Evolution - Reader Retroview  

Bad Theory
by JuMeSyn

12-20 hours


Rating definitions 

   Sting is a developer known for doing interesting and varied things with its titles. Thus I expected something interesting from Evolution, which is regarded primarily in the collective consciousness as the Dreamcastís first RPG. And yes, the game does have its interesting parts. Unfortunately they are smothered behind a great deal of boredom that results from doing the same thing over and over.

   Evolution is essentially a dungeon hack with quite a few random elements that impact negatively upon the experience. Upon entering a dungeon, the player will control Mag Launcher and his two companions running around and exploring it. Naturally enemies are also running about the dungeon, though at least they are visible and can be avoided most of the time. Colliding with enemies results in battle, with initiative granted by hitting the enemies from the rear. Enemies can gain the initiative over the player also, though either side getting initiative is more finicky than in most titles with a system like this.

Meet Gre Nade, without a doubt the most atypical butler name yet derived. Meet Gre Nade, without a doubt the most atypical butler name yet derived.

   Battle itself is turn-based and fairly standard. There is a meter in the upper right of the screen to delineate when enemies and protagonists get their turns, though it is mutable. The major difference here from most turn-based battles lies in the rows: there are three rows, with the front one offering faster turnaround compensated for with decreased defense and the rear row offering the inverse. Most of the time the middle row works well enough, however. Otherwise battle is unremarkable, with experience being awarded post-combat but no money. Skills (instead of magic) are learned via TP which is awarded after every battle, and can be attributed at the playerís whim.

   Navigating the dungeons will locate treasure chests, which naturally require looting. And it is here that the random aspects begin to pop up. The dungeons (save one with a lot more story than the rest) are all randomly generated, which causes them to look exactly the same from floor to floor. Without a little auto-map in the bottom right corner, navigating these things would be very difficult thanks to the lack of landmarks. What will be in a treasure chest is also randomly determined. Oftentimes the player will come across an awful lot of junk that is nearly worthless, cramping available inventory space. Randomly generated traps also litter the dungeons, causing a large variety of effects that are usually unwelcome but do aggravate.

   Inventory is limited to 32 items with a way back in town to store excess. 32 may sound like a fair number, particularly as equipped items are not included. But the many chests scattered around the dungeons will very quickly swamp the inventory and force constant usage/disposal of extraneous items. A bit of useless dialogue also occurs every time something is bought and sold in town, which gets very annoying after it has occurred often enough. The menus are reasonably responsive, at least. One very annoying issue has to do with skill acquisition however; a character not currently being used still gains TP, and there is a limit of 9999. If a character is not used plenty of TP will be wasted, and changing characters requires leaving the dungeon.

Itís Saturday night at the arena and Mag has brought the PAIN!!! Itís Saturday night at the arena and Mag has brought the PAIN!!!

   The story of Evolution is pretty basic and unimpressive. Mag Launcher is looking after Linear Cannon, sent to him by his father with instructions to keep her safe. Mag is also trying to repay his familyís debt, thus necessitating adventures in dungeons. After completing the first dungeon some 8th Imperial Army forces show up and eventually figure into the plot, in a twist any RPGamer can see coming a mile away. The major draw is some unique character names: Gre Nade, Chain Gun and Pepper Box in addition to Mag and Linear. The translation by Ubi Soft is whimsical and fun, though peppered with punctuation and spelling errors.

   Aesthetically there isnít a great deal to say. Evolution certainly looks pretty good in battle, though later Dreamcast games would surpass it. Sadly the random dungeon layouts all look the same and get very monotonous. As to the audio, the music seems to channel New Age for most of the dungeon-wandering, and while it isnít BAD the effect is definitely sleep-inducing. There is a bit of voice acting in battle, which Ubi Soft kindly left in Japanese for the ease of its bottom line.

   The game could probably be completed in around 10 hours if one wanted to rush through it. That is a harder task than I anticipated, however, for most of the bosses in this game are brutal. Level-grinding will probably be necessary for a few of them, and the paucity of bosses means this is the nearly a majority. Conveniently the only places in the game where defeat means Game Over are boss battles, as losing to a regular enemy just incurs more debt to pay off. As to replay, once the main plot is finished the ability to go back into all the dungeons is present Ė to collect lots of money to pay off more in-game debt.

   Evolution isnít necessarily terrible, but the game is pretty dull for most of its length. Even if a player was to rush through, the plot is very sparse until the final stretch. Running around randomly generated dungeons looking for the randomly generated exits to the next randomly generated floor with randomly generated treasure and randomly generated traps causing confounding effects gets boring without much time passage. Sting has a reputation of creating interesting games, but did not succeed here.

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