Released back in 2014, Evolution quickly became a well regarded board/card game about creating and adapting your own species to help them survive. Two years later Evolution: Climate came out which while a standalone game basically took Evolution and expanded on it in order to add a climate element to the game. With how successful Evolution was as a board game, it was not surprising that a video game adaptation was created back in 2019. I took a look at the PC port of Evolution back then and really enjoyed it. I hadn’t played the game for a while, but when I was given the opportunity to check out the game’s first DLC which adds the climate mechanics from Evolution: Climate I was excited to try it out. Evolution and its DLC Climate do a good job adapting the fun gameplay of the board games to a video game that fans of the games should enjoy.
As Evolution and its DLC Climate are faithful replications of the board games, if you are already familiar with the board games you should already know what to expect from the video game adaptations. Evolution at its core is a card game. Your goal is to create species that will survive better than those created by your opponents. Players score points for gathering food throughout the game as well as the population and traits of their species at the end of the game. Each turn consists of a number of steps. First cards are discarded in order to add food to the watering hole. Players will then take turns playing cards from their hands. These cards can be played to add new species, increase the population or size of one of their species, or they can add a unique trait to a species. Players need to play cards in order to help their species gather enough food and protect itself should a predator species arrive.
As I checked out the base game of Evolution on PC around two and a half years ago, I am not going to rehash everything that I said about the game back then. This time I am checking out the game on Nintendo Switch to see how it works on a portable system. Board games in general port quite well to portable systems. This is because the gameplay doesn’t rely on fast action so you can take your time choosing which action you would like to take. Generally the game plays really well on the Nintendo Switch. There are some occasional minor technical glitches, but the game translated well to the handheld system. Honestly if you are looking for a way to take Evolution with you on the go, you can’t really do any better than the Nintendo Switch version of the game.
As for the basic gameplay of Evolution, it still holds up quite well two years later. The gameplay probably won’t be for everyone, but I think most people will enjoy it. I think the gameplay succeeds for a number of reasons. First the game is actually pretty easy to pick up and play. It isn’t quite as simple as some mainstream games, but there is nothing about the mechanics that are particularly hard to understand. It may take a game or two to familiarize yourself with how to approach the game, but once you get over the initial learning curve there is nothing about the game that you should have trouble understanding. Games play pretty quickly (at least against the computer AI) as you could probably finish most games within 15-30 minutes.
While the gameplay is simple, Evolution also finds the right balance of strategy to keep the game challenging enough that you won’t bore of it too quickly. It is easy to play the game, but it is much harder to master it. The game relies on some luck as the cards you are dealt will impact what strategies you can pursue and if you don’t get the cards that work with your strategy it will be harder to win. Good use of your cards will definitely play a role in whether or not you can win the game though. Cards can be used in a number of different ways, so how you choose to use them will play a pretty big role in how well you do. The element of strategy that I enjoyed the most was the fact that the cards are designed in a way where you can create a set of traits that feed off one another. You can create combinations of cards where one card supports another to the point where you can gather a bunch of food quickly or receive other benefits beyond your normal actions. I think the main reason Evolution succeeds is that is is so satisfying when you are able to create a great combo of cards.
So lets get to the Climate DLC. While Evolution: Climate is a standalone board game, as a video game it is a DLC for the original game. This make a lot of sense as the game is very similar to the original DLC. All of the gameplay and cards from the original game are included in Climate. Climate mostly adds new cards and a climate mechanic to the base game. The climate mechanic basically forces you to adapt your species to survive in the ever changing climate as the world warms up or cools down. When players discard cards for food, most of the cards will feature symbols for cold or heat. The climate track will move one space in the direction of the symbol that the players cumulatively played more of. The change in climate will either add or subtract food from the supply. Species that don’t meet certain requirements for the current temperature will also lose population. Most of the new cards add ways to protect species from the temperature changes as well as giving players some new potential combos for their species.
