Evolve: Seven Monster Tips for Defend

image credit: Turtle Rock / 2K / incgamers.com
image credit: Turtle Rock / 2K / incgamers.com

Morning, minions. It’s moving day for the hunters, and we are going to throw them a going away party. Whether you face it on day five of Evacuation or randomly in quick match, Defend mode as the monster is one of the hardest matches to win against a good team of hunters. Not only is it the only mode in which slaying all of the hunters counts for no gains – they return from the drop ship at full life almost immediately – the match timer counts down to a hunter win if the monster does not completely destroy both stage generators and the power source before the timer expires. It gets worse. Despite starting the match at stage three, and having a near continuous stream of Goliath minion pairs to help, the generators are defended by both the hunters, bottleneck terrain and armored turrets.  Destroy a generator, and some time is added back to the clock. Here are seven tips for monster players hoping to crush the hunters and destroy the evacuation ship in one of the funnest, most difficult map modes in Evolve.

Turret syndrome

This might sound obvious, but I’ll dare oversimplify the match with the first do-or-die tip. Prioritize the turrets. Your minions are quite capable of carrying the match all the way to the final power source with little assistance but stand no chance against the turrets and will not attack them. You and your minions will face high, sustained damage as long as they are standing – so when the match starts, eat as quickly as possible to shield up and try to take out at least one turret along side the first set of minions. Flee ideally before your shield is depleted and feed again, you are unlikely to regenerate any real health via food buffs in Defend. Return as soon as possible to finish wrecking turrets, and your second and third wave minions will do a lot more damage to the generator before getting killed.

Expect maximum hunter force – a good team will take huge risks to make stage one generator as hard for the monster as possible. As this point they can afford multiple full wipes and still pull out a win later if they damage the monster enough, prevent it from feeding, trap it away from the turrets, or any other super nasty harassment the hunters can dream up.

Follow your nose

If you haven’t developed a habit of continually smelling as the monster, now is a good time to start. Smell as you eat, smell as you change facing, smell before you attack, smell before you retreat. Smell everything. Otherwise you’ll never spot harpoons, most mines, and potential snacks hunters left for you. If you haven’t seen what an overlooked harpoon and a few cleverly hidden mines in your escape route can do to a monster that needs to get away fast, I’ll give you a hint – it’s not pretty and can completely blow the match.

If you are just out of line of sight but within smell range of the generator as you feed to get shields back, you can safely spot the hunters and keep an eye (or nose) on your minions and have a pretty good idea of how the fight is going. Hurt minions will usually turn on the hunters before they die, which can be an excellent opportunity to quickly incapacitate a vulnerable hunter.

Know when not to kill a downed hunter

During the fight keep in mind an incapacitated hunter is more or less out of the fight minus his or her sidearm. Most of time time this will also take a second hunter partially out of the fight to revive the down hunter unless they have Daisy, but killing a downed hunter can take more time than you want to spend if they have someone shielding or healing them or you are taking fire in the back. A dead hunter might make a good quick snack in a pinch, but is also back in the fight startlingly soon. Consider just incapacitating them unless you know they will go down quick and you’ll be able to eat them without being shot at.

Know your opponents hand

No matter if you are facing the classic four hunters or a mix of higher tier hunters, be familiar before the match with how their abilities can be used to ruin your day in Defend. Assault may have mines (super effective), long range toxic grenades, or potent burst damage. Ditto your other three hunter types, as each has similar abilities that can stack slow effects at range, trap or defend a location, or cause immense burst damage – usually in that order. The play area is very small compared to normal hunt maps, and with basically no fear of death any number of hunters can break off generator defense to chase you when you try to feed – even just slowing you down or pelting you when you feed is enough to keep the fight in their favor. Beware clever cat and mouse tactics. If you get distracted from feeding, turrets or generators for very long and it won’t matter how many times you kill the hunters – when the time is up they win.

Listen for audible callouts (or turn on subtitles) for when the hunters use key abilities. You’ll hear “switching to mines!” before Markov places a mine, which at close quarters gives you only seconds to avoid or destroy the mine. The same is true for most hunter special abilities.

