Publisher: Outright Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: eShop download
Category: Arcade, Strategy
No. of Players: up to 2 players
Release Date: October 23, 2020 (EU & NA)
Much like Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Street Fighter and Final Fantasy, Transformers is a franchise that first debuted in the 1980’s and went on to become a massive franchise that is still relevant in the new millennium.
Sure this media franchise is produced by Hasbro and Takara Tomy, two toy companies with the former being American and the latter being Japanese, but Transformers quickly went from being mere toys to a franchise that spurned its own comic book adaptations, multiple TV shows, received an overwhelming amount of films, both animated and live-action and a ton of video games.
Despite its popularity, as far as console games are concerned, a substantial pause has appeared as the previous console game released back in 2015, but now thanks to developer Coatsink and publisher Outright Games, Transformers has returned to consoles with the release of TRANSFORMERS: BATTLEGROUNDS and it’s time to see how these Autobots hold up in 2020.
Based on the animated Cyberverse series, TRANSFORMERS: BATTLEGROUNDS is the story of Bumblebee and co and the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. Megatron wants the AllSpark and the Decepticons will stop at nothing until they obtain it.
The Autobots, however, wish nothing more than to fight off the Decepticon threat, which has followed them to planet Earth, locate Optimus Prime and do whatever they possibly can to stop the Decepticons from getting the AllSpark, with the assistance of Teletraan X and a human spectator, representing the player, that Teletraan X holds high above each map, with the player offering guidance on how the Autobots should proceed.
TRANSFORMERS: BATTLEGROUNDS is an arcade-like, turn-based strategy game where players must control a team of Autobots, or Decepticons depending on what mode you’re playing, all whilst from a bird’s eye view position.
This aerial perspective enables players to scan the map’s contents, viewing enemy units and their positions and enabling players to come up with the best strategy for how they should proceed.
When you first begin playing, you start off controlling just the one Autobot, but in time you can control a team, with the likes of the ZR and ZL buttons being useful for swapping between them, whereas R and L are reserved for cycling through your Autobots abilities.
The right analog stick is used for rotating your view and can be used for zooming, whereas A is your typical selection button, B is for back, with X allowing players to cease their turn when ready, Y for inspecting enemy units and the left analog stick controlling your preferred movement.
Still, since there is a bit more to it than just that, turns consist of Autobots often having the first move, with the Decepticons making their move next and during each move. There is an action bar viewable in the centre of the bottom of the screen, highlighting your Autobot’s abilities.
The stars beneath each ability determine the number of action points required to pull them off, but be warned, as players can only attack once per turn and if you use up all your action points on attacking, then you leave yourself open to your enemy’s onslaught as action points are also required to move as well.
New and stronger abilities can be unlocked as you proceed, with special attacks becoming available in later stages of Act 1. You can also gain new Autobots and as for level completion, it all requires you meeting certain mission goals. This can range from getting to a certain area, defeating all enemies on the map, including boss characters or even staying alive for a set number of turns.
No matter the case, it’s all fairly simple stuff that players can get used to in no time at all and then it gets pretty repetitive, even when trying to play through the main campaign on a harder difficulty.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
Unlike other titles we’ve seen published by Outright Games, TRANSFORMERS: BATTLEGROUNDS isn’t as content heavy. Sure, there’s a main campaign told via a story mode, but it’s only comprised of 4 main acts that are made up of a total of 20 levels, which don’t take up a lot of time to play through.
Not only that, but unless you wish to collect more Spark Points to purchase new abilities, or just want to experience the game’s story on a harder difficulty, story mode has very little to offer in way of replay value.
Where you can expand your time with TRANSFORMERS: BATTLEGROUNDS, however, is by trying to make the most out of the game’s achievements, of which there are 20 to obtain, or by indulging in arcade mode.
Giving the game some well-needed substance, arcade mode consists of five different modes that you can either play on your own, or with a player two, as for what those five modes and how their gameplay varies, we’re going to get into that right now.
Capture the Flag sees you playing as the Autobots, and having to catch the Decepticon flag and bring it back to your base three times, with destroyed Autobots making a return one turn later, whereas Decepticons take three turns to return.
In Decepticon Grudge Match, you control four Deceptions and must destroy two Autobots, whereas in Energon Capture, players are tasked with capturing and defending Energon Ore Deposits for three turns.
For Last Stand, players assume control of the Autobots in a never-ending battle against Decepticon forcers and in Destruction, using just four Autobots, you need to “deactivate” as many Decepticons as you can and you have just ten turns to do it.
All five modes have a star rating with players being able to get as many as three stars per map, with more maps being unlocked once you beat the current available one.
While the sound effects for TRANSFORMERS: BATTLEGROUNDS are fairly standard, the game’s only real highlight in the audio department is the voice acting provided for both warring factions, (Decepticons and Autobots), with both sides getting plenty of dialogue each.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
On the visual side of things, the Cyberverse character designs and overall game environments say it all. This is a Transformers game aimed directly at a younger audience. Sure, some older players might get some enjoyment out of it, but just because the actual designs of the characters aren’t too sad, visually the game is underwhelming.
Terrains and environments have just enough detail on them to give them some depth and make things discernable, but compared to what we’ve seen Coatsink bring to the table in some of their other titles, TRANSFORMERS: BATTLEGROUNDS is lacking in the finer touches, which then makes the performance aspect of the game feel even more out of place.
For the most part, things run smoothly, but at times, given the lower scale of the graphics, there are delays and loading issues that feel a touch out of place. Don’t get me wrong, there are some aspects of the game that play perfectly, but there some that feel like they undermined the whole thing.
I’m glad the Transformers franchise has made a return to consoles, and while TRANSFORMERS: BATTLEGROUNDS is by no means the worst game we’ve seen released this year, perhaps it was the wrong direction to take.
It’s a good premise and it’s nice to see the Cyberverse story get its very own video game adaptation, but perhaps the genre should have been more befitting the nature of the series, as opposed to picking a genre that might have suited another Transformers story arch, especially with a different style of graphics more befitting the gameplay.
As the first console Transformers game since 2015’s Transformers Devastation by PlatinumGames, TRANSFORMERS: BATTLEGROUNDS has some big shoes to fill. It serves as a decent entry point for younger fans of the series, but long time series fans might end up feeling disappointed. The strategic gameplay angle is a good idea, but more could have been done to make this licensed title shine as bright as the AllSpark.
THE VERDICT: 6/10
*A download key was provided by the Publisher for the purposes of this review
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