Transformers: Battlegrounds Review

November 2, 2020
Also on: PC, Xbox One, Switch

For my fortieth birthday earlier this year my wife surprised me with a Transformers-themed ‘party’ – I had an Optimus Prime cake, Transformers balloons, tablecloths and more. It was amazing. I was four in 1984 when Hasbro first birthed the idea of transforming robot aliens, and for having travelled around the sun four times I got Inferno, a fire engine-cum robot and I never looked back. I mean, we can all agree that Optimus Prime is the greatest leader in all of the world’s media, ever, right? Freedom is the right of all sentient beings, after all. 

So, naturally, I was very much looking forward to the release of the latest Transformers game, Transformers: Battlegrounds. Previous licensed titles have been mixed, with Transformers: Devastation, the most recent, a stand-out brawler from the brilliant minds at PlatinumGames of Bayonetta fame; the War for Cybertron series seen at the start of the last decade and regarded as excellent titles; and then going all the way back past a myriad of varied games to The Transformers in 1986, published by Ocean software which is one heck of a blast from the past. This original game had mixed reviews at the time.

There are lots of flashes, bangs and wallops to be fair.

Anyway, I digress. This game was one I was excited to get to play and I was very much frothing at the mouth right up until I loaded it up and was presented with the title screens. Don’t get me wrong, as you’ll read there’s nothing broken about the game and it’s not by any measure a poor game, it’s just disappointing given the premise of ‘Transformers do battle in a tactical combat game’ and what that could actually mean in my head. Made using Unity it looks like it’s from the last generation of consoles to begin with, and as we’re about to head into the brave new world of PS5s and Xbox Series Xs, that’s not a great look. The game itself is functional Transformers’ fare with you, a human, somehow caught up in the Autobots’ hunt for the Allspark whilst being attacked by Decepticons very much after the same thing. 

The gameplay is that of a tactical combat game which brings to mind Fire Emblem and Advance Wars, two games where you lead a group of warriors or manned vehicles into various battles across varied environments, each one ramping up the challenge that little bit more, and compelling you forwards. As mentioned earlier you are an unseen human being who the Autobots ask to take on the role of General, effectively, being flown high into the sky on Teletraan-X and being given control of all Autobots in-play in that particular level, which is viewed isometrically from a changeable point-of-view to allow you to zoom in, or take onboard the bigger picture. Characters involved range from Bumblebee to Grimlock to Optimus Prime, so in terms of ticking boxes of the top Transformers, the game does a fabulous job. 

Me Grimlock, no like take orders from you!

The game’s structure is mission-based, with each one having a particular goal which involves defeating baddies and gathering goodies. In every case you’ll control one or more robots where each has action points. These can be spent on movement or attacks, or both if you’re clever enough. Attacks range from simple shots from the hip using laser blasters or good old-fashioned fighting, to something stronger and bespoke to the Autobot in question dealing the damage. Dependent on the skillset of your charge, you might need to get up close and personal, attack from range or utilise a combination of both at various points within a level. It’s simple and standard tactical combat, then. 

This is no bad thing. There’s no harrying difficulty upfront and even in the latter stages nothing should limit a player’s progress. The curve may be a little like a shallow hill followed by some steep steps at times – think a hill drawn in the 8-bit era with jagged ups and downs all over the place – but if you put the time and effort into learning what your group of warriors can do early on, then you'll be well-set to make it to the end in a successful way. There’s no need for the Autobot Matrix of Leadership to light anyone’s darkest hours here. The benefit here is that it’s not going to stress anyone out. It doesn’t need full concentration. It also means it’s terribly penetrable by younger or less-experienced gamers.

The game will last a good few hours as there are around twenty levels to play in the main game, with various other modes available on completion, some of which have local co-op which is great and hints a little at where this game is actually being pitched in my opinion, and that’s at younger gamers. You have the couch-based multiplayer, not online. The outdated but cartoony graphics, the top tier cast of characters and the simple story and gameplay. Nothing will tax you or give you too many challenges as said. It’s a relaxing game in many ways, then, even if you spend much of it brawling, shooting or using your Ultimate attacks having built up your supplies of Energon thanks to not using all of your action points each turn (these are cool by the way, and a consideration in any tactics you should choose to employ). 

Transformers: Battlegrounds then is on reflection totally functionable, well-made and gives you thrills due to the folk in play. With its presentation, the script, the simplistic gameplay it’s nothing more than that though, and not what I had hoped coming into it, which is a problem given what it could have been. If however you can taper your expectations and are in the mood for something resembling the great tactical games mentioned previously which litter Nintendo’s systems, or just want more Transformers in your life, this could work for you. It might even be a great way to introduce your children to Transformers and/or gaming. Just a thought.

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Transformers: Battlegrounds is a simple and functional tactical combat game starring Optimus Prime and Megatron which is very good. What’s very bad is that it looks last-gen, has a jaggedy curve with minimal overall challenge and doesn’t shout ‘Play me!’ too often. If you’re ok with that, then you have a few hours of relaxing fun ahead of you.
Luciano Howard

I've been gaming for 35+ years on the Commodore VIC-20 to the PlayStation 5 and pretty much everything in-between. I enjoy all kinds of games but if I had to pick a couple in particular, I'd say I adore Mario and love Dark Souls. I can talk about either an awful lot should you want to!