Instruments of destruction.
Optimus Prime, how have you continued to tug at my nostalgia year-in, and year-out? Growing up such a huge fan of the Transformers brand, it is hard not to get excited every time a new movie or game is on the horizon, especially after the fantastic job High Moon Studios did with the Cybertron series last generation. Rise of the Dark Spark however, is a completely new developer; one with a few solid ports and a unique free-to-play shooter under their belts. These facts gave me hope for the latest adventure with robots in disguise. Rise of the Dark Spark is not an amazing game, but it does enough to satisfy the hunger for more giant robot destruction.
There is once again peril among the Autobots and Decepticons. Let’s be real honest here though, the plot lines in these games have never been more than kiddie pool depth. The latest conflict, of which I completely lost interest in two cutscenes into the game, revolves around the Dark Spark, which is essentially the Matrix of Leadership, but for the Decepticons.
Price I’d Pay: $30
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PS3, 360, PC
Multiplayer: 4-player Escalation Mode
Demo Availability: N/A
Length: 7-9 hours
The campaign spans 14 overly long chapters, and once again forced me to play as characters I had absolutely no interest in. This is the biggest downfall of these games. Don’t force me to take control of some third tier Autobot because it fits the game play style. I want to relive my childhood as my favorite characters. Most missions lack diversity and consist of robot shooting galleries, while others feel ripped right out of the last game. Copy and paste Bruticus much?
Edge of Reality also mimics the shooting found in previous games far too often. There are a plethora of weapons and upgrades, but none of them are fun to wield. For a game that focuses almost entirely on shooting robots, the mechanic feels drab and uninspired.
One of the things that kept me going though is the persistent unlocks between single and multiplayer. Achieving new levels and certain feats unlocks various boxes that contain new power-ups, weapons, upgrades, and most importantly, new Transformers for use in the Escalation mode. Collecting all of my childhood favorite robots was addictive. I love the random dynamic of the boxes, although once I was nearing the complete collection, it was devastating to see multiple duplicates in almost every box.
Speaking of Escalation, this is where this game shines. The horde-style multiplayer returns, and no longer forces players to pick specific Transformers for each level. There are now over 40 to choose from (once unlocked), and they include plenty of favorites such as the Combaticons, Stunticons, and even all of the Dinobots. It is a fan’s dream come true, and the one true reason I kept playing the game. Hopping online with three friends to tear through waves of enemies is the only reason to own this game, assuming you can find three friends who share the nostalgia.
Visually the game suffers from the same issues as the rest of the package. It feels copy and pasted from the last game. Reused textures and stiff animations really make this feel like a last generation game, which is sad considering this is the first entry of the series for the new machines. There is also a weird static effect on all the Transformers when they are moving on the Xbox One version that made them almost look transparent. The levels are also uninspired corridors.
The final nail in the coffin for the campaign for me though was the constant glitching. Trigger points for moving the action forward often times never happened, leaving me standing there wondering if I missed something. This happened constantly, and considering how bad the checkpoints are in the game, restarting a section often resulted in me simply shutting off the game for a while.
Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is not a great game, but for those like me who still dream of reliving my childhood, Escalation scratches that itch. The collection of characters make it worthwhile, but not at $60. I suggest holding out until the price comes down, grabbing three friends, and having a blast. Just be sure to stay as far away from the campaign mode as possible.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox One.