App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Evolution is a really clever board game that’s all about adapting to the play of your opponents. Each player is responsible for making their own set of species in a competition over food, and whoever gives the right traits to their creatures will dominate the food chain and starve out the others. The digital adaptation of this game brings the same great gameplay to your phone or tablet, though it’s not exactly an elegant or pretty adaptation.
Evolve or die
In Evolution, up to four players are competing to make the most successful species possible. Doing this is surprisingly simple. Players are dealt hands of cards full of traits, and they can use these cards to assign new characteristics to existing species, expand a species population/size, or create a new species. The purpose of creating and augmenting species is so your creatures can survive a fight for food at the end of a round.
Food is the all important resource in Evolution. It lets your creatures stay alive and also grants you victory points. At the start of each round, players pitch in a card from their hand that has a food value on it, and that becomes the pool that players fight over when the round ends. Players take turns eating the available food, and any creatures left without food to eat die. All food eaten is then added to each player’s score and a new round begins.
On its face, Evolution might just sound like a game about efficient population expansion. As more food becomes available, you create more species. While this is largely true, the game also has some additional mechanics that ensure that you and other players will always be making adjustments and changes. For example, players can throw in cards with negative food values, which can drastically lessen the amount of food available in a round. Alternatively, players can transform their species into carnivores, which forces them to attack other species to gain their food rather than pick from the available pool.
These additions to the game give Evolution a constantly shifting meta-game. You always have to see what other players are introducing to the ecosystem and figure out how to undercut the strengths they’re building upon. Sometimes, you’ll want to work on shorting the food supply if players have created a large population of defensive herbivores. In other situations, you may want to create carnivores to wreak havoc on lots of little, weak species. In every game of Evolution, you’ll have to be hyper responsive to thwarting your opponents’ attempts to establish dominance, which makes it a pretty thrilling and cutthroat game.
Sometimes when playing Evolution, you can see exactly what would help you counter your opponents’ strategy, but you just aren’t drawing the cards to do it. The randomization of card draw is both the game’s blessing and curse. It makes things both more dynamic and--at times--frustrating.
Outside of its core design, this digital version of Evolution has its own, unique set of issues. Before I get to that though, let me just say that the game also has one of the best multiplayer designs for a mobile game I’ve seen. If you ever have to drop out of a match, the game just replaces you with AI, allowing players that are able to stay through a full match continue playing undisturbed. It’s certainly not a perfect solution, but it’s much better than requiring four players to maintain a solid connection on their phones to play a board game for upwards of 30 minutes in order to finish a match.
Ok, so now to the bad stuff about this digital version. Matches of Evolution: The Video Game take place on a strange, unnatural-looking game board, menus sometimes cover each other so you can’t read card descriptions, and the game is so focused on streamlining stuff from the board game that it can be difficult to keep tabs on other players to see how you’re performing mid-match. None of these are huge issues, but they are certainly noticeable and can make you wish you were playing the physical version.
The bottom line
Evolution is a solid board game and this mobile version is pretty good, though not immaculate. There’s some elements of chance here, and a healthy dose of clunkiness, but the underlying game is capable of cutting through these issues for the most part to provide a solid multiplayer experience.