Bandits and spiders and snakes, oh my!
You might think Evolution: Battle for Utopia, based on its App Store description, is another game in the free-to-play space that follows the all-too-familiar trend of tap, tap, rinse, repeat style of gameplay. The team at My.com has gone beyond that, though, by expanding on the strategy and resource management format by adding a healthy dose of combat and some light role-playing elements. Have they created a working synergy by blending multiple styles of gameplay, or have they done the opposite and bitten off more than they can chew?
The story setup is fairly straightforward. You and your team are traveling through space to a planet called Utopia (nothing bad could happen there...) to try and determine what happened to the previous research team that was sent to investigate. Shortly after entering Utopia’s atmosphere your ship is blasted out of the sky. You and your team jettison from the mothership and head towards the planet’s surface. Once you arrive you are tasked with finding your team with your trusted companion, robot dog, at your side.
The gameplay portion opens with both you and your dog visible on an isometric-looking map. You can see you downed ship and a portion of the surrounding area. You communicate with your dog (through dialogue panels that you tap to advance), and he warns you that there are enemy spiders nearby and that you must destroy them before you begin your search for the ship’s crew.
This is where your game perspective changes and your visuals turn into a third-person combat role-playing game. If you’ve played any RPG on a console or mobile platform in the last 20 years, this setup should be all too familiar. You see your player (and his dog) in the foreground and anywhere from one to three enemies (in this case, spiders) in the background. The game teaches you the standards for shooting, reloading and shielding yourself from enemy attacks. Once they are destroyed, the game's perspective switches back to the isometric view and a bit of XP/loot harvesting from the dead spiders is in order.
In the next few minutes, you’re able to locate and rescue the other members of your team. Once this task is completed you return to your ship and prepare to do a bit of terraforming along with converting your crashed ship into your new base of operations. After a short cutscene you’re on your way to outfitting your base with the necessary facilities to help with additional harvesting and resource management.
All of the isometric views are used to show the areas of exploration and colonization while the 3D view is used for the combat/role playing elements. As you progress through the game, you’ll fortify your base with a research facility, an arsenal, a mining operation, and a helipad. The structures are constructed by your ship’s engineer but only after your scientist has the necessary time and resources to advance that specific technology. The structures themselves have a predetermined location on your base map so there is no real customization of the overall look of your base. The idea behind everything is to make both yourself and your base more formidable as you progress further into the game.
The combat portion of the game has you fighting all sorts of spiders, snakes, and exploding brain bugs that look like something straight out of Starship Troopers. When you engage in battle, the game automatically targets an enemy and starts to chip away at their health. You can also tap the enemy to fire more rapidly at them. Fans of Gears of War will feel right at home with the familiar active-reload ability when you time your screen tap as the cursor slides along the progress bar.
Perfect timing will give all your shots in your current magazine an added damage boost. You can change which enemies you’re targeting by either tapping them directly or swiping your finger from side-to-side. You can also catch (but not return, unfortunately) grenades that are thrown at you by tapping them before they get too close. Once you have additional weapons unlocked you have the ability to change weapons by tapping on them along with an aimed shot that’s perfect for enemies taking cover behind energy shields.
It took me a couple of days but I was able to find and research a handful of pieces of new technology that gave me new weapons, ammo, and upgrades for my base. The Strormbreaker Pistol is the handgun that unlocks the “Aimed Shot” ability, which requires a short charge between firing but it takes away a good chunk of an enemy’s health bar. I was also able to secure a mine that produces “iron," necessary for further weapon and ammo crafting along with assisting in the construction of new facilities at my base.
As I mentioned a bit earlier, it took “days” to research and construct these items because you are limited with the ability to only research, repair, or build one at a time. If you’re an impatient gamer, this is where the game could be considered a bit frustrating but at the same time you should have known what you were in for when downloading a F2P game of this type. While I can appreciate a bit of slow progression in games like this, there really has to be a good reason to keep me interested in playing.
Where Evolution: Battle for Utopia succeeds most is in the overall narrative. There’s a ton of backstory to all of your crew, the enemies, and the environment, paired with beautifully rendered cutscenes that show your ship transforming into your base and other portions of the planet being terraformed for habitable use. It's definitely a nice surprise to see a lot more time and detail put into modes beyond the standard gameplay.
Once you’ve accessed the research to build the Helipad on your base, it allows you to travel to an area of the game world covered with red dots, which indicates another player’s team that you can go head-to-head with if you choose to do so. If you’re a big fan of the game's RPG battle system or you just want to show off your skills, this is the place to do it. It also would be real easy to determine if someone has potentially spent a few bucks to speed up that process of researching some of the game's better weapons for an advantage in PvP multiplayer.
As you continue to play, you’ll have a bit more variety in the combat. You’ll eventually research and earn grenades that can be used to take out tougher enemies like turrets and chain gun-toting thugs, and you’ll also unlock side missions that will require you to eliminate an enemy threat or hack a security system. My favorite hack is where you connect many colored dots on a grid by dragging your finger from one to the other, think red to red or blue to blue. The key is that as you’re dragging your finger through the grid, none of the colors can intersect with one another. You’re given a few seconds to solve them; otherwise, you have to start over if time runs out and of course it takes a bit of your harvested resources to play each time.
Due to the fact that the resources you’re gathering eventually don’t add up to enough to continue along with research and construction, you may succumb to spending some of your hard-earned cash to further your progression. I mean, ultimately it’s what the developers want you to do. If you’re looking for a resource-management game with some fun, engaging combat with a bit of light RPG flair, Battle: Evolution for Utopia might be a game for you. But if you’re a gamer that doesn't like too wait too long and have no desire to pay to play/play to win in the PvP multiplayer, then you should avoid this.