The time has come to choose a side. Will you fight with Optimus Prime to defend the Earth and its resources? Or will you instead plunder and exploit, with Megatron and the Decpticons at your side?
That’s the epic scenario that Transformers: Earth Wars promises. And while the title from Space Ape and Backflip Studios doesn’t quite live up to this vaunted description, it’s still a solid bit of mobile fun.
The game is presented extremely well – from the carefully rendered interactive 3D models (you can even zoom in on them in base and follow them around), to the stylistic blueprints in the transition screen, there’s no mistaking that this is a high production title. With familiar G1 voices and classic sound effects and songs, this is one game where you’ll want to leave the audio on. Starting out as the Autobots, you get Jetfire. As the Decepticons, you get Bludgeon—both characters with high Transformers fan-cred.
To start out, you’re given some missions to get you comfortable with the mechanics of building your base and blowing up others. Anyone who’s played Space Ape’s Rival Kingdoms will feel immediately comfortable with the gameplay. To advance the storyline, you choose your bots, load them into a shuttle, and then set them loose, where they pound against enemy defenses, using special abilities and the occasional power-up to destroy the base’s HQ before time runs out.
Then it’s back to base where you spend your loot on upgrades for your base as well as new gear, buildings, and upgrades for your bots.
If you’re lucky, you’ll also get a crystal that you can use to power your space bridge and hopefully bring through more Transformers. You’ll get certain bots, like Optimus Prime and Megatron, by completing sets of (very well scripted) missions.
For Transformers fans, it’s this last element that will keep them playing. The ‘Bots and ‘Cons are expertly rendered and, at least on my iPhone 6S Plus, look better than they have any right to for a mobile game. There are just over 80 Transformers to collect for each team and, knowing Hasbro’s other mobile Transformers games, that number is only going to increase over time. I fully expect combiners to show up at some point, as each faction has combiner team members in the starting characters.
So it’s a very well constructed game; but is it fun? It all depends on how much you enjoy the base building genre. All the classic elements are there. You have to keep logging in regularly to collect your resources. Then you spend those resources on walls and ranged defenses, upgrading them constantly to keep your precious support structures safe from PvP player raids. Debris and obstacles must be removed before you can expand and place more structures (which also consumes resources). Unless you raid constantly, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’re always going to be low on Energon or Alloy.
Missions and raids are very much a rock/paper/scissors game, where upgrades pop up as purchasable options just as enemy technology throws something new at you. Decepticons pounding your raiders with mortars? You need to get a ‘Bot that can fire a missile barrage. Did the enemy upgrade their walls? You’ll have to pump energon into more effective skills to ram them and knock them down.
After each mission, it’s back to base to wait for your troops to heal up (you can, of course, skip this by spending Fuel Cells, one of the seven different types of consumables you can earn and spend in various ways throughout the game). Once the newness of Transformers: Earth Wars wears off, it becomes apparent that, to advance quickly, you’ll need to spend some real money. Otherwise, you’ll have to be extremely patient. Luckily the game isn’t too spammy about this, a trap that I’ve seen other games fall into. I do wish you weren’t locked into one faction or another. My collector’s side rankles against the notion that there’s a whole phalanx of Decepticons available to gather that I can’t access.
Transformers: Earth Wars may not break new ground when it comes to original gameplay; but it does do a fantastic job of delivering an experience that is undoubtedly faithful to the source material. As a bonus, it is written by Simon Furman, the grand master of all Transformers fiction. So there’s a pretty good chance that there is more going on than the first few levels would have you believe. If you enjoy base builders and Transformers, you have no excuse. Grab this now for your iOS or Android device.