Free Pizza Video Game Review - Transformers: Battlegrounds
This is where we are, huh? Missing Activision?
Well, maybe that’s not fair. Publisher Outright Games isn’t exactly at fault here, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s set up the game first.
Transformers Battlegrounds is a turn-based strategy game taking place in the Cyberverse continuity with images, plot trappings and voice acting taken from or inspired by the show. Even though the show’s third season got pretty dark and very Matrix inspired (the Wachowski films, not the Cybertronial relic), for the most part the show’s aesthetic is bright and colorful and that’s represented well here. Gameplay is quick to pick up and sure, if you want to go that far, I can see it having a “easy to learn, difficult to master” vibe to it. Like its source material, the game itself feels skewed to a younger demographic, which, in all honesty, it should. [Even though the massive fanboy screams to be catered to. – Ed.] Most of everything the game goes about trying to do, it seems to do fairly well.
Why does it suck then?
Let’s get my own personal biases out of the way first. First off, as I’ve already mentioned, it feels like it’s a skewed a little younger than me…and, you know, given that I’m over freaking 40, that’s completely fine. Second, again kind of tying into my age, while I have played and liked turn-based strategy games before (I remember playing Final Fantasy Tactics on the old Playstation in college and enjoying it), I was in my late teens when the real-time strategy boom hit (Dune 2, Command and Conquer, StarCraft, Dark Reign, etc) and that’s where my preference lies to this day. So, Battlegrounds here was starting with the deck a little bit stacked against it. That being said, for me, I know that sometimes the right license or IP can make me like something I ordinarily wouldn’t.
As you can guess from the tone of this review up to this point, it failed in that task.
You see, the problem with Battlegrounds at its very core is something that has been happening to games a lot lately (video and board), a license slapped onto a game that, really, could be anything. What I mean to say, the mechanics behind Battlegrounds would work if this were G.I. Joe instead of Transformers…or Marvel, or DC, etc. The thing that makes Transformers special is the ability to convert from one form to another at any time…whether it’s a plastic toy in your hand or pushing a button on your controller as has been the case for Transformers games ever since the PS2. [And even before that on the Commodore 64 and Famicom! - Ed.] We don’t have that here. Conversion happens whenever the animation deems it necessary. The core mechanics of the game, wherein the player has 3 action points per character, each character can only attack once per round…well, again, there’s nothing about this that screams Transformers. At all. In fact, to go back to my previous example, I might have liked this more if it were a G.I. Joe game!
Going back to the game mechanics, was this something that really needed to be on a home console? I mean, sure, the Nintendo Switch would work because it’s just as much a mobile gaming platform, but really? PS4 and X-Box One? No. Sure, I might tolerate this on my smart phone the same way every once and a great while I pull up Transformers: Earth Wars but in no way does Battlegrounds do anything to scream console release…even if it is a budget title at $40.
Lastly, there’s story…or distinct lack thereof. The point of a game, or at least the good ones, is to give the game mechanics a propelling force via a story. Look, I’ll play a shitty game if your story is good enough where I need to see where it goes. But the context we’re provided in the first couple of missions is just a very empty ‘Decepticons are attacking your town. Stop them.” Look, if this were the small town I grew up in in Ohio, I can tell you right now that I’d side with the ‘Cons on this one…especially if they game me a primo view and some popcorn to watch the festivities. Is there any framing story behind this seemingly random attack? Nope. Only that the Decepticons are eeeeeeeevil. Sigh.
Going back to biases real quick, it doesn’t help that the first couple of missions are stuck with that golden super-duper wunderkind: Bumblebee. Fuck you Bumblebee. Seriously. Right up the friggin’ tailpipe.
Ultimately, can I recommend this? Well, the answer should be obvious by this point. Look, if you’ve got someone in the 7-12 range at home, then yeah, this might be a good game for them. It’s pretty simple in both controls and story and I’m sure they’ll dig it. But for those of us that have been around since G1, Beast Wars, or, hell, even the Unicron Trilogy at this point, we’re probably outside the target audience here. Retreat back to the comforts of Devastation or the Full Moon War for Cybertron games, this one’s not for us.
Play Time: 20 minutes
Sorry Transformers: Battlegrounds, looks like pizza's on you this time.