Gundam Evolution team shooter's soul is weighed down by the gravity of monetization

Gundam Evolution team shooter’s soul is weighed down by the gravity of monetization

It’s still the debut of Bandai Namco’s new team-based shooter Gundam Evolution – the game was released on PC about ten days ago at the time of this writing – but things are already looking up. The time it spent testing hasn’t been wasted either: already quite refined, the gaming experience is fluid almost to the point of feeling frictionless. Bandai Namco has learned, and learned well from the example of Surveillance and its many imitators, and picked up the essentials with aplomb.

For the uninitiated, Gundam Evolution is Bandai Namco’s attempt to adapt one of the most iconic anime franchises of all time to the rigors of a free-to-play, team-based “hero shooter.” Rather than secret agents, superheroes or elite soldiers, Evolution probe the decades of Gundam history for inspiration. From launch, 17 mobile suit mechas from a wide range of Gundam series form the playable list. Twelve are playable from the start, with another five unlockable through various means (more on that later).

Each Mobile Suit (MS) is unique, with bespoke weapons, abilities, and tactics. Rather than Surveillancerole-based system, Gundam Evolution takes a freer approach to team building. There can’t be more than one MS on a team, but there’s enough style overlap that you’ll find something reasonably similar if you find your favorite costume taken. Even then, each unit is unique and learning to play with them and play versus them is the key to mastery.

Of course, each Mobile Suit falls into a certain preferred style defined by its loadout and stats. Absolute units like Sazabi and the Unicorn Gundam love to mix it up in teamfights, with Sazabi up front soaking up damage with his shield and getting in close to use his beam shotgun. Unicorn takes out enemies with her rapid-fire beam gatling, while helping her team just by being there with a passive healing and armor-enhancing ability. Yet the two are quite different. Sazabi can immediately throw his thrown ax or a teammate, giving him surprising mobility and the ability to get in front of an enemy. The unicorn’s size and lack of a shield make her far more vulnerable in a stand-up fight, so she’s reliant on staying in a crowd of friends and using her Shield Bits to mark distant snipers lining up a pearl. One of the new unlockable suits, the Mahiroo, is the only one in the game that has a grenade launcher and is very useful for its ability to spam areas with indirect fire.


Gundam Evolution is also surprisingly fast and deadly for the presumed size of its giant robot cast. Each unit has one or more boosts for quick dodging, and many units have access to “hitscan” precision weapons that reward precise aiming (the GM Sniper II can downright down the flimsiest suits with a single headshot). ). In other words, the time to kill can be brutally short. Some mitigation measures are in place to take into account skills and coordination. Being “killed” leaves your MS disabled for a few seconds, allowing a teammate a brief window to revive you (support suits like the Methus and GM Sniper can even do this from a distance). And swapping combinations can completely change a strategy, potentially allowing you to turn around an oppressive situation with a bold attack.

However, there are balance issues to be found. While the relative dominance of melee Mobile Suits (Barbatos in particular) has been toned down somewhat, all three have an extremely high skill cap and, in the hands of capable players, can utterly oppress an enemy team with little counter-attack. direct strategies. Exia in particular seems a bit too capable of squeezing out the consequences when her pilot makes a mistake. The new melee suit, Zaku II (Melee), has near-medium range on his axe’s shockwaves, and even has a move that makes him invincible (if standing still). In a game with many sources of precision damage, melee combinations should feel high risk; at the moment they feel a little too safe.

More concerning than any transient balance issue, however, is how the Gundam Evolution runs its monetization model. The game is free to play, but these 12 initial combinations are all a new player has access to for a considerable period of time if they don’t want to pay. Bandai Namco has added the triple threat of monetization methods to the game: a battle pass (with premium and free tiers), an item shop selling unlockable cosmetic and suit bundles, and a gacha/loot system box that allows players to roll the dice for cosmetics.

The game’s premium currency is Evo Coins, paid for with real money and earned in small amounts through the Battle Pass. Evo Coins can be used to buy things from the Item Shop and start gacha. Gifts are rare and relatively spaced out. Players can unlock a new suit by paying “Capital” (aka blue dots), which is earned by completing levels in the Beginner Challenges and Battle Pass. But the current Battle Pass and Beginner Challenge lists only reward enough capital to unlock two suits at the end of the grind. There are five suits to unlock. Worse still, ranked play is downright unavailable to players on the free tier without considerable effort to level up their player. Those who upgrade their Battle Pass to “Premium” immediately unlock ranked play. It’s a distasteful move that also distorts the landscape of players available for ranked mode, as even at lower bronze ranks you’ll have a mix of completely new players who have chosen to upgrade their Battle Passes and players who have tons of experience. but weren’t able to unlock ranked mode until they had their time in the occasional playlist mines.

Even now, after some system tweaks, it may take a while to enter ranked matches above the first ranked tier. Overall, if you just downloaded Gundam Evolution and want to jump right into ranked play with all the combinations available, you’re looking at spending around $60 USD (about $50 in Evo Coins to buy the “Deluxe Pack” which unlocks all 5 locked combinations, and $10 for upgrade to a premium Battle Pass).

Personally, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to pay Something to a free game. At the moment, however, I feel Gundam EvolutionThe potential of is crippled by its monetization. New players might be put off by the idea that they’re getting a second-class experience if they don’t pay, and paying players don’t reap the benefits of the large audience that a free game can attract.

Hopefully Bandai Namco will rethink some of these moves and focus on Gundam Evolution as a longer term concern. The instant gaming experience is just too much fun to be worth weighing down the gravity of business.

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