Bandai Namco Entertainment is in the process of developing a new multiplayer first-person shooter for one of the most iconic anime franchises of all-time, Mobile Suit Gundam. Their game, titled Gundam Evolution, held a Network Test to give select players a preview of the game, while knocking out any bugs along the way. Thanks to the wonderful people at Bandai Namco, we were able to be part of this test.
These are our first impressions for Gundam Evolution.
Gundam Meets Overwatch
Going into this Network Test, I didn’t have a clear idea of what Gundam Evolution was. What drew me in was the first-person shooter aspect of the game, but that’s about all I knew. I was surprised to learn that Gundam Evolution is essentially a Mobile Suit Gundam take on Overwatch.
The game features two teams of 6 players battling it out on an arena while trying to complete one of three different mission types: Point Capture, a territory control game; Destruction, a bomb mission; and Domination, a mission where players battle for 3 randomly unlocked objectives.
This Network Test had me primarily competing in Point Capture missions. It felt like your standard control game, but I wasn’t really a fan of the maps designed for the game. They seemed very blocky, without much definition or design to them. In games like Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, and Team Fortress there are many avenues in which you can pursue the territories, elevated areas, underground areas, hidden pathways. These games involve a lot of strategy when you’re traversing the map. That didn’t seem to be the case in Gundam Evolution. The maps did have some elevated areas, but they weren’t really conducive for sniping or providing cover fire, because the enemy had their own path to those areas, as well.
Outside of that, the maps felt very same-y and uninspired. I’m hoping that between now and launch that more time is spent on creating memorable maps that cultivate strategy, rather than just go to point A, shoot, go to point B, shoot.
Another similarity to Overwatch is the fact that Gundam Evolution players choose which Unit (character) they want to play as before the game starts and can change out Units throughout the mission. The difference with Gundam Evolution and other games is that it appears as if only 1 Unit can be on the field at a time. Meaning if someone chose Sazabi, that player and that player alone can be Sazabi until they decide to switch out.
It’s a very interesting idea that I hope they keep when the main game releases, as it could force players to expand their horizons. In my playtime, I had at least two main Units so in case one was taken, I could switch to my other main.
For now, players can choose to play as classic Gundam units like the original Gundam unit, Pale Rider, Zaku II (Ranged), Gundam Barbatos, Sazabi, Methuss, GM Sniper II, Asshimar, Dom Trooper, Turn A Gundam, Guntank, GM, Gundam Exia, and Marasai (UC).
Each Gundam Unit has their own unique weapons, abilities, and ultimate ability. Take the GM Sniper II, for instance, as you might assume it exclusively uses a sniper rifle. Meanwhile, the Zaku II (Ranged) only uses a high-powered long-range machine gun. Then, there is the melee-specific Gundam Barbatos who can destroy opponents using a powerful club-like spear. There’s also Methuss who plays similar to that of Mercy, but with dual-wielding guns. So, much like with Overwatch, you can pick the Unit that fits best with your play style.
That said, I wasn’t all that impressed by the abilities and especially the Ultimate Abilities. Some of the Ultimates felt either useless or made to feel pointless with how little the damage output from standard weapons were. For instance, the GM Sniper II Ultimate Ability allows you to see where every enemy is on the battlefield. While that seems rather useful, it’s made useless by the fact that weapon damage of the sniper isn’t as high as it should be. Any time I got headshots with the sniper, it did not instantly destroy a Unit. It took off quite a bit of health, but it wasn’t a one-shot kill. That’s why when I’d use the Ultimate Ability and saw through walls, it didn’t matter much because I couldn’t instantly defeat enemies.
So there’s definitely a balancing issue right now that needs to be addressed. Weapons, abilities, and Ultimates all need to be balanced better to make it a better gameplay experience.
Gundam Evolution seems like a really cool idea in concept, but as of now the execution isn’t quite there.
There are balancing issues, a lackluster art-style, uninspired maps, and functions that are either odd or don’t work. For instance, the game controls have the default button for jump at L1, which is just weird. Then, there is the UI that is easy to ignore, which makes it hard to find out who got the kill when it happens.
The good news: this was just a network test. There is still plenty of time for the team to address all of these issues to hopefully make a game worthy of the incredible Gundam pedigree. If they don’t though, Gundam Evolution may be one to pass on.