It’s not often that I’ve played the app version of a game much more than the cardboard version – I think possibly Ascension might be the only game I’ve actually played the app of, but not the game itself! I got to try Evolution back in its late-stage prototype days which was pretty cool, but haven’t played it since then – seriously, it’s super weird I don’t know anyone who owns this game. At Origins in June, Melissa from North Star Digital showed me a quick walk-through of an early build of the digital version of Evolution and I was stunned! Why had this game dropped off my radar, and how could I get playing it digitally ASAP?
If you haven’t yet tried out Evolution, it’s a game of adapting animals to an environment, making sure herbivores and carnivores alike can feed, and surviving to the game’s end. Bearing in mind my choppy memory of the game, I took full advantage of the tutorial that’s offered up when starting a game; the Professor takes you step by step through the basics of the game, tailored to if you’ve played the game at all before, or not! This was great for me, obviously! There’s also great interface section of the tutorial which goes over the anatomy of the app itself (playing cards, dragging animals for feeding, the undo function, etc). After progressing through that, I launched into a ‘quick game’ against the AI – coming in the full game will be online and campaign play as well – which was a really easy setup. The AI are really well spread over easy through hard, and offer a good challenge. Overall the menus are really nice, with a real explorer kind of vibe (maps, journals and the like), and the UI is easy to navigate. Plus, you can pick one of the really gorgeous pieces of art for an avatar!
Despite my lack of experience with the physical card game, I am pleased to see much of the app mirrors aspects of the cardboard version. Little touches like this really please me in digital board game – seeing the cute dinosaur meeple first player marker get passed around the screen was delightful, and the art of the cards really pops and comes to life. And despite card games having a very tactile feel because of their hands-on nature, they tend to translate well digitally; here, gameplay speeds up and is smooth due to the speed of AI play and the quality of the animation makes the dealing and moving of cards look and feel terrific.
While playing, it’s not just the cards that feature in animation. You can select cards to have them pop up to see their art fully realized (no card printing restrictions!) and easily read their details. Dragging and dropping your cards and animals is clear and even has some guiding lines/arrows at points, and I especially love the animation of dragging your carnivores to feed – that clawing! Even when the saddest thing happens – your animal dies off – there’s a really cool shifting animation that morphing into bones and fading into dust. The team behind the porting of Evolution to a video game have really taken care to weave in theme and visuals well to the smooth gameplay, and it really makes the experience enjoyable.
I’m really excited to try out the full version of Evolution once it hits app stores and Steam in Spring 2018, post-Kickstarter release. What’s that, you say? Cross-platform? YES. It seems like more and more, board game app developers are on board with this, and I appreciate it as someone who plays both on Steam and Android. For the Kickstarter, they’ve even integrated this idea of multi-platform play with a pledge allowing you to grab the game for PC and mobile. In addition to the video game, there’s also a lot of great tiers that will allow you to grab the board game itself in case you’re hankering for bringing this waterhole to the table, as well as other perks (tournaments! Events! Cool neoprene playmats!). If you’re interested in getting on board, back on Kickstarter now – the campaign runs until October 18th. Check out the trailer here.
Thanks to North Star Digital for providing a Steam key for the beta release of the game so we could preview it.