Transformers: Devastation is the new G1 action-fighting game from Platinum Games. It hits all the right notes for any G1 Transformers fan.
The game starts out, as you would expect, with some awesome cinematics introducing most of the main players in the story–Optimus, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, and Grimlock for the Autobots and Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave, Astrotrain, and the Constructicons for the Decepticons. The look, feel, music, and voices are a perfect modern-day rendition of a G1 cartoon. The basic story is that the Decepticons are trying to take over Earth (again), but this time something mysterious is going on. There are Insecticon drones being controlled by an unknown force and, seemingly, also pulling Megatron’s strings.
The gameplay itself is pretty standard for a brawler–walk around, look around, pick up and destroy objects in the environment to collect coins and power-ups, jumping, weaker and stronger attacks, special moves–the standard fare everyone expects from this type of game. The bonus here, of course, is that you get to do all of that while living out, and being in control of, a G1 cartoon!
Another thing that is fairly typical of games nowadays is a “waiting” pose or action for your character when you aren’t doing anything. I always like to see what my character does in a game when I get distracted, and in Transformers: Devastation they totally nailed the feeling of each of the bots. I love Bumblebee’s hands-behind-the-head and foot-tapping pose.
There are also plenty of things you’d expect to see in the game menu that help you play the game. The map has fog that recedes as you move. Allies, enemies, waypoints, etc. all show up on the map as you find them.
Each character has four weapon slots that you can manage. One is set for a melee weapon, one is set for a ranged weapon, and the other two can be outfitted with any weapons of your choosing. During a mission, you can’t change your load-out but you can look at your configuration and see the strength of each weapon and how much energy it takes to use. Speaking of energy, your melee weapon can be used as much as you want but ranged weapons have a set amount of shots based on the energy you have. Fortunately, energy pick-ups are pretty common in the game so I rarely ran out of ammo for more than a few seconds (at least on medium difficulty).
You can also view your character’s status, which probably should have been called stats. There are eight stats that impact how strong and fast your character is, how much health they have, how powerful special attacks are, how fast they go, etc.
In addition to immediate energy and health pickups and credits, you can also pick up items from destroying environment, defeating enemies, and finding and opening crates. Items fall into two categories–repair and enhance. Repair items fall into either the regain health or regain energy flavor. Enhance items include capsules that permanently increase one of your stats, or items that temporarily boost things like defense or attack strength.
And no game is complete without a set of collectibles for completionists (like me). There aren’t too many to drive you crazy but there are three kinds–Kremzeeks, Decepticon Spy Ops, and Decepticon Flags. I’ve captured one kremzeek and several Spy Ops so far. The Spy Ops you’ll find lying around and the kremzeeks actually talk and run and bounce around making them a little more difficult, and fun, to get (but not as hard as the flying paper in Assassin’s Creed).
Every time a new enemy type or bad guy appears, you’re treated with a cool little cut scene along with a G1 toy box reminiscent title bar. The game will also give you any hints or tips on the enemies if there is a new mechanic (like an enemy with a shield that requires a special attack to get through).
All of the boss fights so far have been great, but fighting Devastator has been my favorite. The sheer scale of him made it extra fun and challenging in some ways, but having more surface area to whack at also made it easier in some ways. Like most fighting games, the trick, especially when fighting bosses, is to try to chain your attacks together to prevent the enemy from retaliating. The fun thing about this in Transformers: Devastation is that successfully completing a combo allows you to do a quick vehicle attack–your bot transformers, vehicle-slams the enemy, and then transforms back. The rapid transformation is a lot of fun. You can, however, transform to vehicle mode anytime you want, which has a different set of skills and attacks from bot mode and is also immensely entertaining.
During the first part of the game, your bots will change based on the story, and you only get access to Optimus, Bumblebee, and Sideswipe. Once you get to an uplink point, you get to go back to the Ark and manage your bots. Not only can you decide which bot to continue the story with, but this is also where you manage your bots’ stats and your inventory. Although just playing the game will increase the stats of your character, you can spend credits to manually increase stats while you’re on the Ark.
You can also spend credits to build Tech. Each character has three Tech slots. Tech does things like increasing health, increasing XP earned, etc. You can choose to spend 1,000 or 5,000 credits depending on how cool of an item you want. Then, you have to do a little mini-game to actually craft the item. The bar slides back and forth and where you stop it determines how successful you are.
The last thing you can do on the Ark is analyze and combine weapons. During the game, you will pick up a lot of weapons, many of which are junk. But that’s ok because you don’t have an inventory you have to worry about or manage, and any weapon you collect can be merged into another to make it stronger. Basically, you want to pick your top weapons you want to equip for each character (and some weapons are limited to who can equip them) and then buff them up with all the throw-away weapons. I spent at least ten minutes just doing this. Something about buffing weapons and cleaning out my inventory was soothing.
And the last thing I’ll cover are the unlockables. For every Collectible you find, there is art that gets unlocked. I have to admit, I almost never look through unlocked artwork in games. However, look at that beautiful Optimus art! I want to collect everything just so I can see more of these rad G1 artwork.
So far I’ve played for about an hour and a half total. I said this before, but I’m such a fanboy there was no way I wasn’t going to love the game. The characters are done very well, even down to their “waiting for the player to do something” stance, the graphics, voice acting, and soundtrack are just as great as the trailers teased, and the story, which I didn’t really have much hope for, is actually a novel and interesting story that hasn’t been covered in the Transformers world before. I’m not that far in and there is a lot of mysterious stuff going on that may or may not play out well, but I’m hooked.
The only caveat I would throw out there is that it is an action game (think Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, etc.) While there has been some minor puzzling, it’s mostly a button-masher of a game–learning combos and chaining them together to do damage to your enemies–with a little bit of stat management for your bots and some crafting. I’m not saying this in a negative way at all. In fact, I’m enjoying the hell out of the game, especially with all the nostalgia-feels its evoking. If you love Transformers and video games (why else would you be reading this?) go get the game!
And if you want even more Transformer goodness, check out GeekDad Anthony Karcz’s The Loyal Subjects ‘Transformers’ Review and Giveaway.
Note: I received a review copy of the game but all thoughts and opinions above are my own.