Review: Transformers Legends

By Sean Clancy 08 May 2013 0
A rose is a rose is a rose is a Decepticon Brawl is a Decepticon Brawl is a Decepticon... A rose is a rose is a rose is a Decepticon Brawl is a Decepticon Brawl is a Decepticon...

In lieu of the usual, tangentially related, somewhat belabored introduction, I'd like to begin with this: Transformers Legends is a bad game. Yep. Sorry. Just going to get that right out front. Bad. Ungood. The opposite of pleasurable, enriching, coherent, tubular, and radical. Much as I want to say something like, "You know, the thing about those wacky Autobots and Decepticons was that their often plain exteriors belied their complex inner workings," or, "Man, you know what nobody could ever screw up, EVER? Giant robots which are also cars and jets and dinosaurs," sadly, I can't. Autobots, roll ehhhhhhhhhhh...

Now just because Transformers Legends isn't a good game doesn't mean that it's not well-crafted (it's just not well-crafted as a game. At all. But we'll get to that. In like a paragraph.). As far as free-to-play digital card collecting games lashed to major toy lines cum multimedia franchises go, it's neat looking. In-between the card collecting action ("action") are some cutscenes with our titular robots doing mundane things, like cleaning weapons and just chillin' out in space. Cards themselves are as pretty as any collectible should be, with heroic Autobots and cunning Decepticons rendered in a colorful, classic style that's far removed from the greys and browns of the Michael Bay films.

But you know what could have made those cards so much prettier? Any sort of mechanical differentiation whatsoever. You see, Transformers Legends wants you -- no, expects you -- to want to collect these cards. To, ultimately, drop some money into their convoluted system of credits in order to get these cards. Cards which, it's worth noting, don't even have the physical presence and inherent tactile pleasure of actual playing cards, and are in essence just packets of data. Which is fine. Gamers are used to abstraction and suspension of disbelief. What they're not used to, shouldn't be used to, is a game whose main mechanic could arguably be boiled down to straight statistic comparisons.

Dude, nothing beats 1044 attack. Nothing. 1045? GET THE HELL OUT. Dude, nothing beats 1044 attack. Nothing. 1045? GET THE HELL OUT.

What is a Mixmaster (other than a B-grade Constructicon)? Three numbers: attack, health, and defense. These numbers can go up if you merge other collectibles (say, the eight other Mixmasters you've picked up in the course of an afternoon) to upgrade a particular card. Presumably, bigger numbers equal a better chance at winning battles. I say "presumably" and "chance" because, when you field a team of nine bots (three back liners, probably your best, and six scrubs in the front) against an online opponent, the game decides to take over for you and play itself. There are no choices to be made in battle: your units fire on enemy units, enemy units fire back, all of their own accord, occasionally some sort of crit or multiplier activates, and eventually someone wins. For... some reason.

On the one hand, this is insulting. On the other, it makes perfect sense. After all, I'm sure a program is better and faster at comparing the sizes of arbitrary numbers than I am. Programs don't have any real sense of time or mortality or sentimental attachment to childhood favorites. Programs also don't get bored, which is crucial because Transformers Legends is so boring.

Is there any scrap of game here which can salvage this Metroplex-sized disaster?

Robo-themed card collecting? Robo-themed card collecting. Robo-themed card collecting? Robo-themed card collecting.

Maybe the weapons cards, which give units the ability to double or triple-attack, and to do critical damage. Except, it's never really clear how these cards are equipped to units, or if they even need to be equipped, saying only that units are limited to weapons cards of their faction, attack type, and role.

Perhaps the single-player, which largely involves spending one of the several currencies wrapped into Transformers Legends' labyrinthine microtransaction system. Yeah, you get to drop ten Purple Cubes each time you Do Something in a mission, and Doing Something can entail tapping on the screen to Maybe Get An Average Card, or Maybe Doing A Lame Minigame Where A Robot Shoots One To Three Missiles At You, becaus- nevermind.

The game even misunderstands the basic premise of Transfomers: that they're one thing, then something else. In Transformers Legends, each character has two cards tied to their name: one robot form, and one alternate form. Do these cards behave differently? Nope. But you can combine them into one card which, hey, gets a bonus in that aformentioned joyless cutscene of a multiplayer component.

Ah yes, that classic rivalry between... Sharpshot and... Sharpshot. Ah yes, that classic rivalry between... Sharpshot and... Sharpshot.

Even for a die-hard fan of the Gang from Cybertron, Transformers Legends offers nothing more than a Transformers wiki could. And hell, what would it even look like if it were an actual, physical, in-person card game? Two people, sat opposite each other, their nine cards a piece laid out with lackluster on the table before them. They take turns randomly attacking (maybe they're blindfolded?) each others' units, subtracting 1327 from 2185 and infrequently shouting "TRIPLE-ATTACK!" or "CRIT DAMAGE!" when they feel like no one is paying enough attention to them. This isn't just collectible card gaming at its worst or most basic; it's collectible card gaming at its most cynical. Luckily, it's also completely divorced from the truth. And... that's that, I guess. Ahem. Kind of wanted to close on a reference here, but, uh... didn't really do the whole "extended conceit" thing so... ah... {COOL-ASS TRANSFORM NOISE}

Review: Transformers Legends

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