As a self diagnosed techie, I’ve always had a soft spot for mech-related games and shows. But I haven’t had too many opportunities in the Fight or Kite column to go off on tangents about my love for animation and where those intersect, from basically all the Cartoon Network favorites like Steven Universe and Adventure Time to our overseas anime imports. I can wax lyrical about Dragon Ball Z day and night (please tell me you all saw Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero too).
But we aren’t here for any of those today; we’re here for some Gundam.
Gundam is one of those properties that has grown so large it encompasses all manner of genres. You have your silly SD Gundam where they’re all tiny and squished to your more serious 08th MS Team or Iron-Blooded Orphans. Personally, I’m still partial to Gundam Wing. It was my introduction to the series, and it featured Sandrock.
While there have been plenty of Gundam games, this is the first time I’ve been able to write about here. Now, much of my Cartoon Network love has been satiated by MultiVersus, so let’s see if the other shoe will drop too. Can Gundam Evolution fill in that same niche? Let’s strap in and find out!
Anyone who likes modern FPS gameplay will feel right at home
The elevator pitch for this one wasn’t too hard: What if we made a free-to-play game like Apex Legends but use Gundams instead? Boom. Now you have Gundam Evolution, a team-based FPS where you pilot your mobile suit to claim objectives from your opponents. If you’ve played Valorant, Overwatch, or Apex Legends, then you already know how to play this one.
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. That’s just exactly what this game is. When you grab a bag of crisps from the shelf at the store, and it’s clearly labeled “Thanksgiving Flavor,” you better believe I’m expecting it to taste like turkey and stuffing. Personally, I’m here for it. The game, I mean. (But also the crisps.)
Combat plays like combat the games that I’ve mentioned. That includes every suit having its own unique skills that tie in well with the source material for the unit. The Turn A Gundam’s G Maneuver (ultimate ability), for instance, jumps you up into the air with some wings that damage enemies beneath you. G Maneuvers are a nice addition that really embodies powers you want to see from the shows. All the skills have cooldowns, but the G Maneuver has to be charged up – I think from landing attacks on enemies.
I haven’t played many mech games recently, but one thing you won’t find here is too much minutia. Unlike in games like Mech Warrior, you don’t need to really concern yourself with individual pieces of your suit. You basically just have a health bar that you can heal up. The FPS aspect you’re getting isn’t so much like you’re sitting in a cockpit, either. It’s more like you are the machine.
Supposedly, the game has three combat modes: Point Capture, Domination, and Destruction. I think each mode is 6v6. In Point Capture, players are either attackers or defenders; the attackers try to capture a point then push inland further to capture another one.
Domination is your classic point-capture mode, but the points unlock randomly. Only one is open at a time, so all the combat focuses on those single nodes. Instead of earning points for kills and holding the objective, you are filling a meter to 100%. The team reaching 100% first wins.
Lastly is Destruction, which also has attackers and defenders, but this one plays more like a capture the flag mode where attackers are trying to plant an explosive and defenders are, obviously, trying to prevent that.
Now, the reason I say we “supposedly” have three modes is that in the past week of play, I’ve seen only two of them. Domination popped almost every time. That leads to one of my all time PvP pet peeves: random game modes.
Yes, in Gundam Evolution we once again have a game that forces players to enter a general queue and then be randomly spit out into one of the modes. Rather than letting players, you know, pick and play the game mode they prefer. It’s garbage, and I’ll never be a fan of it. Let players play what they want to play. Why is that so difficult? I just don’t understand.
Gundam Evolution does include both a ranked and unranked mode. One nice touch is that apparently players who reach the top 600 every season are awarded the honor of Newtype. A nod to Gundam lore I can appreciate, though 600 seems like an arbitrary stopping point – why not the top 500 or top 1000? Maybe there’s some deeper lore that I’m not aware of. I, of course, haven’t reached such lofty rankings, so I don’t know whether that is a title that confers any loot or badges or not. Surely, it does though, right?
Plot? Narrative? Pff, who needs that when you’ve got amazing visuals and known mobile suits?
Gundam Evolution doesn’t even try to act as if there is some overarching, time-space diluting, universe-contorting reason for all these mobile suits to be congregating together in battle. Instead, it’s just straightforward fan service – and honestly it doesn’t need anything more than that.
The initial launch of the game has Gundams from several different shows all mixed together, some of which are from the classics like the Guntank to newer faces like the Unicorn Gundam. For those Zeon fans out there, you have plenty of Zakus to choose from, including one of Char Aznable’s. I thought I had a fairly good knowledge base of Gundam lore, but apparently that isn’t the case at all – the well goes much deeper than even I knew.
Something the developers have included that I really love is a little blurb of lore for each of the mobile suits included in the game. For someone like me who appreciates the lore, it’s really fantastic to select a suit and get information about which series it’s from as well as who the pilot was.
Truly, the graphics and animations for Gundam Evolution are absolutely top notch. Movement and actions are responsive and each units unique skills looks fantastic. I might be getting smoked left and right, but seeing some units I love come to life is awesome.
The curse of monetization is strong with this one
Last but not least is my (least) favorite part: the monetization. I really must mention it. We’ve got a free-to-play game on our hands here, and it’s got to make coin somehow. It’s got skins for sale, avatars for your profile, banners that pop up when launching matches, little weapon trinkets, and plenty of other things too.
Now, doing a quick check of the store, I can see the current rate for buying coins is about 1000 per $10. Of course there are packs and items that you can buy directly in addition to everyone’s favorite: lockboxes. Since the game has just launched, we’ve even got discounts on these packs (so generous). There’s also a pack available for 4180 coins ($41.80) that includes a whole host of stuff. Perhaps this one’s not so bad; it’s more like buying a retail box. I’m… almost cool with that.
But the others are 3,480 ($34.80) for only four skins. That’s nearly $10 each. And it’s “discounted” from $80! Holy moly. It also doesn’t look like you can use any amount of game-earned currency to buy these things, either. It’s either be a whale or be a basic boy.
So, I’m at a loss for words on those prices. Absolute madness, really. If I really loved a game (and there is a lot to love about this game if it’s your genre), I could see myself spending $1 to $2 a skin. I’d likely buy a full set for the one or two suits I like the most, and I could see spending $40 or so to get cool gear and a fully decked-out suit. However, when you straight up ask for a boxed game price for only four skins, you’re going to get a nice goose egg from me.
That’s Gundam Evolution in a nutshell. There’s a lot to like about the game. For fans of FPS arenas and Gundam, then there’s simply no choice but to play – monetization aside. But for me personally, until they add Sandrock – and maybe pull back on those prices – I’ll be sitting this one out.