Watch the clock

Keep a close eye on both your minion wave spawn timer (it also has an audible sound) as well as the match timer. If or when the match timer reaches two minutes, you need to know how much health the generator or power source has left and move to assist your minions. Use the minion timer to gauge if you should attack the generator yourself or wait for a wave. If you time it right, you can destroy the generator with the minions and have them survive to charge the next target – even though they are likely to die almost immediately to turret fire they might do a little damage if they weren’t too badly injured.

At the power source, feed and do your best to dismantle the front turrets first without getting overwhelmed, and feed as often as possible until the final two minute warning. At that point you’ll need to have also destroyed the rear turrets and be ready to engage the power source with everything you have left and push for the hard earned win.

In this last phase food is dangerously close to the fighting area, making it easier for hunters to deny your snacks when you flee. While the turrets are still up they can easily kill your minions and have a lot time to focus on you before the next minions spawn. This is where a lot of matches end in a hunter win and if you took a lot of health damage in earlier risky fights, it will be that much harder to survive.

Don’t die to wildlife

I see you laughing, but the “food” in Defend usually bites back. Those annoying (and yummy) electrified tentacle faced raptor critters can take a huge chunk out of your shields if you aren’t on your A game and are usually in pairs. This can cost you almost all of the shield you hoped to get by eating them – a costly delay when seconds matter and hunters might be bearing down on you. For the same reason, if you have no shields choose a less violent food first when possible or at least be very sure to get a clean kill when you engage them.

The giant sloth beasts or other aggressive wildlife may actually help you if you pass them up as a snack without enraging them. Better they attack a pursuing hunter than you, and if you’re super lucky the hunter’s team is distracted and you get a free incapacitated hunter.

Win day four in Evacuation

Days one through three of evacuation are a wash once day four arrives. As a monster this is your semifinal, lose this and on day five the turrets get extra armor. What started as an uphill fight now borders on impossible, as the turrets no longer crumble after a few hits and will make trapjaw food out of your minions. Know your map modes, and if you luck out you might get Nest on day four for a relatively good shot at a win. Succeed, and instead of turrets with extra armor, your minions have extra armor. Now, it’s a party. Time to evict some hunter scum!

See you on Shear.

Five of my favorite video game heroines

1) Amanda Ripley (Alien: Isolation)

Easily one of my favorite characters of any game, Amanda Ripley is the highlight of what might be one of the best games ever made. Alien: Isolation borders on perfect as a beautiful space/horror/survival title, and it owes a good deal of it’s success to its character writers. As the daughter of Ellen Ripley somewhere loosely following the events of the original 1979 Alien movie, Amanda is a skilled engineer whose quest to find out what happened to her mother leads her to take jobs that could one day lead her closer to the mystery surrounding the ill-fated towing ship. As the story progresses and she finds herself hunted as her mother once was, she uses her technical know-how and wits (rather than force) to evade all manner of gruesome death and find critical clues about her mother and her missing crew and the origins of the alien menace. The heart of this sci-fi thriller turns out to be very human, even occasionally touching – and never dull.

2) Cassandra (Dragon Age: Inquisition)

Although Cassandra is not quite a playable character outside of the combat sequences, she is otherwise central to the story in Dragon Age: Inquisition and definitely deserves a spot on a “best of” list of video game heroines. As a complex character defined equally by her flaws, faith, doubts and personal conviction, Cassandra lends a face and voice to a myriad of difficult moral conflicts told in the third Dragon Age. The game as a whole sports some of the best video gaming writing ever penned, and in a story that weaves together many modern issues including religion, war, government, sexuality and individualism, Cassandra’s personal character arc(s) capture more sense of growth and depth than found in any medium, let alone just games. She’s also somewhat of a rare gem, being a strong religious type that narrowly avoids every archetype she might have been compared to – and turns out to be a very likable, believable character that remains true to herself.

