Like many geek dads, I find that I have a pile of video games on my XBox and in my Steam library that I never have time to actually sit down and play. What I do have plenty of time for is commuting to work (via public transportation), standing in line, waiting for and riding in elevators, etc. Commuter Gamer is a new series that focuses on mobile games that can easily be played in bite-sized chunks. Please game responsibly and never while driving!
Today, I’m going to cover one of my new favorites, Transformers: Battle Tactics from DeNA Games available for iPhone, iPad, and Android. As a huge Transformers fan, I will jump at the chance to play any Transformers-based game. I downloaded and installed this the day it was released.
The game starts off with the Transformers logo transforming into the Autobot symbol, a quick video showing Earth as the battleground, the game logo and a very satisfying and familiar transformation sound effect.
On first play there is a short tutorial to teach you the very basics of the game and get you going as quickly as possible. It does leave out a couple of things that are important to gameplay but nothing that can’t easily be learned through small trial and error or by reading this post. The characters are chibi, or super-deformed, style which visually sets the game apart from a lot of past Transformers games. They also made a point to include a lot of non-mainstream fan favorite characters.
At a high level, the game is fairly simple – build up a team, fight turned-based battles against live players or the AI to earn resources to advance, unlock better characters, improve your team, rinse and repeat. The game has a good balance of strategy and luck, hence the “tactics” part of the title, and is very easy to play quickly – a battle only takes a minute or two!
The first thing you’ll need to do is pick your team of bots and select your abilities. One thing to consider when forming a team is that certain team combinations earn special bonuses for the team. For example, any team of four Autobots, like my team, gains all of your characters +1 armor. You can have up to three teams of four so that you can vary your strategy and game play and also so you can keep playing if your team loses a battle and is undergoing repairs.
As you progress through the Tiers, you will unlock new and stronger abilities. I have come up with a preferred set of abilities based on my own tactics that works pretty well – Re-Spin, Targeting, Orbital Strike, and Jammer. Re-Spin costs 1 point and allows the re-spin (think re-roll) of one character’s attack roll. I use this most frequently. Targeting allows you to focus all of your attacks on a single enemy character. In my experience, the best strategy is to try to pick off one enemy character at a time, as a character with full health or one health does the same amount of damage. Without the Targeting ability, your characters will randomly attack your enemy’s characters. Orbital Strike costs three points but it does 10-12 points of damage to a single enemy. Jammer is really not as useful when battling bots but in a PvP match, it is almost always beneficial. It prevents your enemy from using the Targeting ability previously mentioned. One thing to know about ability points – if you spend a point on an ability that requires more than one, it carries over to the next round, so never leave ability points unspent!
This is where the majority of your time will be spent – on the battlefield! Beside each of your characters is their current hit points (HP) in white and beneath them is their attack strip. At the beginning of each turn, every character “spins” to see what their attack is for that round. Tap your character to transform them. Transforming will improve some attack slots and decrease others, while some may have special abilities, denoted with a green star, or a first strike ability denoted with a blue versus orange numbered slot. Until you’ve learned your characters attack scores, transform often to make sure you’re making the best attack. You can switch back and forth as much as you want until you hit the Fight button.
You can also tap on your enemy’s characters to see what their stats are to help you with planning your attack. Since you won’t know what your enemy has rolled or which mode they will use for their attack, there is some guessing involved in what you think your enemy will attempt.
Because my characters in this round had a total attack score of 44, I used my targeting ability to attack Drift (upper right corner) as that would defeat him with a perfect score. Bonuses are awarded for scoring a perfect hit, defeating two enemies in a single round, or defeating three enemies in a single round. Because it is important to eliminate enemies to reduce damage to your own team, always try to focus on taking out an enemy character in one turn. Also, you earn resources for every kill even if you do not win the match, so never give up!
Of course, all of those plans assume that you will have all four of your characters to attack with. After planning your attack and spending your ability points, you hit the “Fight” button. Unless you have a character with a First Strike power, who goes first is decided on a simple coin toss! This can be a little frustrating as all of your plans can quickly go up in smoke; however, it can also play in your favor by giving you much-needed first strikes when you’re on the ropes. I finished one battle with a single character and one HP!
The battle is over when your or your opponent have lost all four characters. Rewards and league points are given out and, if you have lost, your team goes into repair mode before you can battle with them again. The time repairing takes increases as the level and rank of the characters on your team increase. This is why its good to have at least two if not all three of your teams filled out so you can keep playing.
Every resource you earn in battle is to progress your tier level, upgrade your characters, and unlock more characters to improve your teams. The simplest progression in the game is just upgrading a character already on your team. This is usually just a matter of spending the appropriate amount of Cyber Coins, the most abundant resource in the game, to reach the next level. As a character approaches his maximum level, some level ups will also cost a Power Token. This is an uncommon resource but I have not yet run into a time when I wanted to upgrade a character and did not have the requisite Power Tokens. I recommend focusing on a core team and maxing out their levels versus trying to max out every character. Leveling up your character will increase the damage they can do and increase the strength of their special powers, if any.
