In a continuing trend for the long-running mecha franchise, Bandai Namco brings yet another of its Gundam series to the west. Does the fourth entry stack up?
For a start, the basic gameplay has been changed up significantly. In the previous entry, you would proceed through linear levels, destroying all other opponents that dare to get in your way as you proceed to an objective of some description. However, in this newest entry you instead battle in an open arena, typically in a three-versus-three situation, with objectives being handed out to both teams. Whichever team completes the objective first gets the points, and whoever has the most points at the end wins, unless a story objective is completed by you, the player. This complete changeover from how things used to be done might at first appear fresh and interesting, but it doesn’t take long to unearth just how flat and uninspired this change is. While the previous game wasn’t exactly brimming with variety in its combat situations, here the match usually ends up boiling down to you and the enemy team rushing at each other, with neutral ‘grunt’ units thrown in, creating a melting pot where the action becomes impossible to follow. What makes this much worse is how your attacks have much more follow-through on them, meaning you could swing for days and miss, but the AI will expose your openness in each attack and just stun-lock you into death. It’s frustrating and just not fun to deal with.
But that’s not the only poor choice made in changing the game up. A major part of every battle is that you can now pick up Gundam parts dropped by other units (both by players and grunts) and then swap them on the go with your own. You’re even encouraged to do this as your own parts will suffer damage and eventually become dangerous to keep, so it becomes a game of mismatching parts to stay alive. This is hard to deal with as each part carries your special abilities (such as extra weapons or stat boosts) meaning that it becomes impossible to kit yourself out for a perfect run. But an even bigger affront is to the very idea of Gundam Breaker itself.
See, a core part of this series is building a Gundam (or Gunpla, as the toys are known) and really making it your own. You can pick the parts, the weapons, design the paintjob, customise with decals, the works. You could truly make something that was unique to you. Here though, all that falls apart by the very nature of this part swapping gameplay. It feels like a complete disconnect from the very nature of the series, and what it’s meant to be all about. And it’s not just this that ruins the idea of creative freedom. A core part of building your Gundam was adding Builders Parts, which allowed you to add auxiliary weapons to your model and increase its adaptability. Rocket pods? Go for it. Extra swords? Why not. A music player? Err… sure. Here? Forget it. All they do is add stats. They just sit there as nothing more than scenery. Whoever decided that this was a good idea really needs to be sent back to the drawing board.
Gundam Breaker has never been known for its story, but here it’s particularly bland. It’s little more than a dating visual novel with Gundam battles thrown in haphazardly, with your route deciding which girl you go out with. I wouldn’t mind it if it wasn’t so mind-numbingly dull and typical of the dating VN genre, and this controls everything you do in the singleplayer mode.
It’s the near-perfect storm of bad: bad story, bad gameplay, bad customization, and unacceptable optimization. Thank god this was delayed on PC, because even the PS4 Pro can barely handle this game. There are moments where the game just straight up freezes. By the second day of playing this game and nothing else, I was tired. I went back to Gundam Breaker 3, and I was so much happier. If you have even the slightest interest in this game, just go on Amazon and buy the Asian English version of Gundam Breaker 3 Break Edition, which contains all of the DLC. This? Don’t even wait for an update to fix the frame-rate. Instead, pray. Pray that this isn’t used as an excuse to cancel further western releases of Gundam games by Bandai Namco.
Besides, I want another SD Gundam game.
+ Great-looking graphics, especially on Gundams
-- Poor frame-rate and constant freezing
--- Massive step backwards for series in almost every aspect
(After word: The only thing keeping this from a 1/5 is that the Gundams at least look nice when you’re making them)