Take a first-look at how the new game will play and at the new bots' abilities
We’ve seen glimpses of the game in the preview trailers, but now Jagex has show us what Transformers Universe is all about in a new gameplay demo. We were on-hand to see the new bots in action, and you can watch the trailer below.
As released previously, Jagex has branded Transformers Universe a Massively Online Tactical Action (MOTA) game. Rather than having a single character, as with the company’s popular Runescape, Transformers Universe sees you take control of a range of bots, mixing and matching them into squads.
Part of the reason is that there’s an expectation from people that the Transformers are about having a range of well-defined bots. After all, it’s the combination of how Transformers work together that has made them so endearing and popular.
With that aim, Transformers Universe has a starring range of brand-new bots, unique to the game. Designing new bots helps balance the game mechanics, but it also makes a lot more sense: if you had Optimus Prime and kept losing battles, it just wouldn’t feel right.
Instead, players can collect and customise the range of Transformer characters in the game. Customisation includes choosing weapons loud-outs and making cosmetic changes, to distinguish your bots from other players’.
Each bot has its own strengths and weaknesses, both in vehicle and robot forms. Some are quick, long-range specialists that can’t take a lot of damage; others are giant brawlers, designed to dish out and absorb lots of damage; and others are healers, there to keep a squad fighting fit in the heat of combat.
It’s the collection of Transformers that’s particular interesting, feeding back into this game being a MOTA rather than an MMORPG. In the demo of the battle mode that we saw, the Autobot player had to put together a squad of four Transformers to battle against the Decepticons.
The combination of the four bots is crucial in order to win. Pick a team with no healer and you can go down quickly, for example. It’s also important to pick your attacking tactics, too. For example, taking out the enemy healer first, is better than hammering away at the biggest, toughest bot you can find.
As commander, you can switch seamlessly between your four bots, directly controlling one to set-up its line of attack or defence. It’s all fairly frenetic, but Jagex tells us it’s proud of its gaming system and that the controls are easy to pick up.
There’s also a more open world to explore, with computer-controlled Terraconns roaming around and waiting to be fought. There’s not a lot more game detail at the moment, but this is just the start of what the game will offer.
“The Autobots are on Earth with the Decepticons just arriving,” explained Gerard Miley, art director at Jagex. “Both factions have ground bridge technology to zip to anywhere on Earth, but the goal is a space bridge.”
As with Jagex’s previous games, Transformers Universe runs in a browser, but it’s unfair to call it a ‘browser’ game. Thanks to the Unity engine, the full 3D world looks lush and every bit as good as you’d expect to see from a ‘real’ 3D game.
Attention and detail means Universe looks and feel like a proper Transformers title. That means super-quick transformations between vehicles and robots, and vice versa, so you can alternate between the forms at will. After all, it’s the dual abilities of vehicle and robot modes that makes Transformers so different to anything else.
One of the most important things about Transformers, though, is making it feel as though it’s real. In the game, this is largely down to the animators, who were tasked with making the transformations and movements feel as though they could happen in real life.
“There’s some sleight of hand,” said David Hynes, assistant lead animator at Jagex. “Where possible we [transformations] as believable as possible.”
Physics also comes into play when driving: an off-road vehicle will cope well with dirt tracks, while a sports car will slow down and become harder to control. This adds another element to the game and terrain comes into play for battles, making picking a squad even more vital.
At the moment, all of the Transformers are road vehicles, but that doesn’t mean that it will be this way forever.
“We’re focussing on Earth right now, with Transformers that stick to the ground,” said David Nicolson, VP of Transformers Universe. “It is called Universe, so we’re clear about our ambitions.”
Transformers Universe is still in Beta, although it’s slowly being opened up to more players, with a full launch due later in 2014. You can register your interest now at www.transformersuniverse.com.