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Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark Review

By Jermain Jackson in Reviews

TFRotds

Transformers: RotDS is a third-person shooter published by Activision. It is both a sequel to Transformers: War for Cybertron/Transformers: Fall of Cybertron by developer High Moon Studios and a tie-in to the Transformers: Age of Extinction blockbuster film. This time the reigns have been handed over to developer Edge of Reality (Loudout, Incredible Hulk). Does the new development team, do the series justice, or do they fail to live up to the high (No pun intended) standards set by High Moon?

Fans of the past Cybertron games will be pleased to hear that RotDS retains their signature gameplay mechanics. Transforming from robot to vehicle mode and back is still performed with a simple click of the left thumb stick. It still feels pretty cool to transform on the fly in the midst of the game’s many action packed encounters and take the fight to your enemies in vehicle form thanks to the controls retaining their responsiveness and fluidity.

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Jetfire takes the fight to the skies.

Just like in Fall of Cybertron, each Transformer has their own unique special ability equipped to help them stand out a little more gameplay wise; from Sideswipe’s grappling hook to Sharphot’s cloaking, each adds a little more variety to the combat. Players can also carry two weapons at a time; 1 primary and 1 heavy, as well as equip and utilize T.E.C.H. (Transformers Electronic Combat Hardware) items during combat. These items when consumed, offer a range off offensive and defensive counter measures; such as clearing large groups of enemies via miniature black hole or summoning a drone to heal and repair you.

With over twenty weapons to choose from (Which can be upgraded), the game is not short on variety and blasting your foes into oblivion is still fun. Sadly there aren’t any new weapons or T.E.C.H items and with the exception of Drift’s cool Blade Dash ability, fans have seen it all before. In short at it’s core, RotDS still pretty much feels and plays like a High Moon Transformers title.

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Bumblebee ready for action!

Those worried about this game suffering from “Me too” syndrome, will be glad to know that Edge of Reality added some new bells and whistles to deliver a fresh experience. Rise of the Dark Spark features a persistent leveling up system that is tracked in both the single player campaign and co-op mode (More on that in a bit). Players level up by earning experience points (XP) for killing their enemies in any mode, completing various challenges such as getting this many kills with a specific weapon, and earning Combat Distinctions (Accolades).

Another new addition are the gear boxes; rewards earned for performing the aforementioned tasks. Opening the boxes will unlock new playable characters for co-op, weapons, upgrades, T.E.C.H, HACKS and abilities. The gear boxes are broken up into tiers; ranging from bronze to prime. The better the box, the better the content and the more you get. It is all randomized though, so expect to receive a lot of duplicates of things you can only have one of such as a Transformer. Instead of going to waste however, the duplicate unlocks are converted into HACKS of which players can have an infinite amount of. It is worth noting that with the exception of abilities and Transformers, whatever you unlock from the gear boxes can be used in all modes. Unlocked a new weapon and an upgrade for it? Well that bad boy can be used in campaign and in co-op. It’s a nice touch and a welcomed addition to the series, though an option to skip through your rewards each time you open a gear box. It becomes rather troublesome and annoying to have to sit each and every unlock.

Speaking of HACKS, if players are looking for more of a challenge then they can equip these special items. Similar to the Skulls from the Halo franchise, they add increased difficulty by removing the HUD (Heads Up Display), causing enemies to deal more damage and more. While they are active, players will receive an increase in the amount of XP earned. These new features do result in bot blasting feeling more rewarding than previous games but ultimately they aren’t enough to elevate the game’s campaign over its predecessors.

Shockwave

Shockwave.

The epic feel and huge sense of scale seen in Transformers: FoC is notably absent, and while the dialogue and voice acting are pretty solid, the game’s plot is a rather forgettable one. All you really need to know is that the Transformers are battling over a powerful time manipulating energy source called the Dark Spark. On Earth the Autobots must retrieve the Dark Spark from the robot Mercenary Lockdown, while on Cybertron millions of years before players experience the events that lead to its eventual arrival on Earth as the Transformers fight for its possession. This is meant to be what ties the two universes together in one continuity. Though it never really fully explains if High Moon’s Cybertron Transformers and Micheal Bay’s (Which are what the Earth versions are based on) exist within the same timeline or are in separate universes all together, as the possibility of the dark spark originating from another one is alluded to.

