For many gamers, the phrase “Robots in disguise” will fill them with giddy delight. If you are in your late 30s to 40s, you will be reminded on the vivid and distinct animation series. Those who are younger will probably know of the Transformers because of the many blockbuster films that have been released. The franchise spans many ventures, and computer games were to be expected. So when I was asked to review one, it didn’t shock me, but what did was the chosen genre.
Transformers Battlegrounds from developers Coatsink and publishers Outright Games is a strategic turn-based title aimed at entry level players, and a younger audience. An odd choice of genre you make think, but because of its theme and its simplified approach, it’s a great way to cut your teeth on an otherwise challenging genre.
Yes, as it’s all about the Allspark.
As with all things Transformers, it’s a standard affair. Optimus Prime and the Autobots are tasked with protecting both Earth and the Allspark. You a lowly human must command this band of space robots, laying down orders from a bird’s-eye perspective, constantly battling the Decepticons. Megatron will stop at nothing to get his shiny claws on the Allspark’s power, so you must battle wave after wave of his minions. You will visit various locations; Central city to Cyberton, each with its unique layout and structures that must be used to gain the upper hand.
As you can see, it’s a classic turn-based strategy game down to the nth degree. What makes this stand out as a much more straightforward game, than say Xcom, is the ease at which success is achieved. I’ve played this genre for as long as I can remember, but I’m still no expert. However, with Transformers Battlegrounds I had to place little to no thought into planning to win a stage. The Autobots are over-powered compared with many of the Decepticon cannon fodder. Shots are guaranteed to hit for both parties, so standing out in the open is not an issue.
Simplicity makes it fun, but too easy.
Steamrolling your way through every level is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. However, the lack of challenge, even in the hardest difficulty setting, soon gets old. Luckily, the chirpy nature of each of the characters, and their upbeat outlook on life makes this game what it is. You soon lose yourself in a delightfully colourful world that is reminiscent of the early 80s cartoon series. The story ebbs and flows nicely, if not a bit predictably, from area to area. Like most 80s cartoons, the dialogue is laced with morality and hidden messages. It was a delightful trip down memory lane.
Does it matter that there is little challenge when you get a fair amount of gameplay? I guess not, but for the experienced gamer in the genre you will certainly find this a walk in the park. Coatsink tries to ease this issue by adding an Arcade mode alongside the main story. From this tab you can take on another player or the computer in a wide range of scenarios, with up to 6 to choose from; Capture the flag, Decepticon grudge match, Energon capture, last stand, destruction and cube. Each has a different aim and set of rules. Though it doesn’t add depth to the story, it’s a welcome distraction and fun to compete in.
Fewer tactical choices.
As you progress, you will encounter a variety of different Autobots. Each has a unique set of skills, and an oddly elaborate tale to why they are living on Earth. As missions are completed, each of these newly discovered robots joins the arsenal of characters to select. If you are successful in your task (you will be, trust me), you will earn a minimum of 1000 Spark points. More can be gained if you increase the game difficulty. These are spent on new attacks for each class of character, and can be swapped in and out depending on the objectives and selected team.
With limited action points to use, close quarters and long range attacks, and minimal challenge from the AI, you will make fewer tactical choices. Most missions comprise 2 to 5 minute stints where you sprint from A to B killing the odd Decepticon. Once you arrive at the pivotal moment in each act, you will face a boss battle. These fights usually last around 10 minutes, treating you to a small challenge, and introducing new powerful Decepticons that must be overcome. This is Transformers Battlegrounds in a nutshell, low of genre originality, but laced with nostalgia, and a great cast of characters.
It’s a colourful and loud affair!
Everything about this game is bright, vivid, and in your face. The developers have done well to replicate the colour palette and tone of each of the characters from the original series. The maps that you explore are small, yet contain a vast amount of detail. Each of the models is well designed and move around the map smoothly. The variations in attacks are interesting to look at, and the explosions of cars and other objects are both over the top and spectacular. Its visual presentation doesn’t lead the pack, but is on par with several of the genre’s well loved titles.
The audio is going to be the catch point for most players. You’ll either adore it, or you will want to cut your ears off half way through. The chirpy ramblings of each of the Autobots brought the gameplay to life for me, but after a while it grinds you down. I kept with it as I’ve always been a fan, but I could see why it would become tedious quickly. Every action is met with an over the top response, and no matter how dire the situation is, someone always sees the positives. This cheery disposition will make you shout out, “No, enough, is enough! Not every cloud has a silver lining.”
It’s easy to pick up and play.
Early game tutorials are not needed, as nearly every part of this game is self explanatory. An easy to work UI helps explain everything, and a lack of submenus ensures you don’t get lost. A well laid out grid highlights the limitations of movement, and how many action points spent. After the opening level, you will have mastered the basics and be well on your way to becoming an amazing commander for the Autobots.
The addition of the arcade mode prevents this from being a one playthough only game. The ability to play with another human ensures that a tactical approach must be taken. The 6 games were interesting to experience and didn’t take long to play through, so they can be played casually. The achievement list will stretch you, and every difficulty completed to gain 100% status. At £34.99 it may appear quite pricey, yet it’s not bad value if you are a lover of the theme, and appreciate how much time can be wasted on the Arcade mode.
Is it worth your time and effort?
If you a veteran of this genre and not a big fan of Transformers, then you are not likely to get the best out of this. But if you are the polar opposite, or you want a fun strategy game, then this isn’t a bad shout. Its nod to the cartoon series, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, and colourful settings make it an enjoyable title to experience. Its major downside is how simple it is to get through each level, even at later stages. Do I recommend it? I do just heed my warnings about how easy it is. If this review has piqued your interest, and you want a copy for yourself, it can be purchased here! Can you command the Autobots to protect the Earth and keep the Allspark safe?