Gundam Evolution review - An enjoyable experience marred by monetization
I have spent considerable time with Gundam Evolution, from its earliest network tests to the game's global launch. As a lifelong Gundam fan, I was so excited to play the one style of shooter I enjoy, a Hero Shooter. Teams of mobile suits come together in a trio of modes, with one ultimate aim, defeat the other team.
The game launched with 12 mobile suits available for free, along with four others that can be purchased. While I will never begrudge a free-to-play game the ability to monetize, one of the hardest things to deal with is Gundam Evolution and how aggressively it’s being monetized. Being able to buy into the ranked mode without grinding 20 matches out is disappointing.
Even with that, it’s a fun game, and I enjoy the feeling of piloting a mobile suit in the confines of Gundam Evolution.
Gundam Evolution brings a new option for fans of Hero Shooters
Hero Shooters are a style of FPS game where the various characters have special attacks and abilities that help them stand out and become unique experiences. Paladins, Overwatch 2, and Valorant all make up that particular genre right now.
However, when I consider the various hero shooters that I enjoy the most, Gundam Evolution is genuinely on the top of the mountain. Players begin with 12 mobile suits they can play for free, each representing a different playstyle. Gundam Evolution also launched five mobile suits that can be bought with Capital or Evo Coins (real-money currency).
- Gundam (RX-78-2)
- Zaku II [Ranged] (MS-06)
- Sazabi (MSN-04)
- GM Sniper II (RGM-79SP)
- DOM Trooper (ZGMF-XX09T)
- Guntank (RX-75)
- Pale Rider (RX-80PR)
- Gundam Barbatos (ASW-G-08)
- Methuss (MSA-005)
- Asshimar (NRX-044)
- Turn-A Gundam (WD-M01)
- GM (RGM-79)
- Gundam Exia (GM-001)*
- Marasai (UC) (RMS-108)*
- Zaku II [Melee] (MS-06)*
- Mahiroo (G-838)*
- Unicorn Gundam (RX-0)*
But what makes this game stand out from the other Hero Shooters is that none of the mobile suits are classified as tanks, supports, DPS, et cetera. While some of these mobile suits perform better as supports - for example, Unicorn Gundam and Methuss. Even with that, they both have what it takes to deal solid damage in firefights.
Conversely, Sazabi is a very heavy-armored tank, it can also devastate a number of mobile suits with no issues whatsoever. The personality and designs of these various mobile suits make Gundam Evolution so fantastic.
How does gameplay feel in Gundam Evolution?
For the time being, there are only three game modes: Point Capture, Domination, and Destruction. There are also 10 maps to play on. The gameplay loop is quite simple. You queue for either casual, ranked, or custom matches for intense, 6-on-6 battles.
Players cannot pick the same unit on their side, but opponents certainly can. So both sides can have the power of Barbatos Gundam. Even if a unit is a support unit, it can also go on the offense. Some more aggressive and well-rounded units, such as Pale Rider, can also heal.
The pace of the gameplay is excellent. Everything moves at a nice, quick pace. Even slower mobile suits can quickly dash and get into position to flank their opponents. However, one of the things that can drive this game to frustrate players is the hitboxes. They don’t feel very consistent.
One of the downsides to having mobile suits with varying body sizes is that the hitboxes seem to be a little inconsistent. Given how fast combat plays out, it can feel almost impossible to land shots unless you’re a pro.
Both feel excellent whether you play with a controller or keyboard/mouse combo. I don’t have any issues with the actual controls themselves, just the hitboxes with which we harm the other players.
I also appreciate that killstreaks show up as long as you participate in the kill. It makes the action feel more team-based, instead of one player feeling like they're the only person contributing.
This is one of the only real flaws in gameplay. Some of the mobile suits feel a bit clunky and slow, making them significantly lag behind their allies. I understand mobile suits feel clunky when moving, considering their robots, but I think it goes perhaps too far in the other direction. It’s not smooth enough movement.
Monetization is quite aggressive in Gundam Evolution
However, one place where this game seriously frustrates me is when it comes to monetization. Regardless of the game, I’m not a fan of loot boxes. Whether it’s Overwatch or Smite, they always frustrate me. These lean more towards the Overwatch style of lootbox, granting three items per unlock. That’s not so bad. I can live with those. It’s all cosmetic stuff and doesn’t impact gameplay at all.
While you can purchase the additional five mobile suits for 1980 capital (free currency), the EVO Coin cost is 980, ~ $10. That brings the total to $50 to buy the other starting mobile suits, and I’m not crazy about that. You can buy them in a bundle as well that comes with cosmetics.
The problem here is that the amount of capital you gain is minuscule, so it’s going to feel like a tremendous grind to buy the mobile suits without spending real money. It could be a major sticking point for Gundam Evolution fans going forward.
On top of that, you must play 20 matches to access the Ranked gameplay. Or you could buy the Premium Battle Pass. That’s right, buying the Battle Pass unlocks ranked mode immediately. Each ranked season will likely require you to buy the next season's pass to unlock ranked again immediately, and that’s another point of contention for me.
What this is going to come down to is how Bandai Namco handles its content dispersion going forward. If they make players pay for modes, matches, and things of that nature, it will anger the fanbase on top of the already aggressive monetization.
The look and feel of Gundam Evolution are excellent
I have to be honest - Gundam Evolution looks gorgeous. Each mobile suit looks unique and is unique. Bandai Namco has done a great deal to make each suit stand out on its own. Unfortunately, the pretty maps are a little large for my taste.
However, it also has a number of pilot voices you can pick from. I was hoping for some of the voice actors from the various mobile suit series, which was certainly not the case. The voices are good, but I was hoping for something more.
I want to be clear that I love Gundam Evolution. It’s a fun game and does a lot to bring out what makes Gundam such a great franchise. The units are all unique and can do more than heal or shoot. It has more flavor and more joy for me than other Hero Shooters like Overwatch 2.
However, monetizing the game is the most significant sticking point for me. I can learn to adjust to the various hitboxes and any gameplay woes I have. However, monetization issues will certainly drive players away from a game. I enjoy Gundam Evolution, and I’ve started to find the mobile suits that appeal to me most, but there’s still so much to do.
Gundam Evolution also stands out from some competitors by allowing players a large roster right from the start. You do have to pay for the other ones, though, leading to my frustration. If the amount of capital players increases, it wouldn’t be so irritating.
That said, the game delivers high-speed action and incredible team-based gameplay. While it isn’t perfect, it’s a fun team-based Gundam shooter.
Reviewed On: PC (EVO Coins provided by Bandai Namco)
Developer: Bandai Namco Online
Publisher: Bandai Namco Studios
Release Date: September 19, 2022