Although big boss monsters have been a part of gaming for decades, it's not very often that you play a game where the vast majority of it is fighting them. Usually you have to wade through the enemy soldier clones or the hired mercenaries and their various gadgets and hardware before you face off against the big bad. Not so with Evolve though, which looks to have successfully captured the essence of a boss battle, without the pattern attacks and quick time events.
However it's far from the first game to do so. While it might be quite unique in its asymmetric multiplayer focus and mix of third and first person perspectives, other games like Monster Hunter and Dark Souls have been doing this for years and while very different in their gameplay, could teach Evolve a lot about how to make these sorts of fights fun in the long term. Having little experience in the latter though, it's the former that I want to look at today, and all of things that the Evolve developers could crib from the Japanese phenomenon, to improve what's already there and keep Evolve feeling fresh over the next few months and years.
Quest variety/Game modes
This isn't something that either game does particularly well – just yet at least. In the case of Monster Hunter, the most fun is almost always found when battling for close to an hour against monsters far larger than yourself. And from my experience of Evolve so far, as alternative as both Nest and Rescue are, they don't really shake the formula up very much. Isolated as they are too, among the more exciting cat and mouse of hunt mode and the desperate back-pedalling of Defend, they don't quite cut it and I think are one of the main reasons some people feel that Evolve is currently a bit content-light.
But Monster Hunter could help fix that. While, as I said, it doesn't blow you away with mission variety, it does have some interesting options that I believe Turtle Rock could use in a similar manner in Evolve.
The first one is the second most common mission in Monster Hunter: capture quests. This would work thematically in Evolve as on several maps Turtle Rock use captured monsters as story elements. Mechanically, it could work similarly to how it does in Monster Hunter: you bring the creature down to a certain amount of health and then you have to “trap,” it.
In the case of MH, that's with a pitfall or shock trap, but in Evolve it could be much more technological. Perhaps you could even have one of the hunters need to bring a specific item instead of something in their standard equipment – that could lead to some interesting tactical decisions. Or the hunters could have to stun it and then use a coordinated attack to create some sort of energy cage in a reverse of the Ghostbusters adage of not crossing the streams.
From the monster's end of things, they could be charged with destroying something at the facility – perhaps starting at stage 3 and taking down the generator – which forces them into close proximity with the hunters. Perhaps the monster is deliberately weakened so can't move as fast, or if it dies, it counts as a loss for the hunters, making deliberate suicide by tyrant a useful tactic.
Another mission that Monster Hunter throws at you now and again is one that involves taking down something big. Something far, far bigger than the already giant monsters you've been fighting with your own weaponry. In those instances, Monster Hunter usually has you fighting from a vehicle of some kind, only occasionally getting in close enough to use your own swords and bowguns. In Evolve, this same principle could be applied. We don't know what is laying the eggs that these current roster of monsters hatch out of – how about something enormous?
Make it practically invincible and therefore requires using the drop ship's guns to take it out. However, with minions being spawned from it now and again, someone has to keep them off you while the other players man the giant cannons on the ship. It would need a lot of tweaking to get right and a custom map with it in mind – and Turtle Rock has said that the Behemoth is the biggest monster they can put in the game – but it would make for some interesting game mechanics that would offer a unique and varied take on the Evolve formula; as well as furthering the game's storyline.
One of my favourite aspects of Monster Hunter is the uncertainty of it all. You begin a game and don't know where a monster is and when you find it, you have no idea how much damage it's going to take to bring it down. Games that can be reduced to just numbers are a great challenge, but they don't have immersion. Pokemon always felt more exciting before you discovered all of the equations behind it all and then you were just hunting for the best roll of the dice, rather than the Pokemon that felt the most powerful.
Evolve has a bit of both in this case. While you don't see damage numbers pop up like magic when you fire – thank god – you do get them at the end and there is a health bar for the monster (something I railed against over two years ago). There's very little thematic reasoning for this and likewise with the bird notifications and the little achievement reminders and helpful tips that you “lost the monster,” if you didn't get the dome quite right. I understand that these might be a necessary hand holding when you first start playing the game, but once you have the hang of it, all they do is pull you out of the monster-hunting experience and remind you that you're playing a game. Not only that, but they encourage people to customise their playstyle to continue along the progression system, which isn't why most of us play games in the first place.
So I propose that Evolve takes another leaf out of Monster Hunter's book, and strips back the information it gives you, either in a new game mode or as part of ranked play to make it more interesting. Having bars for player health and jetpack fuel is fine, but get rid of the Monster's bar. It's too much information. Instead, force players to rely on visual cues that they've damaging them: the visual wounding that the monster receives is a pretty good indicator of this, but it could be scaled up to make it more obvious. Similarly so, why not have the monster stumble a bit when they get below a certain health threshold, signalling the hunters to swarm?