As the Climate DLC mostly adds more to Evolution, your opinion will likely depend heavily on your opinion of the base game. Therefore if you didn’t really care for Evolution, I see no reason why that would change with Climate. The basic gameplay is the same and the interface for the video game adaptation hasn’t changed at all. The same holds true for fans of Evolution. If you liked Evolution, I see know reason why you shouldn’t pick up the Climate DLC.
For the most part Climate adds some more complexity to the base game. In Evolution you have to worry about getting enough food for your species as well as keeping them safe from the other predators. Climate keeps those and adds in an element where you also have to consider the current climate. Players need to always be aware of the current climate and how it might affect their species. A climate change could impact the amount of available food which could lead to some of your species starving. You also need to worry about the temperature itself as your species’ populations can drop pretty quickly if you don’t give them the proper protection from the climate.
So I will say that the climate mechanic does make the game a little more complicated. It does take a little time to get used to handling the climate and making sure you don’t lose population to the climate effects. Generally I think these are nice little additions to the base game. I don’t know if I would play with the climate DLC all of the time, but I thought it does a good job mixing things up bringing new life to the original game. As it makes the game a little more complex, it also adds some more strategy to the game. Between protecting your species from the climate, the new cards also give you new combo opportunities.
I think possibly the most interesting part of the climate mechanic is that you can actually actively use it as a weapon against the other players. As harsh climates are easily the fastest ways to kill off species, you can actually take advantage of it to put yourself into a really favorable position in the game. To illustrate I wanted to point out what happened in one of the games that I played against the computer AI. I would like to point out that this was against easy AI, as it was one of my first games with the DLC, so this likely is an extreme case of what can happen. Basically each round the climate ended up getting colder and colder where the Ice Age effect went into play basically preventing new food from being added to the watering hole for the rest of the game. As my species was the only one protected against the cold, it survived the earlier stages where the temperature dropped killing off all of the other species. I was also able to add some traits that gave my species food even if there wasn’t any in the watering hole. The climate got to the point where it couldn’t warm up quick enough to save the other players. Any species they added each round would die off by the end as they either weren’t protected against the cold or they couldn’t get any food to feed its population. This lead to a blowout as for several rounds I had the only species that actually survived due to the climate.
This is just one example of how the climate can impact the gameplay. It is unlikely to usually end like this as the AI made some stupid decisions along the way. Still the climate gives players one more thing to manipulate in their strategy. While you will usually be protecting yourself against the climate, there are times where you can use it as a weapon against the other players. Because of this addition the game also gives you more cards each turn, and allows you to add a fourth trait to each species. This makes the combos that you can form in the game even more formidable. Creating a combo of cards that feed off of one another is arguably the greatest strength of the base game, so the ability to do even more makes the game even more interesting.
Fans of the Evolution and Evolution: Climate board games should be happy with the video game adaptations of both games. The games have a few issues here and there, but you couldn’t have asked for a much better digital recreation of the game. The base game does a great job mixing simplicity and strategy. It is so satisfying when you are able to create a powerful combo of cards that feed off of one another. The game works quite well as a portable game as well. As for the Climate DLC, it doesn’t drastically change the base gameplay but it makes it a little more complex in order to add some more strategy to the game. The major change to the DLC is that you now have to worry about the current climate. The cards that players discard for food each turn will impact the overall climate. This can either add or remove food from the watering hole and when the temperatures get too high or low it can kill off species surprisingly fast. In addition to the new cards, this adds some interesting new strategies to the game as you can actively use the climate as a weapon against the other players.
My recommendation for Evolution and its DLC are actually pretty straightforward. If you don’t generally care for board/card games or have never really cared for Evolution, I don’t see the game being for you. If you are looking for a good digital board game adaptation, I would highly recommend Evolution. As for the DLC as you need the base game to play it, the decision is also pretty simple. If you enjoyed the base game, I would highly recommend checking out the DLC as it adds just enough tweaks to the original game to give it new life without changing things too drastically.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank North Star Games and North Star Digital Studios for the review copy of Evolution and the Climate DLC used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.