Will Transformers Universe have a smooth “roll out”? Or will it crash and burn? Jagex recently treated a bunch of journos to a preview of the game and, while I wasn't in attendance, they made a video of the presentation available online to give us a taste of what the game is about. The video is embargoed, so we're not allowed to show it to you, but I'll do my best to describe it.
My first impressions are relatively positive. At the very least, there was nothing I saw that screamed “cheap browser game” and if they hadn't mentioned that it was browser-based, I might not have remembered. The graphics aren't super-detailed, but they're no worse than similar team-based third-person combat titles, like SMITE.
Notice how I don't directly call the game a “MOBA.” The gameplay footage we saw consisted of two areas: one a kind of open, free-roaming area, where the player can join up with others to battle PvE foes and get energon, a kind of currency in the game, and a PvP deathmatch arena, where kills were all that mattered. There were no lanes, towers, or minions, just a cityscape full of tall buildings and narrow streets that provided plenty of opportunities for utilizing cover, fast movement, and team tactics to hunt down and annihilate the enemy. Other game modes are also in development, which I would assume to include some objective-based battles.
Combat looks to be about as you'd expect, with each bot having strengths and weaknesses falling into one of 12 classifications, like Meltdown the healer, Catapult the sniper, and Front-Line, the all-arounder specialist. (We only got an in-depth look at Autobots this time around.) You can adjust your bot's loadout, or even change which bot you bring to battle entirely, between lives in your hangar.
But it wouldn't be “Transformers” if you only ran around on two legs. Jagex CCO Alex Horton described the four-wheeled action as a “fun, forgiving driving model” that's “loose in the back end” (oh my). You'll drift around tight corners and dash around the battlefield to get to the fight, and there's nothing quite like flying up over a ridge, transforming in mid-air, and landing in the middle of a pack of enemies to unleash the pain. “It's a lot about positioning, working the terrain, and moving around quickly,” said Horton.
Transformers in vehicle mode also have weapons, and different vehicles handle terrain differently. The SUV Front-Line handles off-road terrain with ease, while a sports car like Overclock would probably struggle but have better straight-line speeds on roads.
The Transformers themselves are a combination of classic, Prime-era characters and new models created specifically for the game. You can get a partial list on the game's website, as well as on the unaffiliated Transformers wiki. (Of note: Wheeljack was briefly visible during the video, but he's not mentioned on the site or the wiki list.)
There's been a lot of teeth-gnashing over whether this should have been a full MMO as opposed to a “MOTA,” as Jagex calls it, but it makes a little sense to go this route. A character creator, the likes of which we're used to in MMOs, which lets you make your own unique individual, would have been nearly impossible. Horton said the team is "taking head-on all the problems that come with a two-faction MMO," problems that might have been exacerbated with a traditional MMO, where population imbalances can lead to negative play experiences.
As for the game we do have? At least in the limited look I got, it seems fine. A lot of people are going to be understandably put off by the exorbitant Founder's Packs, but it's a free-to-play game, so there's no reason to spend now. You can keep following the development, as I plan to do, and decide to play when it comes out. Right now, I'd say I'll at least be taking a look at it and trying to remain cautiously optimistic.
Or is that Optimus-tic?
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.More Stories by Jason Winter