Might be a bit of tough love in this, so please forgive me anything comes off as demeaning. Haven’t played Evolve in a while, so most of these things are in retrospect, but I know some folks like @SledgePainter can vouch for my Monster when it was at its prime.
Movement: I think the mobility TRS gave us was, for the most part, an optimal means of doing so. Traversals, climbing and creatively using extra abilities to gain more ground was a great way for Monsters to move fast, and Hunters using jet boosts but for the large part being slower overall than the Monster is a smart move.
I think the issue with Evolve’s movement was not that the methods of actual movement were bad, but the routes in which monsters and hunters could use were very restrictive. Most Evolve games I played in the height of Stage 2 went like this
- Stage 1 feed route
- Stage 1 dome
- Escape, start picking off buffs
- Fights, more buffs
- Stage 3 fight, if need be.
This is what every game of Evolve came down to, and pretty much every game’s movements and dynamics were the same. It was all a big race of whether or not the Monster could deny certain buffs to the hunters as soon as possible, and that meant that every match pretty much played out the same. The flow of the game was stilted, and while the actual combat was truly my favorite and most exhilarating parts of the game, the actual in-between moments of the fights, which were the most crucial periods, played out the same virtually every time once you got good enough at learning how to outpace your opponent, with very little means of changing things up to gain an advantage. These things are crucial to a competitive game, with matches being just as much a test of your wits as your skill. Evolve was a test of speed instead of wits, and thus, it became boring to watch. I’ll go into this a little more in my next section.
Skill-floor: In the old days, I would always shout the same thing; RNG had no place in a competitive game. But, I think I was wrong. A friend of mine who has played video games as long as I have told me something I thought might have been quite true. “Games with all skill and no RNG are fun to play but not fun to watch. Games that are all RNG and no skill are fun to watch but not fun to play.” Evolve was VERY heavy in requiring skill. Not just doing the right combat moves in the right order on the right person at the right time, but also knowing where to go, where to be and when. There were a dozen factors you needed to be aware of and if you weren’t keen on one of them, it could cost you the game. Part of Evolve’s issue is that it was easy to snowball your advantage, especially once you knew where the buffs were and when they were going to spawn. Thus, I think the best way of closing any sort of skill gap is to make the times when the buffs would spawn random, as they were really your best means of a comeback, but if you were too busy picking your teammates asses up, or too busy just getting out of sight, you were completely denied that.
I think the combat should remain the same for the most part. It was my favorite part, and I’d have to think more on it before advising any changes.
Environments: From an artistic standpoint, Legacy blows Stage 2 out of the water. From a gameplay standpoint, Stage 2 beats Legacy in a landslide. Legacy maps were beautiful. I loved exploring them as Stage 3 in bot matches just to admire the work TRS put into making the maps. However, Stage 2 was clearly designed with gameplay balance in mind. It’s hard to strike a balance between these two. I think maps with the balance decisions of Stage 2, but the general aesthetic of Legacy would be amazing. Maps that are well designed, but also feel amazing and fun to explore. All the maps we lost…arguably the thing I missed most jumping from Legacy to Stage 2. So much beautiful work. That being said, I felt like God Domes were much less of a problem in Stage 2.
Individual Characters: A bit of tough love. I applaud TRS for paying such great attention to the community and trying to balance off of our concerns. However, there foresight in balancing was severely lacking. Look at Sunny. How did she ever make it past balance concepts? One of the most powerful projectiles. A disposable drone with a huge radius that does Hank’s job, while also being a hyper-utility character with a weapon that boosts the most important thing a Hunter has against the Monster. She is cool, and as Matt said, TRS did a great job at bringing us these wicked cool characters that were all unique, but sometimes the cool things these characters have render all these other unique characters absolutely irrelevant. Everything in moderation. If Sunny was going to be hyper-utility, then her shield drone should have been way inferior to Hank’s Shield Gun.
On the flipside, look at Behemoth. A monster with ALL skill shot moves. Nothing ‘mindless’ so to speak, like flame breath, charge, Decoy, Supernova, etc… TRS tried to fix this in Stage 2 by making Fissure very big. It worked to an extent, but this still left Behemoth with 3 skill-shot moves, one of which (Rock Wall) wasn’t a really offensive attack, but used for boxing Hunters in. Which didn’t always work. Here I am bitching about Bob after all this time. I miss him, and I feel that often I was too hard on TRS, especially given what 2K allowed them to do with the game. Behemoth was and still is a cool concept, but ways to make him less dependent on skill-shot moves would have made him a much stronger monster. Legacy’s Lava Bomb was a great way of closing off huge areas at once. This was a good idea and I feel this should have stayed. One big lava bomb is fine, but puts Lava Bomb as yet another skill-shot move. Kraken has the same problem, where after the issue that was level 3 Aftershock, Kraken was reduced to Lightning Strike, Mines and Vortex. Mines were mindless enough, but Aftershock was way more risk for way less reward now. Which leads me to the final thingiemcjigger.
Power gaps: I can’t really speak for Hunters. With the exception of Lennox and a bit of Kala, I was squarely a monster player. I played Lennox because she reminded me of Goliath. That being said, what separated the higher tier monsters (Goli, Meaty, Elder) from the lower tier Monsters (Kraken, Wraith, Glacial) was that the higher tier monsters didn’t have a hard time with putting their abilities together into a combo. I particularly was fond of Leap Smash > Pounce > Rock Throw > Charge/Fire Breath/Melee/Mix and it did soooo much damage. If I missed Leap, I was still fine and I could still do huge damage. Other monsters, like Wraith or Kraken, can’t really do that so much. They needed their big skill shot things to hit and if they couldn’t land it often (Warp Blast and Lightning Strike were not the easiest abilities to land), then they were hard pressed for damage. I think most Monster changes in Stage 2 would be okay and fit fine in Legacy. If I had to say anything about Hunters, it would be to say that not one Hunter is easily better than any other pick, and that not one Hunter is easily WORSE than any other pick. Which…is much easier said than done.
Other: More game modes, whew. Even single player stuff, like a Rampage-esque mode for Monsters, see who can get the biggest score as who. Want a speedy game? Do something like Gorgon-Queen where teams compete for the best time to kill a monster. I get that Evolve was meant to be multiplayer, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have single player components. If Evolve had a destruction mode, you bet your ass I’d be playing that like mad! I’d work for that Behemoth top score! Nothing makes me feel more like a giant monster than breaking big buildings, tearing everything to the ground, eating helpless civilians! Playing as a giant monster brought me to Evolve. I’m sure there was more that could be done. Game modes are hard though, and take time to program. Obviously not something TRS could do so quickly.
Those are my thoughts. I still wish Evolve would have succeeded. Sometimes I really miss it, but it just doesn’t grab me anymore. I think the game wound up in the perfect storm to collapse in on itself, which is a shame. I really admire the aspirations TRS had for it, but what can you do? Sometimes life steals your kidneys and pisses in your coffee while it’s at it.