Last week, an announcement was made that should have thrilled me beyond belief. Being a lifelong fan of Transformers and having thoroughly enjoyed the High Moon Studios games (War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron), I have anxiously awaited the third installment in the first truly good adaptation of Transformers this generation. What did we get instead? Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark.
Just hearing the title made me cringe. Regurgitating like food-poisoned processed nuggets from McDonald’s, I recalled Michael Bay’s horrid, sacrilegious debauchery of the Transformers franchise and, shortly after, discovered that Hasbro will in fact be taking cues from Bay’s universe with the new game, specifically the upcoming fourth film Age of Extinction. As if that wasn’t enough of a kick in the pants, Hasbro also gave the axe to High Moon Studios, placing developer Edge of Reality at the helm.
I have nothing against Edge of Reality (I don’t think I’ve played a single game they’ve developed), but like changing a good director in a film series, bringing in new developers usually ends up being a bad thing. If High Moon Studios had botched the first or second Cybertron game, changing developers would have made sense. However, High Moon crafted two solid games with a well thought-out amalgam of Transformers universes to create their own unique adaptation that managed to satisfy (most) fans of the G1 series.
Can Edge of Reality do a good job? I won’t count them out just yet, but certainly they don’t have the playful vision High Moon does that made the games work so well. Grimlock was included in Fall of Cybertron because director Matt Tieger thought, “How cool would it be to have a robotic space T-rex?” How many other developers base a hefty chunk of their game off such a nerdy, whimsical inquiry?
On that note, my biggest concern about Rise of the Dark Spark stems from the fusion of High Moon’s universe with Bay’s. In no way do these two universes fit into the same continuity. In the movies, Megatron was chasing the Allspark while also serving a master who wanted to destroy Earth and plotting on the side with an Autobot defector. (Sound ridiculous put together? They’re not much better as standalone stories.) In the High Moon games, Megatron was actually his own master (gasp) and was attempting to use Dark Energon, which he alone can wield, to take control of Cybertron. Their exodus has nothing to do with an Allspark, which is what initially brought them to Earth in the film series.
To hammer home this point, let’s look at an aforementioned character. Grimlock is already slated to appear in Rise of the Dark Spark, but his appearance will be based on his Age of Extinction look. While it is admittedly cool-looking, it’s vastly different from his appearance in Fall of Cybertron, yet Hasbro asserts Rise of the Dark Spark is a sequel to the Cybertron games.
Call me a nerd, but things like continuity errors irk me more than probably anything else. Aside from that, Michael Bay’s films were…well, horrible (with the exception of the first film, which I acquiesce was pretty good). No doubt Hasbro wants to shift the focus of the video game series to attempt to ride the coattails of the films’ financial success, but for fans of Transformers, it’s a bad move and honestly a slap in the face. The element that made the Cybertron games so great was its faithfulness to the source material. Anything involving Michael Bay’s films cannot stay true to the source material. His depiction of Megatron in the second and third films is evidence enough.
Watching the trailer, you can already see the influence the films have had over the game. Fall of Cybertron had several brilliant trailers, all of them for the most part avoiding the horrible trailer cliches that Rise of the Dark Spark falls victim to. It looks more like the film than the High Moon games, and it’s so, so disappointing.
Will I be keeping an eye on the development of Rise of the Dark Spark? You bet. I’m curious to see how the game will turn out, and I’m willing to give it a fair shot. Am I at all hopeful it will live up to High Moon’s games or even prove that enjoyable? No, and unless Bay and his abomination is removed from the game, I won’t ever.