Gundam has been around long enough to launch a ton of series with a lot of cool mecha and the battles between them. It’s also led to a vast variety of games, ranging from action to fighting to strategy. However, the giant mechanized boot Gundam has never tried on is the hero shooter defined by games such as Overwatch and Team Fortress. Gundam Evolution is that step into this genre and while it doesn’t necessarily have the balance of other well-known games or make use of franchise favorites the way it could, it’s still a solid entry in the hero shooter genre.
Zakus, Gundams, & mobile armors, oh my
Gundam Evolution is a free-to-play game built on the foundation of many hero shooters before it. Players select from an array of iconic mobile suits and mecha that fit certain niches and roles to fill out 6v6 teams and do battle across a myriad of objective-based modes. Being an effective fighter is only half the battle. You have to work with your team to achieve your objective, be it planting or defending against a bomb at a target objective, holding down a control zone to fill your team’s progress gauge, or attacking or defending target areas to advance the battle forward against a countdown clock. If you can’t win the objectives, your kill/death ratio is pretty much useless.
I both like and dislike that Gundam Evolution doesn’t feature a classic team deathmatch mode or something similar. On one hand, it prioritizes teamwork over singular maverick efforts as a hero shooter arguably should. On the other hand, it means you have to rely on your team to work together and that can be both rewarding when it goes right and horribly frustrating when it goes wrong. I was on both sides of that equation frequently as I played the game, and it was quite breakneck how fast a match could turn lopsided when a team didn’t synergize.
A part of that equation is in the mecha roster itself in Gundam Evolution. This game features a wide variety of Gundam, Zaku types, and further mobile suits from the very first Gundam and Zaku up to Gundam Barbatos from Iron-Blooded Orphans and the Unicorn Gundam. Every mobile suit is built to fill out a multitude of roles from close range to long range, and from healer to gunner to melee, and more. I only have a couple issues with that. Some mobile suits are far better than others. Barbatos was a regular pick in my matches because it could quickly close distance and hammer foes with melee attacks and stuns. GM Sniper was another constant because of its extreme damage capability at long range. Compared to these safe picks, it often felt like picking an outlier like Gundam Exia could be fun, but you might be hurting your team, even just to experiment.
The maps are another factor that makes the roster feel a bit lopsided. Don’t get me wrong. Gundam Evolution has a pretty solid variety of maps, featuring wastelands, canyons, an urban sprawl, high-tech bases, and more, but a common factor among them was that they mostly all offered wide open ranges for fighting. This is part of what makes a long-range combatant like GM Sniper a monster in the right hands. There are some indoor sections and corridors inside of bases and outside in natural canyons and rivers, and the maps are very pretty, but from what I saw, a lot of the maps catered to mid-to-long range engagement with choosing a close-combat machine being a dangerous endeavor.
I also was just disappointed to not see some of my favorite concepts from Gundam utilized. No Gundam actually uses their beam saber in this game right now (Zaku Melee, Exia and Barbatos use melee weapons, but the others are just for show, even on the OG Gundam). Meanwhile, there are currently no Gundam SEED, Gundam Wing, or G Gundam representatives in the roster, which feels like a loss in the short, mid, and long-range categories. There are even pilot voices you can equip for yourself on any machine, but there are no iconic character pilot voices. In a franchise defined by fantastic characters, not having the option to even unlock pilot voices like Amuro Ray, Char Aznable, Mikazuki Augus, Heero Yuy, Zechs Merquise, or Shiro Amada to name a few feels silly.
Even so, I respect that being a hero shooter, Gundam Evolution has to carefully figure out which niches to fill with its roster and maps. I just think it’s a bit too reserved for how much good stuff it has to choose from.
Gundanium ain’t cheap
As for the economy of Gundam Evolution, it’s not the worst I’ve seen. You actually have access to a lot of the roster right from the get-go, including some of the more “in-meta” mecha I described. To unlock the remaining roster, you have to either use the premium currency, EVO Coins, or the free currency, Capital. Capital can be gained through completing challenges, leveling up, and other methods. EVO Coins must be bought with real money. You can also earn both through the Season Pass, which acts as the game’s battle pass with leveling tiers which drop both free and premium rewards if you buy into the Premium Pass.
To give you an idea of the economy, a Battle Pass can be bought with 990 EVO coins. It costs $9.99 to buy 1000 EVO Coins. Similarly, you can unlock one of the locked mobile suits in the roster for 990 EVO Coins, but you can also unlock it with 1980 Capital. There are free tiers in the Season Pass that will reward you with 1000 Capital at a time, but there are only two of these rewards on the whole pass at Tier 18 and Tier 58. That’s a lot of grinding to only be able to unlock one mobile suit for free.
Nonetheless, there are also all sorts of cosmetics in the game, and these too can be earned with free currencies, EVO Coins, and Season Pass tiers. Supply Drops are the loot crates of the game, giving you three random cosmetics with each opening. You can buy them with 180 EVO Coins a piece, but you can also unlock them with Supply Pod Tickets, which can also be earned for free from the Season Pass. The cosmetics feel more earnable in this way since you can get 11 of them out of the free Season Pass and more out of the Premium version. That said, I’m not wild about playable characters being locked behind such a long grind if you don’t want to spend real money. It's nice that there are good, strong mobile suits available out of the gate, though. You won’t be at a loss for options.
A new War in the Pocket
I really like the overall style of Gundam Evolution. The maps are neat and the mobile suits are a decent starting lineup, even if I don’t like some of the omissions from throughout the franchise in both the roster and cosmetic options. There’s also the fact that some of these mobile suits just feel straight-up overpowered compared to certain other niche options in team comp. That said, as a live-service free-to-play game, I’ve never had an issue finding a match in Gundam Evolution and it looks like the groundwork is here for some good improvements, additions, and balancing over time. I also really enjoyed matches where my team worked together well, win or lose. If you like Gundam and you like Overwatch, there’s no reason to pass Gundam Evolution by. Just be mindful that you might get demolished in the early running as Bandai Namco balances and adds to the game.
This review is based on both free and premium access to Gundam Evolution supplied by the publisher. Gundam Evolution is available now on PC with PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S versions coming on December 1, 2022.
- A solid mix of mecha filling a variety of roles
- Maps are vast and interesting
- Economy on cosmetics is kind
- Some mobile suits are really fun and easy to play
- Good variety of match types
- Good foundation for a long road of additions
- No simple deathmatches
- Lack of team synergy leads to quick losses
- Some mobile suits are overpowered
- Some mobile suits are downright niche
- Free economy is stingy on roster unlocks
- Doesn't make the most of the Gundam franchise