect, but it does deliver the visual fidelity it needs to for a digital board game. The card art looks particularly cool.

The game also features points about real creatures on the loading screen, which is pretty fun to read and is really informative.

The game was tested on:

CPU: Ryzen 5 2600
GPU: GTX 1080
RAM: 16 GB DDR4

The game did not run into any form of bugs and glitches and provides a hiccup-free experience.


VERDICT

Evolution is an innovative take on the digital board game genre but can become tedious and boring when played alone. The game is extremely fun when played with 2-3 more players, so a 4-player pack should be a thing for players buying it to have fun with their family and friends. Other than that, it’s mostly worth a buy during a sale if you’re into the digital board game genre.

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