Giant robots are awesome and Gundam Versus has some of the best. But can a game offer you too many options? Heather takes a look in this critical video.
Here's a transcript for those of you who can't watch the video:
Gundam Versus is a fast affair full of laser swords, dashes and sudden death. The game focuses on arcade battles between giant robots called mobile suits; these battles take a handful of minutes to complete. Gundam Versus is a massive game, but that isn't because of a large game world or sprawling narrative. Instead, the game drowns players in a sea of choices that overwhelms and ultimately paralyses.
Choice often feels like one of the most important selling points for a game. In open world games, studios boast about the scale of their games' worlds. They compare map size to see which game has more. Assassin's Creed and Fallout pack their worlds with countless trinkets, quests,and side activities. Choice is a cornerstone in narrative as well; Mass Effect is famous for tracking player decisions, while experiences such as Heavy Rain were sold on their ability to adapt to player decisions. Games love choice, and players love having choices, but Gundam Versus is just too much.
Versus models itself like a fighting game and has over 90 playable mobile suits. The character select screen is a daunting tangle of possibilities full of fan favourite gundams as well as obscure characters. From a design standpoint, balancing nearly 100 units is nearly impossible. The game acknowledges this by marking certain suits as higher quality, granting them access to special abilities. Some can transform and others have powerful special attacks. When you're defeated in Gundam Versus, you lose a portion of resources. The better suits are worth more resources. If they're destroyed, players are quickly pushed to the brink of defeat. You have to decide whether or not you want to use higher value suits but risk faster resource drain, or do you use basic units and hope you can outplay your enemies.
Keeping track of quality units and their relative values is already a complicated calculus. Selecting a suit feels like a major cost/benefit analysis. You need to balance your personal tastes with a unit's effectiveness while also considering if playing as that particular unit will get you the unlockables you want. And there are way too many unlockables.
In addition to having to keep track of the strengths and weakness of countless characters, players can unlock support characters to summon in battles and different pilots for their robots by playing as specific mobile suits and gaining experience points. Level up one mobile suit enough and you might be able to unlock a new support, an extra decal to slap on your mech, or even a new character to provide colour commentary during matches. Gundam Versus has plenty of potential robots to level and items to grind for. This scale makes it difficult to know what to do.
At any given point while playing Gundam Versus, players will be tracking characters stats, monitoring their experience points, tracking resources during battles, and looking forward to the next milestone or unlockable. It's so daunting that the average player will have no idea where to start. The back catalogue of unlockables and wide range of suits means you might spend more time at the character select than in battles. Gundam Versus' interesting meta-game of unit selection and resource management is buried under a mountain of fluff choices with no particular consequence. It confuses more for better.
In trying to please as many fans as possible and offer a broad spectrum of choices, Gundam Versus actually locks out a majority of casual players by burying them under a mountain of content. Exciting combat hardly matters if it's impossible to disconnect from the game's bloated progression system. Players will hardly ever feel like they're making meaningful progress thanks to the sheer size of it all. It's a mecha action feast that I love playing — after I've spent 20 minutes wondering who I should play as next.