Evolve Beginner's Guide

Guide updated 2020-11-09 for game version v1.0.1.

This is a beginner's guide to playing Evolve, an idle or incremental game. This guide will spoil some of the early game content -- that's the nature of a guide, after all -- but I will try to avoid revealing future content at inappropriate times. If you wish to play without spoilers, then this is not the right place to look for assistance. Try the game's Discord server, which has some low-spoiler and no-spoiler channels.

Prehistoric phase

The game starts off in a prehistoric phase, in which you evolve a life form out of the primordial soup. This phase is somewhat click intensive, but don't worry -- this phase is relatively short, and the rest of the game will not require nearly as much clicking. Build up your RNA and DNA storage and production to become an increasingly complex organism. After a little while, you'll be asked to make some decisions, which will determine the species you end up becoming.

The most common question at this point is, Which species should I choose? Honestly, it doesn't make a huge difference -- you can choose whatever sounds appealing. If you want an easier first run, Ents (from the plant kingdom) are a good pick, because they don't have to harvest lumber. Centaurs (from the animal kingdom) are one of the harder species, so you might want to avoid those for now.

Each species has some minor bonuses and penalties, and those will affect gameplay in the next section, but for the most part, there aren't any huge changes to strategy based on the species you choose. Also, you will not remain this species forever. We'll talk more about that later.

Civilization phase

Once you select a species, you begin the next phase of the game, which is far more interesting. For lack of a better term, I'm going to call this the civilization phase. You'll need to gather some wood (more mouse clicking -- but don't worry, it's not going to last much longer), and then go to the Research tab, and learn how to turn that wood into a club. Then go back to the Civilization tab, where you can start to gather food. Back to Research, and learn how to make bone tools. Back to Civilization, and now you can gather stones.

Gather some food, wood and stone, and use them to unlock new technologies ("techs") and create buildings. Once you've got some Farms and housing structures, you'll start to accumulate citizens. Then the fun really begins.

Once you have citizens, head to the Civics tab to assign them jobs. For most species, you'll probably see Unemployed in yellow with an asterisk by it, and Farmer in blue underneath that. The asterisk means that this is the default job that all new citizens take. You'll want to change the default job to Farmer instead of Unemployed. So, click on the word Farmer, and this should move the asterisk. Next, click the green ยป symbol to assign all of your currently Unemployed citizens to the job of Farmer. This will give you passive food production, so you shouldn't need to click the Gather Food button any more (unless it's an emergency).

If your species doesn't farm (e.g. the Cath, or any of the Fungi), then matters may change a bit. The Cath are obligate carnivores, so their food comes from hunters. You'll want to leave Hunter as the default job for them. We'll talk more about food options in a bit.

If you're playing one of the Fungal species, then your food comes from composting, which consumes wood. For these species, you probably want to use Lumberjack as your default job, and to build enough composting heaps to keep your citizens fed (but not so many that you lose all your wood).

Once you have some Farmers (or Hunters or compost heaps or whatever) providing food to keep your citizens alive, you'll want to start on lumber and stone production next. Learn the necessary techs, and build a Rock Quarry and a Lumber Yard. Now head to the Civics tab again, and assign some of your Farmers to work as Lumberjacks and Quarry Workers. This will give you passive lumber and stone production, which will end the mouse clicking for resources (mostly).

Plant species don't have Rock Quarries; they produce amber instead of quarrying for stone. For these species, you'll have extra workers for food and wood, which simplifies the early game, but you'll want to assign more Miners later.

Food management

Food management is going to be one of the main challenges in your first run, and to a lesser extent in every other run as well. Your planet will have a weather cycle that varies from day to day (rain, sun, snow) as well as by season (spring, winter, and points in between). The weather and the season will affect your Farm production, which can cause huge swings in the amount of food you're getting. There are several different approaches you can take to keep your citizens alive, and you may have to use all of them:

Knowledge and science

After food, knowledge is the second most important aspect of the civilization phase. Acquiring knowledge lets you learn new technologies, which lets you learn how to acquire new resources (and get better at acquiring old ones), build better housing, select a more useful government, build a stronger military force, and so on.

