Pre-order incentives are mostly harmless in my estimation. So what if EB Games is offering an exclusive in game weapon for the latest Assassin’s Creed? You aren’t missing out on much if you refuse or are unable to commit to an early purchase. The real danger of downloadable content lies in console exclusive bonuses. Whether you’re enticed by the prospect of playing as Raiden in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes or an entire expansion as in the case of Destiny, the fact remains that console exclusive DLC frustrates gamers by playing favorites. That is what makes last Friday’s Evolve announcement all the more troubling.
You see, now that the game has gone gold and with a beta set to begin on the 15th, 2K and Turtle Rock have announced that if you pre-purchase Evolve through the Xbox Store before or during the beta (which will run for four days) you will receive instant access to each of the four hunters’ tier 3 characters, as well as the third and final Monster, the Wraith. You would, in effect, be paying to skip past a significant portion of the game’s progression. Clearly this does not speak highly of the game’s progression system, as any incentive to skip it entirely implies that it is built upon the much-dreaded “grind.”
Of course, there are those who would defend such a practice on the grounds that restricted content is damaging to their enjoyment of games as whole, the sentiment being that because they do not have tens of hours to invest in unlocking that content it should be made available to them right from the beginning. The other side of the argument holds that progression systems – good ones, anyway – provide players with something to work towards, a sense of accomplishment and meaning to hours and days of playtime. And both arguments rightly have their own merits. Where I believe the first case falls apart, however, is in instances where said unlocks provide early, tangible advantages to players. In case you were unaware of how Evolve handles it four hunter classes, know that each of the classes (Trapper, Support, Medic, and Assault) carry three unique characters apiece – these characters wield similarly unique weapons (Hunter 1 might have a sub-machine gun, Hunter 2 might have a shotgun, etc.).
If a player who pre-orders the game has ALL of the class unlocks available from the beginning, and if certain characters are found to be more useful/unbalanced than others, as if often the case with competitive shooters, then it follows that these players are being presented with an unfair advantage over their non pre-order opponents – in this case, whoever is unfortunate enough to be playing as the Monster.
Granted, it may well be that Evolve is very well balanced, that any perceived advantages are negligible in moment to moment play. I am willing to concede that possibility and should I be proven wrong I will gladly admit my error. In any case, the announcement just comes off as strange, even a little desperate. It’s equivalent to offering max prestige in the latest Call of Duty, and only to Xbox owners – it’s a move that is meant to draw in sales at the expense of diluting a core part of your game. And make no mistake, it will draw in sales – a sad reality, in my opinion.
The Evolve beta begins this Thursday and runs until Monday, January 19, so while I am willing to give the game the chance that it deserves, news like this strikes little confidence in me. This is the team responsible for Left 4 Dead after all; I should be excited about their newest IP, not worried about what this pre-order nonsense means about the game’s quality.
But what do you think? Is this an acceptable move by 2K? Or has this development soured your outlook on Evolve? Let me know in the comments below.