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Feature Article

On the Hunt with Daisy, Evolve's Alien Hound

Sic 'em!

There are many reasons to say that dogs are "man's best friend." A dog that's treated well by its owner and conditioned to be both caring and loyal can become the backbone of a symbiotic relationship that rivals even the best human-to-human friendships, where each partner is empathetic to the other's concerns, and truly grateful for the same in return. A strong connection between a dog and its human companion can propel either one to do extraordinary things, such as bravely hunt down a massive, nightmarish squid-wizard in the middle of a perilous wilderness.

Maggie, and her faithful companion, Daisy, share this task in Evolve, but it's Daisy, the doglike "trapjaw," that ultimately leads Maggie and the rest of the hunters into battle. Like a bloodhound on a fox's trail, Daisy can detect where a monster has been and lead your team toward its present location. She's not the only means of monster tracking in Evolve, but she's the best tool at your disposal when you aren't sure where to begin your hunt.

With Maggie and Daisy, you get two characters for the price of one.
With Maggie and Daisy, you get two characters for the price of one.

Daisy's human companion, Maggie, is a bonafide trapper, and she's capable of keeping a charging Goliath or a flighty Kraken in place by hooking into it with harpoons, or entombing it in a force-field arena for easy pickings. So far, we've been introduced to one other trapper, Griffin, who's more self reliant than Maggie; he doesn't have a pet. Still, talking to Evolve Concept Artist, Stephen Oakley, we learned that Maggie and Daisy haven't made Griffin's role as a trapper redundant, because the two offer distinct advantages depending on your preferred method of tracking and trapping monsters. "With Griffin, he is a very on-the-spot kind of hunter. With his harpoon gun, he can immediately react to what the monster's doing; that's the main difference. With Maggie, and her traps, she has to anticipate and set up, right? So she can set up traps and leave things behind for the monster to fall into, whereas Griffin can't really do that. He has to get into the mix and basically react to what the monster's doing."

"As far as their tracking techniques, Griffin's basically moving as soon as the match starts, and he'll move through the map and sort of shrink the map using sound sensors," says Lead Animator, Dave Gibson. "As the whole team moves through the world, [he's] shrinking it down until they eventually find the monster. Whereas with Maggie and Daisy, it's a much more direct approach: 'We're on the trail, and we have the scent, and we're moving towards the monster.'"

Unlike Maggie, Griffin hunts alone.
Unlike Maggie, Griffin hunts alone.

For Phil Robb, Creative Director on Evolve and Co-founder of Turtle Rock Studios, relying on Griffin's sound sensors can be a gamble if you aren't familiar with your surroundings. "Griffin relies a little bit more on chance, in that hopefully the monster walks by [his] sound sensors. The strategy with him becomes 'where do I put [them]?'"

This is a legitimate concern, because as Gibson points out, "The monster can, when he sniffs, see the sound sensors and destroy them, so that's another side of the strategy. So if the monster's aware of that, he can take them out."

This is one reason Daisy is such an alluring aspect of Maggie. She is more than a passive sensor that sits in one spot; she actively guides your squad to the monster, encouraging aggression rather than surveillance. Even though Daisy can be subdued by the monster like Griffin's sensors, she's got her own health bar, and manages to contribute in additional ways. According to Robb, "We look at Daisy as kind of a fifth character, because not only can she help find the monster, but if somebody goes down, and Lazarus isn't there, she'll come over and lick them until they get up."

To keep things fair, Daisy is designed to potentially suffer the same fate as other hunters. Robb points out that "she can be revived, and she takes strikes just like anybody else. If she's killed, then she'll come back on the dropship, and if no one else dies, she's the only one that comes back, or, if Maggie dies, Daisy will still be alive, and Maggie will come back on the dropship."

There was a time when Daisy would actively contribute offensively during combat, but that never worked out in her favor, so she's now relegated to the sidelines during combat, waiting for her chance to lend a helping paw. "We had it for a while, where she would actually get in there and try to attack the monster, and she would just get obliterated," says Gibson. "Now she sort of hangs back, whenever we're in combat, and waits until someone goes down to try and do something."

The real snoop dog.
The real snoop dog.

He emphasizes that it's important to trust in Daisy's instincts, or, in other words, her AI.

"I would say one of the hardest things with Daisy, and perhaps this is more of an internal [thing], is actually trusting her. A lot of time, we'll jump in, and I think it comes from a history of her being broken while we play-test her, where she starts going to the left, but everyone sees the tracks going to the right, and everyone's like, 'Oh, she's broken. Let's go to the right,' but the whole time, the monster's right there to the left, and poor Daisy's like, 'I'm trying to tell you guys!'"

As Maggie, you have to put forth effort to keep on the right path, but it's fairly easy to manage in Gibson's opinion, all things considered. "Basically, there's a 20 meter radius around Maggie, and when she gets to the end of that, if she wants you to follow her in a certain direction, she'll bark and howl until you come closer, and she'll lead you in the right direction." If you let the monster trail too far away, or it moves at a sneaking pace, Maggie's behavior will change slightly for the sake of balance within the game, but she still knows where to go. "If the monster starts sneaking and the footprints go away, she can still see them, but she moves a lot slower, and we have her go into a bit more of a hunting dog [state]. Her nose goes down to the ground, and she walks as she sniffs the ground trying to find the tracks."

Daisy can lead your team to the monster's front door, but Maggie's the one who bolts the lock, preventing the monster from fleeing, and exposing it to your teammates' firepower. This is fairly challenging, since you've not only got to catch a monster in flight, but you've got to make sure you've set your team up for success. If the terrain is in the monster's favor, which can mean different things depending on which one you're hunting, your team will be trapped, because no one, be they hunter or monster, can escape the arena while it's up. In that unfortunate scenario, your best option is to disable the arena, but that unfortunately resets the cooldown and extends the fight in the monster's favor.

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Your best bet? Capture your prey using the mobile arena in an enclosed area that has the appropriate cover for your team relative to the monster at hand, and lay a group of Maggie's harpoon mines where you anticipate the monster will run after the arena times out. If you're Griffin, you can use your harpoon gun to lasso the monster manually, which is potentially more useful than Maggie's solution. On the other hand, Daisy might outweigh the ultimate benefit of Griffin's harpoon gun; it comes down to what works best for you and your team.

Maggie and Daisy are different beasts from Griffin and present a significant threat to any monster-player that tries to give a team of rabid hunters the slip. It's possible to outsmart, and even divide, the duo, but should a monster focus on that? That's the great thing about Evolve's design. With multiple classes and variations within each category, there are a lot of different strategies to discover and explore. Out of any "one" hunter, Maggie and Daisy seem to be the best source for experimentation, unless, of course, there's another hunter-and-pet combo unveiled down the road.

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Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.
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