More time in the garage than on the road.
Transformers: Devastation is another product of Platinum Games‘ collaboration with Activision. If you got this game for free on PlayStation Plus, it’s worth a shot. If not, there are much better games from this developer to play.
The presentation is the strongest part of Transformers. Platinum brought back as many voice actors from the original cartoon as they could, and they deliver their catchphrases and goofy cartoon jargon with aplomb. The cartoony style with bright colours and reflective surfaces evokes the style of the show well, and hides some of the less-polished textures.
The soundtrack is excellent. The heavy metal style is close to Metal Gear Rising in tone, with ripping guitar solos and drummers slamming double bass pedals in combat scenes. It’s a shame that it isn’t available to buy or download legally anywhere, because a lot of these tunes stuck in my head after finishing the game.
The core combat is serviceable, feeling like a less-deep version of Bayonetta. “Focus” is this game’s version of Witch Time, where dodging right before an enemy attack hits sends the game into slow motion and gives you some free hits. It’s also partly a third-person shooter with multiple equippable guns, but they’re less fun than just punching things and can be mostly ignored.
However, this game’s combat is not deep enough to stay interesting through the 6 hour campaign. Unlike other character action games, I never felt like I could ever outperform my opponents with stylish combo strings. The enemies do high damage and attack in large packs. Instead of being able to effectively crowd control them, I ended up waiting to be attacked, dodge, and do a short combo.
It got repetitive very quickly.
There are bonus moves to buy in the shop, but none of them make combat any more dynamic. In fact, the majority of them can be ignored. The “Shove” move seems useful because you can push an enemy out of combat if you’re getting overwhelmed. But they move so quickly that it’s hardly useful, as they’ll be back in your face in a second or two. You can just mash an attack button to get a Vehicle Attack which will have the same effect as Shove.
The “Reversal” attack has to be timed so well that I could only activate it a few times purposefully. And again, it is less effective than mashing an attack button to get a Vehicle Attack.
Overall, the only really useful move is “Still Safe”, where you can trigger Focus and negate damage from any attack by dodging when you get hit. In later levels, it becomes essential to avoid frustration from enemies that will wipe you out in 2 or 3 attacks.
Partway through the extremely long-winded first chapter, you are introduced to the biggest failure of Transformers: Devastation. There is a loot system, a leveling system, and equippable perks to buff your stats. All of these systems are convoluted and eventually makes the core gameplay worse.
Weapons: There are multiple weapon types to equip, and each weapon can be leveled up by feeding weapons into them. You can pick perks for weapons as you fuse them and some even have elemental effects. After this mechanic is introduced, enemies become damage sponges. Want to kill off a mob in a reasonable time frame? Then make sure you’re going into the ARK during every stage to tune up your loadout.
Some weapons have elements like Electric, Fire, and Ice. But aside from fancy particle effects and barely noticeable reactions from enemies, they don’t matter. Only your Total Attack Power does.
T.E.C.H.: You can occasionally find loot crates in stages that contain T.E.C.H. These are perks that do things like regenerate ammo, buff your defense/offense for specific weapon types, or allow you to heal. You can complete the game without ever touching this system, because the buffs you get are all weak. So why is this system here?
Status: This game has a leveling system with eight categories. You can feed currency into these stats to raise them, but it takes so much currency that it’s not worth it. Fusing weapons gives you an immediate result in terms of damage output. Why is system here?
Lab: The only reason to enter this screen is to buy health kits and moves. Purchasing weapons is a waste of currency when you can just fuse them. And you’ll have to buy health kits often because as I mentioned, enemies get the ability to take you out in 2-3 shots early in the game.
Leveling and loot systems hurt the combat of Transformers. Enemies get extra health so quickly that you have to consistently micromanage your gear just so combat doesn’t take forever. You are given multiple characters to play as, but are punished for switching because they will be underleveled for future stages. It’s best to stick to one character and one set of weapons for the whole game, meaning you usually can’t experiment with the gear you are given.
Boss fights suffer the most due to the leveling and gear systems. The visual spectacle of boss battles is great, but every fight gets boring because it takes too long.
Unlike most character action games, you can’t really style on an enemy and feel the satisfaction of seeing your character do something cool. Every single fight takes too long and enemies do not change up their tactics enough to necessitate you changing yours.
There’s no moment like Grace & Glory in Bayonetta where a new enemy type knocks you on your ass and forces you to fight in a new way. It’s “mash dodge, mash buttons” all the way through.
Transformers: Devastation could have been a fine B-game like The Legend of Korra if it were simpler. Tacking on loot and leveling made every combat encounter boring to the point where I would drive past them if I was given the option.
Platinum tried to add things to give this game more replay value. By the end of Transformers: Devastation, I was bored of fighting these incredibly stern enemies that I was skipping cutscenes to race to the end. This isn’t the worst game from Platinum, but I would not recommend it to anyone who isn’t fond of the source material.