The next type of progression is your PvP ranking. There are actually three different kinds of battles in the game and though they all mechanically work as already detailed, how they affect your progression varies. A Main Event battle will try to connect you to a live player for a PvP battle. PvP battles calculate directly into your PvP Ranking. If you win against someone ranked higher than you, you can ranking and they lose ranking. Also, PvP matches are timed so it helps to be able to add quickly to figure out your attack as you only have 30 seconds to hit the Fight button before each round starts.
If a live player cannot be found, you will instead fight bots. Either of these battles will also earn you League Points towards the next Tier. Once you have collected enough Tier points, you will have to win three Progression battles before you lose three to unlock the next tier. If you lose three battles, you will lose some League Points and have to work your way back to the Progression battles. Each tier allows you to recruit new characters that are stronger and have better abilities than lower tier characters.
I highly recommend recruiting every character even if you do not plan to level them up and use them. Recruiting a character earns you 2 Energon cubes – one when recruiting starts and one when it ends. Also, recruiting all the characters in a tier earns you a bonus crate that contains extra resources. You can always sell a character after recruitment to earn some Cyber Coins.
The third type of battle are Bot Team battles. There are always three Bot Team choices to fight against. Each team is progressively harder, but the harder ones give you a chance to win the more rare resources that you would otherwise have to purchase. These battles earn League Points towards your next tier but they will not count as Progression Battles.
This game has no shortage of types of resources and it can get overwhelming quickly. Here is a breakdown of all the resource types and what they are used for in the game.
- Gold Coins are fairly uncommon in the game as a freebie because they are the only purchasable commodity.
- Cyber Coins are the most abundant resource in the game and are used for most character level upgrades.
- Cybermetal is the second most abundant resource in the game and is used when recruiting characters.
- Energon is used each time you go into battle. They restore at a rate of one per 30 minutes up to five. You can have up to ten total if you earn more through recruiting characters as previously mentioned.
- Transmetal is an upgraded version of Cybermetal that is used for all character recruitments Rank two and above.
- Power Tokens are used to max level characters and are also somewhat uncommon.
- Special Cores come in a few varieties but are all for unlocking certain types of characters.
Two of the resource types above need a little extra consideration. Gold coins, as mentioned, are the one resource in the game that costs real money. As you can see, it can become very expensive very quickly. Gold coins can be used for three things in the game. They can be used to buy more Energon which is really not worth it if you are patient and because you can always earn more by recruiting more characters. They can be used to boost your league progression (boosts League Points earned at five times the normal rate for four hours at a cost of 20 gold coins). And lastly, they can be used to buy Drops.
There is a free Deluxe Drop and a free Basic Drop which both give free resources every twelve and four hours, respectively. Then there are the paid drops which consist of the Superior Drops for 150 gold coins and a currently running special Drop. The Superior Drop will give you some random amount of Rare or Super Rare Cores. The special drops running at the time I took the above screen shot where for super rare and rare characters. Note, this is just for a CHANCE at one of these characters. You can very easily spend a lot of money on a lot of gold and get nothing special. Personally, at these prices, I’ll just work hard, earn the resources and get my characters with blood, sweat, and tears! The high cost of these drops without even a guarantee of return on investment is the only big negative of this game for me.
The last resources I’ll dive into are the special Cores. There are three types of special Cores – Specialized Cores, Exclusive Cores, and Named Cores. As you get into the highest Tiers, some of the characters will require Specialized Cores to unlock one of four flavors – Hunter, Scout, Soldier, and Support. Then there are Exclusive characters that require Exclusive Cores to unlock. And lastly, there are six Ultra Rare characters that can only be unlocked by collecting enough of their Named Cores – Blitzwing, Brainstorm, Jetfire II, Springer, Thundercracker, and Armada Megatron. These are biggest, baddest characters and so require the largest amount of resources and the most rare resources to unlock.
Currently, the social aspects of the game are pretty limited. In addition to the PvP battles, there is a global chat and it’s exactly what you would expect from an un-moderated global chat full of tens of thousands of people – chaos and useless.
You can, however, join a league which does have an added benefit. By either finding a random league or creating one of your own, you can band together with three other players.As you fight battles, you will sometimes also win a League Crate which automatically gets gifted to one of the players in your league and you will occasionally receive a gift crate from one of your teammates. The crate is usually full of Cyber Coins or Transmetal though I have received Gold Coins and Exclusive Cores very rarely.
The biggest downside to this game after the potential cost is that a connection is required to play. With so many of the features involving team management and battling against bots, I was hopeful that it would function offline even if in a limited capacity like many games do. Since my commute has some dead spots when I’m underground this limits my ability to play this game on my commute more than I’d like.
Overall, I really love this game. The art and sound effects are great and nostalgic. You can unlock anything in the game through hard work without having to have deep pockets. The PvP matching is almost always pretty balanced. The bots get harder fairly even with your own progression. And even though there are a lot of weapons and fighting, nobody ever dies so it’s pretty family friendly.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have my first exclusive character to go upgrade!