3) Max (Life is Strange)

Not quite your literary “everygirl” , the introspective and shy main character Max navigates the perils of high school, family, bullying, drugs and time travel in this unique and stunningly beautiful story-driven game from DONTNOD. We learn more about Max and the other characters in Life is Strange through the choices she makes, questions she asks, and places she explores. No matter if the player opts to make fun of the embarrassed bully or comfort her (among numerous other decision forks), the tale of choice and consequence that develops is far from ordinary.

4) Lara Croft (Tomb Raider 2013)

Unlike the character’s hyper-sexualized prior titles, the reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise in 2013 features the origin story of a much more believable, exceptionally well written young Lara Croft. As a shipwrecked student thrust into an epic, gritty story of survival she must work with the other members of the stranded science team to solve mysteries of the island ruins and escape.

5) Maggie (Evolve)

Even though one could argue that the playable hunter characters in “Evolve” aren’t in the same category of hero as the previously mentioned titles, Turtle Rock and 2K managed to squeeze in a surprising amount of “apparent depth” to the characters, dialog and almost-present plot arc in what is otherwise a pure PvP Battle Arena style game. Admittedly no less of a trope than the British safari guy with a white mustache, the grizzled would-be-at-home-in-the-Louisiana-bayou tracker and her alien pet dog pack some of the most interesting dialog and back story in the game.

Evolve Beta: The Good, the Bad and the Delicious

Image credit: Gamespot / 2k / Turtle Rock
Image credit: Gamespot / 2k / Turtle Rock

When does poor teamwork become a game flaw, and not just the burden of the player? In Evolve – an insanely fun 2K / Turtle Rock production that pits four hunters against one player controlled boss monster – the answer is far from clear.

The Good

Spoilers – I had a blast playing beta. Despite some rough edges, most of my matches were vigorous and rewarding no matter which side I played, win or lose. The graphics are fantastic and the combat is over the top, but what surprised me the most was that the characters, simple plot and dialog were actually very clever for a game that doesn’t really need much of a story. The short prologue fit in more character and plot than some games manage in their entire span, and the evacuation story mode shows much promise. Character advancement and unlock options within a given role (medic, trapper, support and assault) add a rich layer to team building possibilities, just as the multiple types of monsters and abilities each have very specific strengths.

The Bad

Evolve’s most unique feature can at times be the most frustrating one. Balancing the main abilities of each type of hunter against a single, far more powerful foe necessitates tight teamwork on the part of the hunters. I’ve only been in *one* winning match where not all of the hunters were on task, and it was a close match against a monster who’s heart might not have been in the fight, either.

I cannot overstate the discouragement felt when I enter a match as a medic and one or more of the party randomly breaks off from the party hunting dog’s lead or trail to go fight random wildlife, explore, or just go AFK. This match turns into either a very short or painfully long but easy win for the monster. As a hunter you are at the mercy of the match-making system unless you always game with a premade team of friends.

With all that said, is this an actual flaw in the game design? In some cases,  simple fixes like a “vote to kick / downrank player” party match making feature might help with chronically bad teams, but it might come with its own problems. Furthermore I’d be wary of any enhancements that also benefit a good team, since four competent hunters are exceedingly difficult to kill as a relatively new monster.

To be fair, this problem is shared to a lesser degree by any multiplayer RPG/Shooter with raids or dungeons. Also, Evolve does have a solo play mode although I am not certain if progression there carries over to multiplayer, which may or may not be a good thing if it did.

The Delicious

In the end, the sum of Evolve’s flaws and strengths turns out to be outrageously fun, most of the time. The thrill of a properly executed hunter team victory is matched only by the feeling of devouring a worthy team of opponents as the monster. I look forward to wrecking havoc when it is released February 10 – with friends. 🙂

Below is more havoc, from beta.

Evolve Beta fun with the Kraken:

https://t.co/gSc2fh2eFg

Goliath goes on a “see-food” diet:

https://account.xbox.com/en-us/gameclip/ee62d501-1eb1-4855-87ba-1bb2567a0dc8?gamerTag=BadDaddyDragon&scid=03a80100-9ff3-46ea-be76-e00e7fe465df