You get a small amount of passive knowledge income from the primitive Sundial technology, but this only gets you so far. Once you build your first University, you can assign citizens to the job of Professor, to start accumulating knowledge more quickly. There are a lot of techs to learn, so you'll probably keep your Professors employed full time (unless there's a truly critical food shortage and you need everyone as a Farmer, briefly).

The next science building after the University is the Library, which uses crafted materials (plywood and brick). This is the point where you must learn how to use crafting. First, you need a Foundry, which requires copper (and therefore Miners). The Foundry lets you assign citizens to the job of Craftsman. Each Craftsman only produces one specific type of crafted good (plywood, brick, wrought iron, sheet metal, and more later). You'll need to find the best balance of workers for your current needs. In the very early game, plywood and brick are the most important, because you use those for your Libraries.

You can also do manual bulk crafting, which removes the need to assign workers as Craftsmen. However, in future runs, you may be playing under a challenge that removes manual crafting. In those cases, your Craftsmen are vitally important.

Also note that there are various techs that improve the efficiency of Craftsmen, including one that gives a bonus based on the number of Foundries built. So, building lots of Foundries is important.

The next big step in the march of science comes when you learn the tech called Mad Science, which allows construction of the Wardenclyffe building (though some species call it by a different name). These buildings require sheet metal, so as soon as you've learned how to do so, you'll want to start crafting lots of sheet metal. Sheet metal comes from aluminium, which comes from your Rock Quarries (for most species; the plant species get it from Miners instead).

Wardenclyffes also enable the job of Scientist. You can (and should) assign workers to this job to produce more knowledge. You'll probably be unable to fill all of the jobs you have available at this point, so you'll have to find the correct balance among your work force. This shortage of workers is somewhat temporary, though.

Shortly after Mad Science you'll unlock Electricity, and then your progress really starts to take off. Powering your Wardenclyffes with electricity (from your Coal Powerplants) doubles their knowledge storage, and also starts providing other benefits with new techs, like a morale bonus with Radio.

Electricity also unlocks the Apartment housing (be aware, some species use different names for housing). These marvelous accomodations hold five citizens apiece, requiring only one megawatt of electricity. You'll want to prioritize this tech.

The final science building for this phase of the game is the Bioscience Lab, which you can build once you unlock the secrets of Genetics. This building needs alloy, which is produced in Factories, after you learn Industrialization. (More on this later.) The Bioscience Lab and the Wardenclyffe will be your primary knowledge cap raisers for the rest of this phase.

Morale and government

Your overall efficiency is governed by several factors. The first of these is morale. Keeping your citizens content is important; failure to do so will reduce production, which can easily lead to a spiraling food crisis and mass starvation.

Early in the civilization phase, you'll learn how to form a government (it's a tech). As soon as you learn this, you can go to the Civics tab and click Start Revolution to see the available forms of government. By default, you begin the run in an Anarchy, which is not a very good form of government. Learning the basic Government tech lets you switch to Autocracy, Democracy, or Oligarchy. Clicking outside of the popup window cancels the revolution, so you can feel free to explore the available options by hovering over each one.

For most players and species, Democracy should be chosen as soon as possible. This cancels the production penalty of Anarchy, and gives a bonus to the morale boost from Entertainers. It's one of the easiest decisions you'll ever make.

There is a cooldown period after you select a new form of government, before you can start a new revolution. So, don't change on a whim.

The way morale works is not obvious at first. If you hover on the Morale label at the top left of your game screen, you'll see a breakdown that shows some (but not all) of the factors that determine your current Morale level. Job Stress is unavoidable, and will rise as your population rises. You counteract that primarily by hiring Entertainers, and by learning techs that make Entertainers more effective.

If your Morale is below 100%, you will incur a global production penalty (1 point for each point below 100). If your Morale is above 100%, you will receive a global production bonus (half a point for each point above 100).

