There’s no question that 2003 is going to be a great year for role playing games, what with a half dozen companies developing some of the finest adventures with the best visuals we’ve ever seen. But it wasn’t always this way. In the days of the 8-bit NES and 16-bit Genesis and S-NES, role playing games were thought of as nothing more than a niche genre, one that was not profitable, or worth paying much attention to.
In this time period, gamers were subjected to simple adventure games that offered very little in the way of a fun role playing experience. Most of the stories weren’t very interesting, and frankly, the games didn’t exactly jump off the screen. With only a few exceptions, role playing games were pretty dull in the late 80s.
In many ways, Evolution Worlds has more in common with those “average” role playing games than, say, a new Final Fantasy title. It features a pretty generic story, barely passable graphics, longwinded cinemas filled with utterly ridiculous dialog, and a quest that almost nobody cares about. Simply put, if you thought Final Fantasy VII marked the death of your kind of role playing game, then buddy, Evolution Worlds is your game!
The quest behind this World is pretty simple, it’s split into a couple of different cities, each with their own place to get quests, and meet back once you’ve completed your task. Every single mission includes some sort of tunnel maze that usually involves a lot of searching for staircases and running into rats, moles, and other generally icky looking enemies.
I’m not against games with dungeons, after all, Neverwinter Nights was one of my favorite games of 2002, and I have loved ever Legend of Zelda thus far. It’s just that Evolution Worlds has quite simply some of the dullest mazes you’ll ever come across. Early on you only have to find your way through ten floors, but as the game progresses you’ll find yourself exploring up to 25 floors in one mission.
While I would like to say that each floor has a unique look, or color, or even texture, that is sadly not the case. Evolution Worlds has a way of making everything look the same, no matter where you are. Not only does everything look the same, but the dungeons seem to have no ceiling, making this game look a lot like the early attempts at first person shooters in the 1990s.
The fighting set up is fairly simple, and for the most part well put together. It’s pretty basic in scope, limiting your actions to the basics: attack, escape, defend, items, etc. If you’ve played any role playing game, you will have absolutely NO problem navigating the menus. Like many other aspects of Evolution Worlds, it feels like the game is intended to be an introduction into “role playing games”. So, if you have never played an RPG, you probably won’t have much trouble figuring out the menus.
And even if you do have problems, there is more information on how to play in the instructions than any other book I’ve seen. It even comes with its own FAQ page, which ends up spanning a few pages. This is clearly not meant to topple the Final Fantasy franchise.
The game is not just easy to play, it’s easy in general. I played through the entire quest and didn’t die once. In fact, only two of my characters died the entire game, and both of those were on purpose, trying to upgrade my magic (we’ll get into that in a moment). There aren’t really any puzzles to solve, it’s mostly just getting into battles, defeating the creatures, and then finding your way to the next part of the dungeon.
One of the limiting things about Evolution Worlds, is the general lack of playable characters. You always control Mag Launcher, a young adventure seeker with a backpack that looks, and acts, a little like a Swiss Army Knife. Outside of Mag, though, there are only a few characters you to pick from for your party, only one or two of which are really any use at all.
Gre is the well dressed butler, who packs a shotgun to keep him safe. Linear is your basic young girl with a mysterious past. While you end up having to save her, and she ends up being the key to the whole story, you never really get the feeling that there’s much character development.
There’s also a character named Chain Gun, who not only sports an unfortunate name, but also looks an awful lot like a boy. It wasn’t until I switched on the sound and heard the voice that I realized that Chain was indeed a girl. Of course, this is really the least of this game’s worries.
Each of the characters has a unique skill, which works in a similar fashion to magic in most other role playing games. Linear is the only one who really conjures up magic, but all characters have their own abilities. Mag, for example, has a lot of extremely powerful rushing attacks he does with his Swiss Army backpack. Some of these skills get a little odd, as is the case with Gre, who teaches manners, serves poisonous meals, and cleans around the fighting area.
The skills can only be earned when you use them, and can only be used in order. This seems like a good idea at first, but actually ends up making you do a few things you may not normally want to do. I found that in order to advance Linear’s healing magic along, I had to use the magic resurrected a team member. Problem is, the game is so easy, you likely won’t ever lose a character. So more than one time I ended up having one of my characters perish, for no other reason than to use Linear’s spell.
While only a hand full of the skills are particularly useful, almost all of them are entertaining to watch. There are a lot of Gre’s spells that seem to do absolutely nothing, but had me in stitches because of the touches in the animation. This is not to say the game looked good, but by this time I was starving for something good to say.
By the time you’ve earned all of the skills, you’ll likely have grown weary of the repetitive game play, the dragging story, and overall lack of originality. This isn’t the worst role playing game, but if you’re not a fan, this isn’t going to win you over, either. Let’s face it, after you’ve played Final Fantasy X, or any other recent high profile role playing game, it’s hard to even look at a game like this.
It’s a shame that the GameCube lacks good role playing games, but frankly, Evolution Worlds isn’t going to quench your appetite. You’re better just waiting for something, anything, better.
If you had a check list for every role playing game clichÃ©, you would likely run out of ink checking off the boxes for Evolution Worlds. The best thing about this title is that youâ€™ve seen this all before, quite a few times, in fact.