Evolve [official site], the first-person multiplayer action game of monsters vs hunters, is now free to play. Originally launched back in February of last year, the game, from Left 4 Dead creators Turtle Rock, is an asymmetrical shooter/stalker, in which players take on the role of either members of a four-person hunter squad or one of several monsters. The switch to free-to-play comes after what the Turtle Rock co-founders describe as “the DLC shitstorm” and a mixed reception. The free-to-play version launches later today and full details of the transition are below.
The full statement from Turtle Rock is available at the Evolve website but here’s one key paragraph:
Here’s how it’s going to work: We’re going to make Evolve free on PC as a Beta starting on July 7. This is going to allow us to hit our new server infrastructure really hard and we need your help testing. Stuff could break, and that’s our hope, because that will give us time to improve things as we go. We’ll parse out major Beta revisions, updates and features over a period of weeks and months — a plan we’re going to continually communicate here. This allows us to test new features and major changes to make our game more accessible and ever closer to the joy we saw when we first showed our baby to the world. Just as importantly, this Beta plan gives us the flexibility and time we need to keep fixing bugs and making Evolve more stable.
All of this comes with some changes to how the game plays, including reworked progression systems and tutorials, and a lighter reliance on experienced specialists for the hunters. That seems key to finding a wider audience. As Alec noted when he reviewed the game, one significant issue was the need for every hunter to understand their role thoroughly in order to not only succeed, but to have a good time.
Furthermore, to some degree playing one of the Hunter roles is like playing just a fraction of one larger character. There’s no-one who deals out big, meaty-feeling damage or can turn the tide of battle, and everyone must perform their role with rare rigour in order to succeed. You can only play a quarter-role in managing an often very slow war of attrition, and while this is infinitely and refreshingly more tactical than the online shooter norm, increasingly I struggled to find great excitement in it other than in those usually final moments where either monster or Hunters were almost intractably on the ropes. Despite each having an impressive range of distinct skills, individually each Hunter character feels a little like they’re shooting water pistols at Godzilla. I’m not at all certain whether that’s deliberate in order to emphasise the absolute requirement for teamwork, whether it’s because something’s lacking in the weapon feedback loop, or both.
Of course, moving to free-to-play might (and Turtle Rock will hope this is the case) lead to a flood of new players, all needing to learn the ropes. Those new progression systems, hopefully speeding people through the process of unlocking characters, will be essential then, as will tutorials and greater ease of use. Of course, that risks diluting the high level of skill and organisation that some long-term players undoubtedly enjoy.
And what of those players? The ones who paid for the game and have been playing it since launch?
Anyone who owns classic Evolve will be given “Founder” status in the new free version, and all the content you already own comes with you to the new version. As long as we work on Evolve, we will show our appreciation for our committed fans and early adopters with gifts, rewards, and special access. Why? Because you believed like we did, and we will never forget that.
One of the key criticisms of Evolve, across the board, was the small supply of monster types and maps. The “DLC shitstorm” Turtle Rock refer to involved the price of new additions to what was a slim launch roster of monsters and hunters. When the game relaunches around 5pm UK time today (it’s been pulled from Steam for now) it won’t have any microtransactions but Cory Lanier, Turtle Rock’s community co-ordinator, has been sharing some details of what’s to come on reddit and the new Silver Keys seem likely candidates for unlocking features. Founders will receive 3,000 to start them off and more can be earned through play, with purchase options presumably to be added at a later date.
Lanier also clarifies an important detail: “we will continue to support Founders with future cosmetics and rewards. No gameplay altering items will ever be exclusive to Founders. If anyone has anymore questions let me know!” And you can let him know right here.