It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m a big fan of digital adaptations of board games. I even did a two-part series of the best board game apps earlier this year. At this point, I might need to do a third installment so I can include Evolution to that list, especially now that the Climate expansion is available!
The game, published by North Star Games, gives players the power to influence the evolution of species vying for survival. It’s a card game with relatively simple mechanics that force players to adapt their species to the ever-changing ecosystem. You can play trait cards to a species to grant more versatility and survivability, or even turn them into carnivores to feast on the surrounding species just catching a drink at the local watering hole.
With Evolution: Climate, the base game is taken a step further. In determining the available food supply, you now need to be wary of the climate. Cards will influence the Climate track, either contributing to a deep freeze or soaring temperatures. Certain species are more suitable to one climate or the other, but the extreme ends of the spectrum are detrimental no matter your characteristics.
Although I enjoyed the base game of Evolution, I found that Evolution: Climate really elevates the gameplay to a level that forces you to strategize during all parts of the game. Before, if I was primarily playing carnivores, I would mostly look to play my lowest food cards to the watering hole. That way, the other species would have fewer scraps to fight over, leaving my meat-hungry carnivores to clean up the pieces.
Now, however, there’s a completely new dimension to the game. The Climate track has an impact on food supply, as well as an impact on certain species depending on their Body Size. However, you can also play around these and adapt your game by playing traits or focusing on building species whose sizes won’t be impacted.
Smaller species are more impacted by the Cold end of the track, while larger species are in danger of overheating on the Hot end. Like I said before, however, reaching the Ice Age or Scorching ends of the track are cataclysmic, and can decimate most species if those spots are reached.
Evolution: Climate Strengths
Having played through the entire tutorial and over ten games with the Climate Expansion, I have a good basis of understanding regarding the game’s strengths and weaknesses. Let’s start with the things that the game and app do really well. After all, I want the app to streamline the physical version of the game, and provide mobile entertainment for gaming on the go.
Even though the mechanics of Evolution and Evolution: Climate aren’t terribly complex, the tutorial goes into plenty of depth so that you feel like you can hit the ground running and play the game. There’s a lot of chat and tooltips to help you in your journey at mastering the basics of evolving your species.
One thing that sometimes irks me during tutorials is that after things click, you’re still locked into performing certain actions or making specific moves. And while there is some of that here, there are points in the tutorial where you’re instructed to play however you like to finish the turn. I really appreciate this, because it allows me to validate my understanding of how the game works.
Since the Evolution: Climate app wasn’t publicly released at the time that I previewed it, that meant the majority of my testing was with AI players after the tutorial lessons. AI Players are tricky; some games have ridiculously easy AI while others tend to make it impossible to win. Evolution: Climate has a really great system for selecting AI players!
You can choose from Easy, Medium, Hard, or Expert AI players to curate your experience. On top of that, within each difficulty range there are six personas that will tend to play a specific way. What I really like about this is that you can work at getting better against specific strategies, which makes your overall game better and more rounded.
This might seem obvious, but the Climate track that is introduced with the expansion is so great. To those of you that already play the base game of Evolution, you know that North Star Games knows that they have a winner that enhances the base game enough that it warrants its own packaging with the base game. That’s right – the physical version of Evolution: Climate is bundled with the base game instead of as a standalone expansion.
What I love about the Climate track is that it creates this tangible tug and pull between the other players. It’s clear that certain people want the track to go a certain way, and you are either egging them on or trying to go in the other direction. Not only are you trying to keep your species alive, but now you need to make sure they don’t freeze!
Evolution: Climate Weaknesses
One of the draws of the app is that the text size can be quite small or hard to read. Even when you tap and hold on a card to get a better look, it doesn’t always pop-up in the most intuitive place. As a right-handed person, oftentimes the expanded text would appear directly under my hand, essentially being blocked.
Overall, the contrast of the text could be increased, and there could be more areas where tapping and holding would give you more information. For example, tapping and holding on the blue circles in the Climate track could give a reminder about the effects against Body Sizes. It just seems to be missing something that could make the readability better.
Another thing I wish the Evolution: Climate app had was a way to access the rulebook in-game. Caveat – there might be a way but it wasn’t intuitive enough for me to find. I do feel that the rules are easy enough to understand and remember, but this is one of the things that I always look for in a digital adaptation.
In my opinion, it’s just a vital component to the game. I shouldn’t have to exit to the main menu to get a link to the rules. If I’m playing against online opponents, this simply isn’t an option. I’d also prefer the rulebook to be fully contained within the game. As it stands, there’s just a link that pulls you out of the game to a website where the rules reside. It’s just a little bit less than ideal.
Evolution: Climate Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, Evolution: Climate is an elegant game presented in a believable thematic package. Evolution was a game that I was fairly meh about before Climate came onto the scene, and now it’s much harder for me to put it down. You can get through an entire game in about 15-30 minutes, depending on player count and whether they’re real or AI. That’s perfect for on-the-go gaming.
There are Daily Challenges that help keep the game fresh, in a similar way to how the Cartographers app or Railroad Ink Challenge present the game. It’s a fun way to see how you stack up against others in a given scenario.
Evolution: Climate is available as of November 18th by North Star Digital Studios on Android and iOS devices. Be sure to check it out!
Disclaimer: North Star Digital Studios provided Nerds on Earth with a TestFlight copy of the Evolution: Climate app in exchange for an honest preview.