In case the name didn’t give it away, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam is a spin-off of the Dynasty Warriors series using settings and characters from the Mobile Suit Gundam series of anime. The first entry in the new series was released in 2007. It was a rather mediocre game, even by Dynasty Warriors standards, and appealed mostly as fan service. Now that Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 is here, one thing is certain: This game is karmic retribution for my belief that the series had nowhere to go but up after the first game.
DW: Gundam 2 is divided into two primary modes. Official Mode portrays an abbreviated version of the canon Universal Century (the “main” Gundam series timeline) Gundam plot.
The same basic Dynasty Warriors formula remains unchanged. As one of 62 mobile suits, you’ll wade into a field of cannon fodder foes, taking them out by the dozens in an attempt to lower their control over a field. Controlling a field provides reinforcements and raises your side’s morale, making your allies more effective in combat. The roster of characters and mobile suits has been expanded considerably since the first DW: Gundam. Disappointingly, the same can’t be said for the level selection, which remains sparse and still only includes environments from the main UC timeline.
Mission Mode takes the place of Original Mode from the first game. This is the mode where canon and continuity are thrown to the wind and all the various, disparate Gundam universes and timelines come crashing together in an orgy of fan service. At least, an orgy of fan service is what’s supposed to happen. It doesn’t quite work out but we’ll get back to that later.
Mission Mode lacks any kind of plot. The new mode provides a very basic story for your character (Milliardo Peacecraft doesn’t like guns, so he’s fighting because… um… to get rid of the guns?) but there isn’t any actual plot or narrative arc. There’s no motivation to play other than to grind; there’s nothing driving the narrative.
The plot from the previous game’s original mode was certainly nothing special, but even that light, simplistic, fan service plot provided some sort of motivation. DW: Gundam 2’s Mission Mode simply asks the player to grind for the sake of grinding.
The only way Mission Mode stands out from the core game is by introducing a number of new design concepts to the game, though none are particularly well implemented.
Replacing the Dynasty Warriors feature of finding new weapons, players will instead collect, research and upgrade new parts for their mobile suits. New parts increase the stats of your mobile suit but you also need to collect all parts of a mobile suit before it can be used.
This brings me to the license system. Similar to the first game, characters and mobile suits can be selected independently. That is to say, any character can (theoretically) use any mobile suit. However, the “special” mobile suits require licenses that have to be acquired through special missions. These missions in turn must be unlocked by meeting certain requirements, usually revolving around the new friendship system.
The friendship system builds or destroys relationships between the player’s character and other characters based on the player’s actions. Essentially, if you fight alongside a character, your relationship improves. Fight against a character, and your relationship suffers.
You can also join various factions, though this is mostly just a means for building relationships with certain characters or unlocking parts for mobile suits. It doesn’t affect the plot at all.
It’s funny how all these new elements of the game actually manage to make it more shallow than its predecessor or any Dynasty Warriors game, for that matter. These new mechanics are simultaneously convoluted and overly simplistic.
Collecting parts, unlocking licenses and building relationships all boil down to the same tired gameplay mechanic that is a staple of the series: grinding. That’s all it ever is.
The friendship element is particularly frustrating in this regard because your allies and enemies from mission to mission are randomized. Therefore, if you need to build a relationship with a particular character for the sake of unlocking a license mission, you could be playing the same level repeatedly, simply hoping that this one character will happen to show up as an ally.
Everything about Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 is hopelessly archaic. Bosses present a challenge merely by having a ridiculous amount of health and only being vulnerable to attack during brief moments that rarely last longer than a second.
The game boasts “improved AI” but all this translates to is the fact that enemies attack slightly more often and have more attacks that knock you down. Meanwhile, your allies’ AI doesn’t consist of anything more complex than mindless button mashing. This becomes especially frustrating when you get a game over screen when one of your vital allies died fighting a boss because all he/she did was stand in front of it and frantically attack, with no concern for their own defense or health.
Speaking of which, a “game over” screen? I can’t think of any other modern game series that still uses these outdated arcade-based design concepts. Most games gave this up ten years ago, almost all have done so within the last few years.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 fails in every respect, even as fan service. More characters do not a better game make, even if you are just trying to appeal to fanboys/girls. It adds content over its predecessor but also manages to remove depth by drastically over-simplifying an already overly simplified design.