After years of movie-tied game releases, Transformers fans finally received the game they deserved in the form of 2010’s Transformers War for Cybertron. Unfortunately, that game was followed up with the mediocre Dark of the Moon tie-in. It seemed that Activision had learned from its mistakes when it published Transformers: Fall of Cybertron in 2012. Fall of Cybertron is a love letter to the Transformers mythos, particularly the beloved Generation 1 era, which was featured in the original animated series. This year’s game featuring everyone’s favorite robots in disguise is a mix of what gamers loved from War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron but unfortunately suffers from a tie-in to the Michael Bay movies and a few other issues.
Activision mentioned previously that Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is not a movie-based game, but the fact that this third installment in the War for Cybertron series was released the same week as the fourth Transformers movie is enough for skeptics. In terms of gameplay, it is obvious that developer Edge of Reality followed the template designed by the creators of the previous games in the series, High Moon Studios. Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark features the same third-person combat as its predecessors and gamers play as many of the same characters they used in Fall of Cybertron.
Much of the story in Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark takes place on Cybertron, but some of the game’s chapters take place on Earth as well. Fans of the previous titles in the Cybertron series will enjoy the story; it carries the same character-driven approach, and players will have the opportunity to play as both Autobot and Decepticon in a story that feels like it would fit in Generation 1 or the IDW comics. Some of the story elements on Earth take place either after or before the story in the newest film. If that sounds confusing, it’s because the story in Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is hard to follow.
The graphics in Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark are far from impressive, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game do not have any noticeable improvements over their last generation counterparts. Unfortunately, neither the character models nor levels have much visual detail. Nearly every stage of the game that takes place on Cybertron looks identical. The levels on Earth do not bare any resemblance to any particular city, and contain mostly empty streets and buildings. In order to scale the size of the larger than life characters, objects such as vehicles are made smaller. The effect is both noticeable and off-putting.
Previous entries in the War for Cybertron series hosted fun and engaging online multiplayer. Fall of Cybertron came with a number of online modes and a community that is still active, particularly on PC. Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark only comes with the extremely popular Escalation mode. In Escalation, up to 4 players face off against increasingly difficult waves. Once the players finish the final wave, the game ends and the players are scored on how many kills, deaths, and power-ups they collected throughout the match. This online mode is as good as it has ever been, and for many, this will be Rise of the Dark Spark’s saving grace. But in 2014, why would a series with a strong multiplayer community remove some of the modes? Also, I should note, the Wii-U version of the game does not have ANY online multiplayer.
Atop the graphical issues and missing multiplayer modes, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark has repetitive combat. Aside from some of the transformers having different special skills like grappling hooks and shields, nearly every character plays the same. The transformers who turn into jets add an interesting twist to the gameplay, but overall you will spend most of the time in Rise of the Dark Spark’s chapters moving from area to area shooting carbon copy robots. Even improving your weapons is tedious as you can only assign the upgrades after opening up gear boxes, which you have to do by pausing the game and opening each box individually.
Ultimately, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is a game which fails to properly capitalize on the license of a beloved franchise. That failure is particularly disappointing considering that the previous games in the series are well made and come with a community of followers. If you love the Transformers mythos or the previous two games in the series. there is enough here that you might enjoy playing through the short campaign. If you enjoyed the Escalation multiplayer, there is something here for you as well. But unfortunately, there is not enough to like here if you are not a Transformers super-fan or a big fan of the War for Cybertron series.
I score Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark, 5 out of 10.
- Escalation Multiplayer
- Repetitive Gameplay
- Poor Graphics
- Weak Story