By Kate Gray
Turtle Rock have us pegged. They've been slowly announcing Evolve's three monsters, building up to a crescendo and whipping us all into a fear-driven frenzy. First, there was Goliath, the tank with high strength but low speed, who looked like a bodybuilder filled with lava. The stuff of nightmares. Then came Kraken, the bat-squid with wizard powers, harnessing the fear within us all of the dread beast Cthulhu. But this last monster—this final reveal—is the deadliest of all. Because Wraith is... a woman.
Well, not technically a woman. More of a female creature. But just look at those curves. Wraith is a stealth-focused assassin with blade arms—what Ezio's might look like after a horrible nuclear accident, perhaps. Like the other two monsters, she has four special abilities up her... uh... tentacles, but with a greater emphasis on subterfuge and confusion.
Her first, Warp Blast, turns her unique warp traversal ability into a short-range, focused offensive move. Her second, Abduction, allows her to grab and move any one of the Hunters - useful for removing the Medic or for isolating the team one-by-one for easier killing. Then, there's Decoy, which turns the monster invisible and creates a clone to distract the Hunters while you escape to regenerate health. Lastly is Supernova, the most powerful of Wraith's attacks but a bit of a last resort.
As all the monsters so far have varied wildly from each other, so does Wraith. Her focus on stealth feeds in better to the Hunt mechanics than the other two—when two-thirds of the game is about escaping, it's quite handy to have a monster that's a little bit good at that. It does mean, however, that once it gets down to the third stage, where your monster's all beefed up on steroids and dinosaur meat, that Wraith is a bit lacking. She doesn't pack a huge punch, and her powers suggest a more hit-and-run strategy than Goliath's heavy melee attacks or Kraken's long-range lightning.
In other modes, Wraith shines. Two of the game modes—Defend and Nest—supply you with minions. Nest allows you to hatch one minion at a time from six eggs that need protecting, but hatching a minion means technically destroying one of your eggs, so that tiny Goliath better be worth it. Defend gives you two respawning Goliath minions, so you can set them to work bashing away at the generators while you deal with the Hunters a little more delicately - the brain to Goliath's brawn. Therein lies the appeal of Wraith: she's the go-to monster for those who prefer tricks and tactics to mindless melee.
The appeal of Evolve's class system will either make or break the game. The 12 Hunters - divided into four classes of three - provide 81 different combinations, the success of which hinges on the ability and creativity of the players. A brilliant, well-oiled team will have no trouble in tracking down and slaughtering the poor monster, with tactics so varied and so clever that even Turtle Rock haven't figured them out yet. One tactic they describe is to kill Elite wildlife—which offer perks upon their death—only to resurrect it with the Medic Lazarus, tag it with a tracking dart courtesy of a Trapper and release it. Hopefully, the monster will potter over, devour said monster in hopes of receiving a bonus only to find that they've now got a tracking dart in their tum and oh dear, now they're on fire. It's brilliant, sneaky stuff.
But that's where it gets a bit unfair. At the moment, the game seems perfectly balanced, with a complicated system of levelling up and handicaps and win bonuses that all come together to make it seem very cleverly thought out indeed. But when that well-oiled team of Hunters comes along, they've got the smarts of up to four people—and that monster only ever has the smarts of one. One singular smart. It's easier to be outwitted, beaten, cut into pieces and sold as a lasagne if there's only one of you, even if you do have big tentacle claws.
Of course, that's assuming the multiplayer participants all know each other. If you're playing with strangers, it's not hard to assume that perhaps the monster will have the upper hand/tentacle claw if the four Hunters all run around like headsetless chickens. Given that the premise and the foundations of the game are so strong, I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt when it comes to how it will hold up to large numbers of players. Maybe it will all balance itself out in the end, like one of those self-righting Weebles. Evolve might wobble—but it probably won't fall down.