From the monster's side of things, get rid of the hunter's health bars and force the monster to remember just how much damage they are likely to have done to any one player. Since it wouldn't be able to see the visual cues like the hunters can on its much larger form, you could have certain characters ‘smell' differently when they're injured. That way the monster has to be adept at smelling mid combat too but it makes it a little less easy for it to just dive on whoever is the weakest.
And on top of the health bar tweaks, ditch every achievement notification, every pop up and helpful message that you really don't need once you've played the game for a few days. The monster shouldn't know when it's tagged (how would it?), the hunters shouldn't get a pop-up message when birds are disturbed; let them use the noise and the visual clue of birds flying above the trees, or at most, have the HUD pick out individual birds, like some digital assistant is giving you a heads up, rather than the game that you're trying to be immersed in pointing you in the right direction.
Also stop telling me to stick together. I know what I'm doing.
One of the best aspects of Monster Hunter is that when you login to play with your buddies after a short absence, you all tend to look rather different. That's because the gear you play with in Monster Hunter – armour and weapons – is all made from the skin, bones, spit, armour and anything else you can hack off, from the monsters you've slain. That's a fantastic way to not only let everyone stand out, but to let people know just what you have experience in slaying the most.
Now of course Evolve doesn't have custom equipment like Monster Hunter and it doesn't have 30+ monsters to slay, but what it does have and something that could be customised are skins. There's been a lot of problems with people complaining about skins in Evolve and to some extent, it's understandable as nobody wants to pay several pounds for a quick colour palette swap. But those are vanity skins, that's fine really. What seems like it could be tweaked and would make a lot of sesnse to offer up, are much more customised elite skins.
For most people, the current elite skins in the game aren't that impressive. They're all just recolours and artwork tweaks. That said, there's such huge potential for awesome skins that Turtle Rock is missing out on. Yes, weapon skins are great as players can see them and having a custom player model that you can't see seems a bit dumb, but for those that have played a long time, it's a great way to let people know that they are experienced playing as that hunter and are specifically good at taking down certain enemies.
And what better way to show experience than how we do in Monster Hunter, by using the skins, horns and armour plates of our enemies. Give Hyde a modified Goliath head as a helmet, or a couple of minion skulls on his belt. How about Abe sporting a few rips in his otherwise pristine hunting gear or Markov could have some Kraken tentacles augmenting the lightning generator on his back?
With all of the monsters that this game will likely have a year from now and the sheer number of hunters we can expect, there's such a potential for people having really great looking elite skins that not only make them feel like they achieved something by unlocking them, but also show the people they're playing with that they know what they're doing right off of the bat. And it's great for bragging to friends.
Perks that negate ability effects
One thing that Monster Hunter does really well, is offer a huge depth of customisation with weapon loadouts, armour and skills that come part and parcel with those two choices. Evolve doesn't do that and that makes sense for the more inclusive game it's going for – if there's one aspect of Monster Hunter that needs work, it's the learning curve – but that doesn't mean that it can't play with the perk system a little more than it does at the moment.
The perks that are there are great for now and do offer some customisation in the way you play – specifically as the monster – but considering you are very unlikely to take damage boosts or damage reduction if you're not the assault, and won't take jump height after your first few games, the actual customisation of your playstyle is pretty rare. I know with this article coming out less than two weeks after release, we haven't really seen what the community can do with these available perks yet, but I think there's a lot of scope for expansion that I'd like to see Turtle Rock play with.
Taking inspiration from Monster Hunter again, what are some of the interesting ways we could affect the game without overpowering anyone? What about the equivalent of tremor resistance, by making monster knock-backs have less of an effect? For an equivalent to Taunt and its counter, there could be a perk that makes wildlife and things like Kraken's mines, more or less attracted to you. Stamina drain could also carry over well, with a hunter that takes it having the ability to keep shooting at the monster as it runs away, without recharging its stamina.
While there are no “skills” for monsters in Monster Hunter, it could easily steal some inspiration. How about some mildly explosive melee attacks like a Brachydios? Or the ability to increase knockback range? How about a perk that makes the monster's smell ability work even when a player is invisible?
All of these suggestions to Turtle Rock come with the big caveat, that I know the game hasn't been out long, but based on the time I've put into it already, I think it has a lot of potential. That said, there are a lot of things that I think could be added to the game to make it even better and not all of them are inspired by Monster Hunter. However, these are the ones that were and considering there already appear to be a few leafs taken out of that classic series' book, I wouldn't be surprised if Turtle Rock hadn't at least considered a few of these already.
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KitGuru Says: These are just a few of the perks, skins and game modes that could be added to Evolve, based purely on a bit of Monster Hunter inspiration. What are some of the changes you would like to see Turtle Rock make to the game. Bonus points if you can tie them into a game that has a similar boss-battle focus.
Imagesource: Magickcore, various Wikis