Greetings everyone! By now, you’ve surely heard about our latest expansion, Evolving Empires, but if not, please go check out the trailer and store page. I’m Keith, one of the designers behind this expansion, and as a huge fan of asymmetric gameplay, I’m incredibly excited to have the opportunity to talk to you today about one of its key new features, Evolutions!
Just what are Evolutions, anyway?
While every race in the game has always had its own racial traits, unique abilities, biome preferences, government types, and titan abilities, we knew there was still more we could do to truly bring the thematic flavor of each race to life. In our minds, each race deserved the opportunity to continue their journey towards becoming the ultimate version of themselves as a species, culture, and society.
At the same time, we also had a desire to bring more asymmetry into the game and provide even more diverse play experiences designed to suit all types of players. Furthermore, we knew that if we were going to introduce asymmetry, it was just as important that we also introduce some variety. This would ensure we left plenty of room for diverse playstyles even within a given evolution tree.
When considering how we could achieve these objectives, we realized early on that the divergent paths and difficult decisions posed by the game’s space culture system could offer us the perfect solution. In addition, by making use of the culture system, we could introduce even more decisions regarding how to spend your hard earned culture points.
Thus, the idea for the evolution culture tree was born. A unique tree for every race, one thematically and mechanically linked to their way of life which introduces intriguing new playstyles to explore. A system which offers a degree of predictability, as well as a dash of randomness (if desired), which impacts not only how you play the game, but how you choose to interact with your rivals.
Before we talk about the differences between the evolution tree and the existing adventure, wealth, and knowledge space culture trees, it’s important that we first address how they are the same and why they share the same screen.
The key reason is that just like existing space culture perks, each evolution is unlocked as part of a space culture level-up. This means you’ll be forced to make tough decisions about whether to use your hard earned level-up to select your favorite traditional culture perk, potentially unlocking an early game bonus or the chance to build a wonder, or your next evolution perk.
In addition to competing for culture unlocks, the evolution tree also shares the concept of mutually exclusive perks. This means picking one evolution perk means you won’t ever be able to unlock the other which opposes it. Evolutions take this even a step further though…
More than just another culture tree
With that out of the way, let’s discuss some ways that evolutions differ. First and foremost, while they unlock via space culture level-ups, it’s not possible to simply race up the evolution track and unlock all your powerful perks from the get-go. While the first evolution perk can be unlocked fairly quickly, subsequent perks require several level-ups to occur before they can be unlocked.
A second way that evolutions differ is in how their divergent paths work. While the traditional space culture trees feature mutually exclusive perks, evolutions have mutually exclusive paths. While the first evolution perk is locked in place and sets the tone for that racial affinity’s playstyle, the decision on which path to follow after that is up to you.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, evolutions tend to bring about significant game-altering changes that go beyond what traditional space culture perks have to offer. While these are always highly beneficial, each evolution tree also contains perks which introduce unique challenges you will have to overcome.
As noted above, each race’s evolution tree is completely unique and thematically tied to their racial affinity. While we’ll cover some of these key perks in more detail in a future dev diary, let’s first dive into a brief summary of the inspiration behind each of the base game’s evolution trees.
The Human Affinity embraces the fundamental idea of what humanity can bring to the galactic stage. Starting with their Artificial Directive, which gives them access to a large supply of loyal android leaders, those with the Human Affinity can either seek to lead the galaxy into the future united as one, or it can seek to put its strategic might to use with ruthless efficiency against all who oppose it.
The Draguul Affinity is one of honor, conquest, and military expertise. For they believe that might makes right, and if others can’t defend their territory against them, than they clearly don’t deserve to keep it. They are hunters, warlords, and warriors who'd rather die than back down. Unparalleled in a fair right against any opponent, one of their only weaknesses is that not every opponent is willing to fight fair.
The Moltar Affinity derives its unique flavor from its intelligence, curiosity and adaptability. As natural inventors and innovators, they are capable of advanced technological feats other races can’t even conceive of. Their curiosity and adaptability can also lead to them exploding out across the galaxy, transforming themselves and gobbling up planets in the process.
The Sulak Affinity is brash, boisterous, and a bit wild. Between their hive mind culture, and their rapid reproduction, they embrace a swarm mentality where the life of any one individual is fairly inconsequential. As tricksters, they love meddling in the affairs of others, and as adrenaline junkies, their need for speed makes them dangerous combatants and occasionally leads to their end in a terrifying blaze of glory.
The Kaek Affinity is tied to the core concept of a centralized nest controlled by an insect hive mind. While they will interact with other empires, their society is largely closed off to outsiders, industrious and highly defensive, and prefers a slow and steady approach to galactic domination. They are inconspicuous in their approach, and just like the tortoise, a true threat to watch out for it left to their own devices too long.
The Nova Affinity is driven almost entirely by its possession of a powerful ancient relic from their past. While this relic once destroyed their beloved homeworld, there are many who feel it’s time that its power be tapped once more. With unique effects that can give them ultimate knowledge of the galaxy, their decision to pursue a path of peace or destruction will determine the role they ultimately play.
Rumors abound that there may even be unique evolution trees for a certain race of furry mech pilots and nature attuned crustaceans, but as those are part of our first DLC, Natural Law, we’ll look to cover those in a future diary dedicated to them.
A New Dawn
Now that you know more about what Evolutions are, how they came to be, and a bit about the various evolution trees, you’re probably interested in learning more about the perks themselves, but that’s a story for another time.
Stay tuned for our next dev diary where we’ll take a deeper dive into the trees and perks themselves.
And if you haven’t already, please check out the trailer and wishlist the expansion on Steam while you wait! If you wish to get important news from our game and company please consider subscribing to our newsletter.