We have all tried a companion app before. They are usually just some weird, shoehorned idea that does not really help your game experience, or can sometimes makes it worse. Games like Assassin's Creed Unity recently dropped the necessity for its companion app, which was previously blocking access to game content. Then there are companion apps like the one for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, which was simply a clone of content that already existed in the game. (maybe Assassin's Creed should stop doing companion apps...). Like us, many others could not even imagine what an Evolve match three companion app would be, or that it would be of any use. But after using the Evolve: Hunters Quest app for several hours, it was instrumental to both character mastery leveling and pre-match information.
So what is this Evolve: Hunters Quest companion app? Well, the first part is a match three strategy puzzle game. Yeah, an Evolve puzzle game, but you might be surprised at how well they have adapted it to the match three model. The companion app brings many of the game's aspects over, from characters and their abilities, wildlife, boss battles, and a healthy dose of strategy. Matching three (or more) of a character's respective class icon provides them with energy, and at certain energy thresholds each character can use a new attack or ability. The level of detail is surprising though, for they have adapted the respective weapons and skills each character has in nuanced and interesting ways. For example, Markov's lightning gun damages all enemies, but also causes the enemies to lose a turn, effectively stunning/shocking the enemy. Alternatively, Hyde's flamethrower also damages all enemies, but leaves a DoT on them for a second round of burn damage. It is nice to see the effort into making each character genuinely feel different, to where they could have easily fallen into being clones of each other.
Speaking of, every character that launched with Evolve is in the mobile app. You take the same first team (Val, Hank, Maggie, & Markov) that you get from Evolve through chapter one of Evolve: Hunters Quest. Also, just like in the main game you are hunting the Goliath, where you chase him throughout three areas. You catch up with the monster sporadically as he progresses to stage three. The monsters are well adapted to mobile too, even though I found the fights with wildlife sometimes more challenging. Similar to the hunters, the monster has tokens on the board too. Making three monster token matches fills up the monster's ability meter, allowing it to damage the hunters and mess up the board.
Managing the board is vital to this game. In every wildlife encounter there are several rounds, and each creature has a specified target on your team they will attack if given the chance. You must prioritize what creature to kill first, or change that creature's priority to another hunter. Every hunter has a skill that pulls the enemy's aggro to themself, allowing you to spare a weaker teammate a fatal blow. This makes lining up tokens on the board crucial to surviving; you might need to match three or four medic tokens to heal the team, or grab five support tokens to go invisible to avoid big damage. Also the board stays the same between rounds too, so sometimes you want to save a big move for the next round instead of wasting it on a weak enemy.
Even with all the strategy at your disposal, sometimes it just is not enough. I found it exceedingly difficult to get through the first two areas of chapter three. You can always go back and replay levels for experience, Mastery Points and collectibles, but you can only do that so much before the replayed level yields no experience. Plus, when it is the very first mission or two in a brand new chapter, there are not any levels to grind experience out on. It is a poor decision to have such a large difficulty spike here instead of the fourth chapter. What this does is it gives the misconception that the third group of hunters are weak, but in actuality they are some of the best in Evolve proper.
The free-to-play model never really showed itself until the third chapter. Clearly it is where they would like you to pay money for boosts before a match, or pay for team healing and revives when you are really backed into a corner. Fortunately you can buy the important stuff (healing and revives) with Mastery Points you collect from dead enemies or completing beastiary entries, albeit at a hefty price. In chapter three I must have failed the second mission 15 times, then finally gave in and spent my saved Mastery Points to beat the mission.
Speaking of Mastery Points, let's talk about the second part of the Evolve: Hunters Quest companion app. Here you can "connect to Evolve", where you can watch replays, buy Mastery progression for Evolve with Mastery Points, access stats, strategies, maps and more. Buying the Mastery boosts for a hunter provides them 50% progress towards that Mastery level. For example , this would reduce the required points to master Val's Med Gun from 16,000 to only 8,000. The benefits from completing Masteries in Evolve are fundamental, from unlocking new hunters and maximizing a hunter's damage and abilities. Also the maps feature in the companion app helps you to get a feel for what trapper or passive ability you should be using that match. If it is a small map, then maybe bring Griffin since he could cover the majority of the area in radar spikes.
After finally beating the four chapters, *SPOILERS* you then start the Silver playthrough. Things get tough here, but there are plenty of bronze levels you can grind some experience on. The problem I had here is you are still stuck playing with a preset group of hunters. In chapter four of the Bronze playthough you get to put any four hunters together, which is more in line with how Evolve actually works. So it is a bit disappointing when they take the ability away from you to make a custom team. You get ample time to learn and use each set of hunters in the first three chapters, and Evolve it is about the amalgamation of any of the hunters.
Evolve: Hunters Quest is a great adaptation of Evolve. It does a surprisingly good job at taking a lot of concepts from the main game and implementing them to a match three puzzler. The ability to make a custom team is great, but it is barely in the game. The large difficulty spike in chapter three tainted what was a really fun and fascinating experience. It is both a useful tool for the Evolve main game, but can stand alone as a good mobile game as well. It was easy to pick up a quick match or two at lunch, bank some Mastery Points, then get back to work. Even if you don't play Evolve this is a good strategy match three puzzle game.
- + fun and thoughtful match three puzzle game
- + Mastery Boosts make quick work of sometimes quirky hunter masteries
- - inability to make custom teams when you want, which is unlike Evolve
Time played: 20 hours (on Android)
Available platforms: Android, iOS and Windows devices
Costs: free to play