Sunday, 8 November 2020

Transformers: Battlegrounds ★★☆☆☆


The Transformers franchise has always made sense in the world of video games. Hulking robots beating the mechanical poop out of each other against a loose backdrop of world domination threats and wisecracking heroes seems like the perfect recipe for gaming fun. Yet despite having a seemingly foolproof premise, everyone’s favourite Robots In Disguise haven’t always had the best time in the digital world. For every Fall of Cybertron, there’s a Mystery of Convoy, which couldn’t even be bothered to spell its own name correctly in the title screen! Couple that with over a decade’s worth of pretty boring movies, and you’ll understand why we weren’t overly thrilled at the prospect of the latest gaming release - Transformers: Battlegrounds. 

Fortunately, it has nothing to do with the Michael Bay movieverse. As in classic series fashion, Megatron has almost got his grubby metallic mitts on the AllSpark, and it’s up to you as the new leader of the Autobots to save the day. A turn-based strategy game based on the ongoing Transformers: Cyberverse series, it’s the Autobots’ first outing in the genre since 2008’s critically acclaimed mobile game G1: Awakening. But is it another hit in a sea of misses? Read on to find out…



Firstly, this is indeed a solid strategy game, for kids. It’s a great way for younger players to get to grips with the genre, introducing them to mechanics like logic paths and tactical insights, set against the backdrop of a familiar, colourful world. There are difficulty options, with the most challenging spiking for more experienced players, but this feels like a very artificial way to boost the difficulty, rather than organically weaving it into the game. That isn’t so much a criticism, rather a disclaimer of who this game is actually for. 

Likewise, the campaign is fairly simple too, a breezy 8-10 hour experience that sees you only being able to control the Autobots. There is an arcade mode in which you can play as the Decepticons, but even with online play, I’m not sure how much longevity you’ll get out of this. 

With that being said, it’s clear a lot of passion for the series went into the making of Battlegrounds. Most of the original voice cast reprise their roles with aplomb, with Starscream hamming it up gloriously well. This adds a real sense of authenticity to proceedings, and coupled with the visuals, will prove to be a delight for fans of the series. 

What’s more, every Autobot has a unique skill set and personality. Each look, feel, move, speak, and fight like their TV show counterparts, adding a layer of depth to the gameplay to bulk out its more basic foundations.

It’s also worth reiterating just how good this game looks. The cell-shaded art style is a delight, and with sandbox-style maps on both Earth and Cybertron, there’s plenty of variety to boot. It’s a nice touch that certain environments are destructible too, as this can force you to change strategy on the fly as cover suddenly disappears.  



But ultimately, despite all these positives, we couldn’t shake the feeling that this could’ve been a mobile game. The tactical strategy genre is perfect for a touch interface, and while what it does it does well, it’s limited scope makes it no more impressive than what you’d find on the iOS App or Google Play Store. And that’s not to say mobile games are inherently bad, we just don’t like paying Triple-A prices for them.

To wrap up, Transformers: Battlegrounds serves as a great introduction for younger players looking to get into more strategy minded games. It teaches all the basic mechanics that will serve them well as they go on to more advanced titles later down the line. But there’s very little to entice more mature fans of the genre or Transformers in general, and with a hefty price point for a glorified mobile game, it’s hard to recommend. 

★★☆☆☆
Tom Baker




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