The tricky part of Morale is that there are actually two numbers stored by the game: Current Morale and Max Morale. Your actual, effective Morale (the percentage you see at the top of the screen) is the smaller of these two numbers. So, you need to raise both numbers.

In the Morale breakdown, you'll see one of two different things at the bottom. Either something like this:

Or something like this:

In the first case, you only see the Current Morale and not the Max Morale. In the second case, the Max Morale is shown first, and the Current Morale is shown in parentheses second.

To raise effective Morale in the first case, you will need something that boosts what the game calls simply "Morale" -- Entertainers, or powered Wardenclyffes with the Radio tech. You can also lower your tax rate to increase Morale, but the loss of income can be a huge penalty.

In the second case, your Current Morale is already higher than your Max Morale, so you need to raise Max Morale first. You can do that by building more Amphitheaters, Casinos, Monuments, or anything else that says it raises Max Morale.

It should be noted that the Republic form of government provides a flat 20% boost to Morale, which may be more useful than Democracy in certain situations. However, the trade-off is that citizens in a Republic will randomly decide to hold protests, so you will have to make that choice for yourself. Most players stick with Democracy until they're approaching the end of this phase. Then, some people switch to Technocracy for the reduction in knowledge costs on new techs.

Trade and industrialization

There are two bottleneck resources that must be acquired in unusual ways: steel and titanium.

Steel can be acquired by attacking your neighbors ("Raid" or higher), or by establishing trade routes and waiting. You'll need to obtain 25 units of steel in order to learn how to produce it yourself. That will require either several attacks and some luck, or trading for that many units of steel after you first discover it.

Once you learn Crucible Steel, you can configure your Smelter buildings to start producing it. This consumes iron and coal, so you'll need to have enough Miners and Coal Miners to avoid running out.

Smelters have an orange gear icon on them. Click that to enter the Smelter configuration screen, which lets you select which fuel they use, and how many of them are producing steel or iron. You can also access this interface through the Industry sub-tab under Civics.

Titanium must be acquired through trade (unless you are playing as a Balorg). It becomes available in the trade screen once you learn the Industrialization tech. You'll need to trade for at least 1000 units of titanium before you can produce it yourself, by learning the Hunter Process tech. Hunter Process causes your Smelters which are producing steel to produce titanium as well. Once you unlock this, you'll probably want to convert most of your Smelters to steel production.

Titanium is required to build Factories, and building a Factory is required to learn about alloy (and other materials in the future). You can build alloy yourself, with Factories, but it is strongly recommended that you begin to trade for alloy once you have one Factory, because the titanium cost of additional Factories is quite high.

Alloy is required for the Bioscience Lab, and various techs leading to the end of this phase of the game.

The atomic age

With enough knowledge, you can learn about uranium, and how to extract a small amount of it from your Coal Mines. And we all know what you do with uranium, right? Right!

To reach the end of the first phase of the game, you'll need to learn how to store nontrivial amounts of uranium, by adapting your Fuel Depots to the job. The Uranium Storage tech also requires a good amount of alloy, so be prepared to build or trade for a few thousand units of it, above and beyond what you spend on Bio Labs.

Once you have some uranium storage capacity, start trading for uranium to slowly fill it up. Meanwhile, learn the Rocketry tech, because you'll need a way to get that uranium to where it needs to go.

With Rocketry and Uranium Storage (and several Fuel Depots chock full of shiny uranium), you can learn the tech known as Mutual Destruction, or MAD.

Learning MAD gives you the option to end your species in a fiery apocalypse. This is the first of the prestige resets. The button is under the Civics tab, then under the Military sub-tab.

Before you press that final button, though, you might want to know a few things about prestige resets. Or, you might want to explore the other possible branch. Either way, read on....

Prestige reset

Like many incremental games, Evolve has a mechanism that lets you abandon your current game state and start over, but with benefits. This is called a prestige reset, and MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) is the first of several different prestige resets in this game.

When you blow yourself up, you will gain a new resource called Plasmids. The number of Plasmids you gain depends on:

So, before pressing the big red button of doom, consider whether you should spend a few minutes building new housing or barracks, or researching a few quick techs. Note that you'll need time for your species to fill up any new housing you build at the end, although you can buy mercenaries to fill up your barracks if necessary.