The chapters based on Cybertron are the campaign’s strongest thanks to overall level design, mission structure and aesthetics, though the game’s outdated graphics hurt their visual appeal. Since this is a movie tie-in, the Earth missions do make up the fame’s final levels and while they aren’t bad they just are not as fun. The final battle against Lockdown was rather disappointing compared to the boss battles in the previous games. Not a single boss fight had that Epic feel to them. The game’s final chapters felt rushed in fact the entire game while fun, was obviously rushed so it could release alongside the new film.

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Can’t stand the heat, stay out of Grimlock’s way!

Even though the campaign never manages to reach the heights of the past games, Edge of Reality does deliver a slightly revamped and improved Escalation mode. Escalation is 4 player cooperative survival mode in which players must “survive” wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies and has been a staple in the series since War for Cybertron. This time around players can now personalize their own custom loadout; choosing their preferred Autobot and Decepticon (Over 40), weapons, ability, T.E.C.H. (Up to 3) and even equip a HACK. As stated before anything unlocked while playing campaign can also be used in this mode.

Bumblebee

Cybertronian Bumblee.

The biggest change to Escalation is the inclusion of upgradable defenses. Defeated enemies drop energon shards for players to pick up. These shards act as a form of currency and can be used to activate turrets, healing stations, barricades and more. The shards can also be used to purchase upgrades for the defenses which adds a new layer of strategy to the mode. Do you focus on spending all your shards on that turret, its upgrades and keeping it repaired? Or do you split them up among as many defenses as you can.

Don’t expect to just rely on these defense and your weapons to win the day, as you must work together with your teammates in order to emerge victorious. The enemies do not relent and while the first few waves are a bit of a cakewalk, but the later ones are down right tough especially if all four players have HACKS equipped. With only three respawn lives shared between the entire team, the game can end quickly if one or two players decide to be the lone wolf. Stick close to your buddies, revive one another and spend your energon shards wisely.

Escalation mode is a blast, especially when playing with friends or people who actually understand the meaning of cooperative play, but it isn’t perfect. Occasionally enemies will refuse to come out of their spawn point, and on certain maps where they spawn from above. If you don’t have someone on your team with a Transformer than can fly, then you can forget about reaching him and pray he eventually comes out of hiding otherwise the round won’t end. Speaking of maps Escalation features 8, a mixture of Earth and Cybertronian levels. Much like the campaign, the Earth based maps are the least impressive.

Fans looking for a more competitive Transformers experience will have to look elsewhere as online versus multiplayer was not include in RotDS. It is a rather baffling notion because to this day you can still find players in Transformers: FoC multiplayer. After listening to fan feedback for their first game, High Moon delivered a much improved mp including a feature many fans had asked for; more customization options for creating their own Transformers. Removing it is a big slap in the face and just adds to the overall feeling of this game being rushed.

Final Verdict:

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is a solid entry in the video game series but it fails to outdo its predecessors. It features a pretty decent campaign, an improved co-op experience and a variety of welcomed new features especially the persistent leveling system and the upgradable defenses. Unfortunately the outdated graphics, throwaway plot, lack of Epic single player moments, the glaring omission of a competitive and overall rushed feeling hurt this title. Rise of the Dark Spark feels like the Batman: Arkham Origins of the Transformers series. No offense to Edge of Reality but here’s hoping High Moon is secretly working on their “Arkham Knight”.

Official Trailer:

 

Overall Score: 7.3 / 10

RGN Rating: Bronze Game

Developer: Edge of Reality

Publisher: Activision

Available on: PS3 | PS4 | Xbox 360 | Xbox One | Wii U | 3DS

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark

Played on: Sony PlayStation 4

Review Copy info: A physical copy of this game was purchased by RealGamerNewz for the purpose of this review.

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