“Companion apps” for big triple-A PC and console games are becoming increasingly common. Destiny offloaded most of its story content into an app, and it seems that every Ubisoft game has some sort of mobile supplement. Evolve: Hunters Quest is the companion to 2K Games’ new 4-versus-1 monster hunting shooter. And what better way to bring the action of shooting giant aliens to mobile than with a match-three puzzle game?
Evolve: Hunters Quest is a puzzle game much like Bejeweled, where colored gems cover the board and can be swapped with any adjacent gem to create matched lines of three or more. In Hunters Quest’s specific case, each gem type is tied to a class of monster hunter (Assault, Medic, etc.), and making matches will cause these hunters to attack monsters in a small window at the top of the screen. Each level contains up to five rounds worth of monsters to defeat.
This attempt to tie pure puzzle gameplay to some greater action storyline has been seen before, particularly in the Puzzle Quest series. But here, and in Evolve-proper, the only real story is the pursuit of giant mega-monsters. As a result, I never felt a great pull to move onto the next mission. The full 3D character animations were very cool during battle, but it certainly wasn’t an effective introduction to the world of Evolve.
As battles get more and more difficult, you’ll have to rely on different character abilities, which charge up as you make matches. Each character can charge up to three bars, and each of their three abilities will use up either one, two, or all three bars. Most abilities are bland high-damage attacks or simple healing, but some level three abilities will affect the actual gem board, creating new opportunities for match combos.
If those abilities aren’t enough to carry you through (eventually they won’t be), you can also use – stop me if you’ve heard this before – two different currencies to buy character boosts and heals. Mastery Points are earned during play, to be used on emergency heals during battle. Credits, on the other hand, can be purchased with real money and can be used to buy mission-long boosts that affect your whole team’s damage.
The presence of in-app purchases here seems unjustified, even more so than usual, since the game is already an advertisement for Evolve. Furthermore, Evolve has already been derided for its own downloadable content strategy. Players of Hunters Quest can even earn limited progress in the main game, leveling up characters for use in both, so in a sense the microtransactions in Hunters Quest are also microtransactions in Evolve.
On top of that, the difficulty curve is incredibly steep. By the time I reached the end of the first chapter, I was already spending all of my Mastery Points to try to scrape by. It seems clear to me that this is designed to funnel players toward the in-app purchases. Even if you were just there to enjoy randomized rounds of puzzles, the looming threat of failure prevents it from being the same relaxing experience as Bejeweled.
Derivative pieces of promotional material are one thing, but derivative pieces of promotional material that expect you to empty your wallet are quite another. If you are interested in the prospect of making some progress in Evolve, there might be something here for you. Otherwise, avoid it as if you were being hunted.