We took our miniaturized mechs for a spin in the early Southeast Asian version of Softmax's free-to-play Gundam-themed massively multiplayer online game.
Readers from Asia may be familiar with the long-running Mobile Suit Gundam spin-off called SD Gundam, which caught on with fans in various forms, such as manga, trading cards, and capsule figures. The mini mech phenomenon did prove popular in video game form as the turn-based strategy and brawler titles like the SD Gundam Force and SD Gundam G Generation series. South Korean company Softmax decided to make a massively multiplayer online game based on the popular spin-off and launched the game way back in 2007 called SD Gundam Capsule Fighter Online.
Four years later, Bandai Korea agreed to publish the game onto North American servers with OGPlanet. As for Southeast Asia, Shanda Games will be launching its version early next year. After checking out an early build of the latter version, we suspected as much that the game will appeal to the hardcore Gundam fans.
For starters, the game will feature all of the Gundam mechs from all eras, ranging from the Universal Century timeline to the Future Century era. Customization options for each mech are plentiful. Apart from being able to purchase certain robots, either through the standard cash shop or buying random mechs through the Gashapon screen (akin to a capsule machine, only with pilotable SD Gundams), gamers can deck out their mechs with custom paint jobs and stickers by spending points earned in battle.
Players can also assign different operators for missions; these pilots essentially make you earn more experience points and currency for a fixed number of days. They're used mostly to speed up a player's level grinding as most free-to-play MMOGs are purposely slow in this regard.
Players control their Gundams with the keyboard and mouse. You use the WASD keys to move your mech around while you use the mouse to look around and aim. All attacks are done using the left mouse button; you can switch between melee and ranged attacks using the number keys 1 to 5. As you aim by moving your mouse, you can auto-aim onto moving targets by clicking on the right mouse button.
Covering a lot of ground on a map requires you to double-tap the WASD keys to boost; you press the spacebar twice and hold it down to double jump and hover, respectively. Clever use of the mech's dashing is required to outmaneuver human opponents, though you have to take into account the boost gauge as it depletes when you're frantically blazing around.
When we were checking out the controls during the training missions, we only had access to up to three weapons; the charged shot attacks and special moves (which invoke a cinematic-style attack when it connects) were only available when the game goes into a closed beta stage next year. Still, what we experienced in this build proved that it will take some time getting used to the game's controls and the mech's maneuverability. While not as complex and lumbering as robots in the MechWarrior and Steel Battalion franchises, we're just glad that the tutorial gave us some leeway in piloting our selected Gundams in the heat of battle.
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