When you're ready, go ahead and blow everything to smithereens.

The Plasmids that you earn will provide a global production bonus in your next run. In addition, they are a currency that you can spend to purchase new upgrades to change gameplay (either to speed things up, or to unlock new challenge modes).

In order to spend your Plasmids, though, you'll have to move beyond the first phase of the game. Therefore, we present:

The space age

If this is your first or second run, there's no need to move into the space age just yet, although you can if you'd like to explore a bit. Once you're on your third or fourth run, though, it'll be time to start exploring this new phase of the game.

When you learn the A.R.P.A. tech, a new A.R.P.A. tab is unlocked, with various projects inside it (some of them require additional techs to see). These projects may include the Supercollider, the Launch Facility, the Railway, the Stock Exchange, and various flavors of Monuments.

These projects take a while to build, so the game lets you construct them in pieces. You can take as long as you like, and you can build more than one at a time, or you can focus on a single project at a time if you wish.

The simplest project is the Monument, which boosts your Max Morale, and unlocks Tourism. You'll probably want a few Monuments, at the very least, if you're going to remain in the space age for long.

The Railway can be ignored, unless you want to build an empire based on trade. It doesn't do very much.

The Supercollider is a critically important piece of science infrastructure moving into the next phase of the game. You'll need to build lots of these to reach the second prestige reset point. Building the first two Supercolliders also unlocks new techs.

Building the Launch Facility lets you begin shooting rockets into space, thus entering the space age.

In addition to the projects, the A.R.P.A. tab also provides sub-tabs for Genetics, and something called the CRISPR. The Genetics sub-tab is opened once you sequence your species' genome, which requires that you learn the A.R.P.A. and Genetics techs, and then wait for a period of time (about two hours). This unlocks the CRISPR tech, which in turn unlocks the CRISPR sub-tab. The CRISPR sub-tab is where you may spend some of your Plasmids to buy new prestige upgrades.

Bear in mind that spending Plasmids will reduce the number of them available for your global production boost. However, the formula that determines the global production bonus from Plasmids is a complex one, with diminishing returns. You'll normally want to hold on to a stockpile of about 250 Plasmids for the production bonus. Plasmids beyond that may be spent, if you feel that the time is right.

When you complete your Launch Facility, you'll get a new sub-tab under Civilization, called "Speciesname System". This tab is your window to the rest of your solar system, but you'll need to get there first. You explore the solar system by performing a series of missions in the Space tab, beginning with a test launch. Each mission unlocks new buildings that may be constructed (e.g. Satellites, after the test launch), and generally will also unlock new techs that you can learn. The new techs unlock new missions, and so on.

The second prestige reset, and beyond

There are two end goals for the space age: you may build a Genesis Ship to carry your species outside of your solar system, or you may build a World Collider to explore strange new realms.

Building and launching the Genesis Ship is the second prestige reset, also known as a Bioseed reset. I won't go into great detail about this here, because this is a beginner's guide. The second reset gives you a bunch of Plasmids, as you would expect, and also a second prestige resource called Phage. Phage can be stockpiled to push back the diminishing return part of the Plasmid global production bonus. It also provides a storage capacity boost, with certain CRISPR upgrades. It can also be spent in the A.R.P.A. Genetics sub-tab to buy permanent minor trait upgrades for all of your future species.

In addition to the new prestige resources, the Bioseed reset also lets you select a new planet. You may or may not have noticed that every time you blow yourself up in a MAD reset, you start over on the same planet. There's nothing wrong with your starting planet. It's a perfectly good planet. But there are other planets out there to explore, and some of them allow you to play as new kinds of species that aren't available on your initial Grassland planet, or with new challenging modifiers.

If you don't build the Genesis Ship, but instead decide to pursue the World Collider, this is the path leading toward the third prestige reset, and beyond. I will absolutely not cover that in this beginner's guide, other than to point out that such a thing exists, and you may pursue it whenever you feel the time is right.