Transformers – First Impressions

I’m currently playing the new Transformers: War for Cybertron. I already wrote how I’m a bit of a Transformers enthusiast and how I like how like what High Moon studios did with the franchise. Now I have some hands-on experience to back it up. Here is a nice interview / gameplay presentation that gives a good overview, by the way.

I REALLY like what I’ve seen so far. I’m about 3/4 done with the single-player campaign. Here are a couple of first observations.

  • The Setting was a smart move. They put the action on Cybertron, before Transformers got in contact with humans and started transforming into Ttucks and tapedecks. This has a lot of advantages. They have a lot of freedom with level geometry, there is no reason to come up with crazy explanations for the existence of huge transformer-sized caves on earth. All the interaction with humans tend to be really boring in Transformer stories anyway. Humans just are so fragile and tiny, it’s really difficult to come up with setups where they can have an impact on the Transformers. Plus, you would always get into awkward scenarios where Transformers are killing humans. Another advantage of the Cybertron scenario is that High Moon could do changes to the character design. They got rid of some really stupid lore leftovers such as Megatron transforming into a tiny pistol. It turned out very good!
  • They feel alive. One thing I always remember from reading the comics and playing with the toys were the very detailed, elaborate character descriptions. Each robot had a detailed breakdown of it’s abilities, of it’s character traits and it’s weaponry. Due to the sheer count of characters most of the stuff never came up in any of the stories. But here in the game, you can see it live. So you can wield Optimus Prime’s Energon Axe and use his Ion Blaster. The long missions leave plenty of room for some amusing banter between the robots. Especially listening to the Decepticons verbally abuse each other can be quite funny. Generally, the game fully taps into the Transformers lore. It works very well, especially for Transformer enthusiasts.
  • Tactical Depth. But the gameplay works well, too. It’s a very solid shooter. Combat is the main mechanic but it also received a good deal of care. At any given point you have an above-average amount of tactical options. You have two slots for weapons, two special abilities that depend on the type of robot you control, one grenade type that can be exchanged by picking up different ones and a melee attack. You can also transform into a vehicle. That gives you up to two new fixed weapons, up to two new abilities and a speed boost. Additionally there are power-ups scattered throughout the levels like shield boosts or heavy weaponry. Disadvantages like limited ammunition and an interesting, semi-regenerative health point system keep things interesting. Given the fact that you fight all the time, there is a lot of variety going on.
  • Interface Polish. The game interface has some nice details. For example, I like the chapter selection screen. You can select one of the the 8 chapters. If you have played through a chapter, you can also select a checkpoint within that chapter to re-play a specific scene. The checkpoints all have meaningful names and are even visualized with thumbnail images so if you have played a level, you should have a good idea where a given checkpoint is. Additionally the screen even tells you on which difficulty setting you have completed a chapter. Oh yeah, and it looks good too. All that is missing is some information about collectibles. But even without it, it is simply a very polished piece of interface design.

I’m will finish the game very soon. I think it has a very good length. I don’t know if I will play it on-line and I’m still looking for an angle to do a game design review of it. I’ll let you know if I come up with something.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

One response to “Transformers – First Impressions”

  1. sirleto

    all that interests me is “3 player drop-in-drop-out coop” which in the interview the creator claims to be “all the time possible”.

    everything else looks like a typically american styled mega action shooter. done with much money and a bit of brains at the publisher/money giver side (in terms of: okay lets do a smart move, lets give the developer a bit of freedom to do what hes best at).

    of course, having all those non-brain publishers/money givers walking earth, this is already really worth mentioning. ;)


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


follow Krystian on Twitter
follow Yu-Chung on Twitter
follow Daniel on Twitter