(Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version))
This chapter begins with a rather brief and concise summary of the basic elements of the transformer universe. This is done through diegetic texts written by Optimus Prime, Shockwave, Jetfire etc.
I’m certainly not sufficiently versed in all the Transformers timelines that exist, but I’m pretty sure this is a brand new one, where they simply picked a bit freely from different versions’ timelines and set of robots.
The short version is like this: Cybertron was ruled by the Function Council, which forced everyone to only work on things that suited their alt mode. Megatron was a gladiator who created a people’s movement that overthrew the Council, but once he did, he continued on – and became a tyrannical leader who fought the heroic Autobots.
When everyone began to run out of energy, he sent scouts out into the galaxy on Shockwave’s advice to find more. Jetfire was the Decepticon then, he was the one who found Earth where there’s a lot of potential energon. But instead of reporting to Megs, he deserted and became an autobot. Optimus and the rest of the Autobots went with the Ark to Earth, but were intercepted by Megatron and the Decepticons. Both ships crashed on Earth. Optimus made the decision that all autobots would become Earth vehicles like their alt-forms to fit in.
In addition to that history lesson, we also get some basic terminology.
Then we get EIGHT PAGES of short 4-5 line brief descriptions of various autobots. It’s very unclear what they’re for. “So that players know who to turn to when they want something” says the text, but far from all the descriptions contain anything roleplayers might want.
Throughout, the most boring version of each character has also been chosen. There is no blackness, no edginess, no real conflict. It’s sanitized, advertised… childish. And yes, I know this is a franchise of children’s toys from the beginning, but… that was 35 years ago. We who grew up are adults now, and we’ve read IDW’s amazing comics.
Is this game perhaps aimed at children? I don’t know, I don’t think so. The language might not be that complicated, but it does require a lot of prior knowledge. And… Well, even Marvel’s old G1 series had more nuances and more interesting character variations than this.
I think “inoffensive” is the word I’m looking for. This game presents a very inoffensive version of Transformers, making everything feel like superficial middlebrow with nothing to really engage with.
Well, we also get one (1) page, which I guess is this game’s equivalent of “what is roleplaying?” or “how do you play?”. Anyone who has played before can skip that page altogether, but anyone who hasn’t played role-playing games before won’t get much out of it either – it doesn’t explain how to play. You might just barely understand what an SL is and that you should create characters, but how it actually works – not mechanically, but how you talk around the table – I guess will be explained later.
Overall, we’re not exactly off to a good start. It’s not offensively bad, but it’s… boring. You can only play autobots. All autobots are good, all decepticons are evil. If a decepticon isn’t evil, then it’s really an autobot that switches sides (like Jetfire). There’s no room for any nuance here, something I’ve really been spoiled by IDW and even stuff like Prime and Marvel’s old G1 series. Back in the late 80’s, they relaxed these hard “good vs evil” boundaries and had sympathetic Decepticons. And unsympathetic autobots – Grimlock took over leadership of the autobots for a while and was bad to say the least.
By all means, imagine that all this is just autobot propaganda. That they would hardly talk about their own war crimes in their communiques. But… I think there’s a lack of support for that reading in what I’ve seen of the rest of the game. I’ll keep an eye out, but my impression is simply that they made as inoffensive a version as possible, and thus mostly got something that lacks personality and where there’s not much to grab onto as a roleplayer.
One can imagine that all this is just autobot propaganda. That they would hardly talk about their own war crimes in their communiqués. But… I think there’s a lack of support for that reading in what I’ve seen of the rest of the game. I’ll keep an eye out, but my impression is simply that they made as inoffensive a version as possible, and thus mostly got something that lacks personality and where there’s not much to grab onto as a roleplayer.
I also wonder who the target audience is. As I said, the “what is roleplaying” counterpart doesn’t really seem to be for anyone, and I get the same feeling in other parts. Complete obviousness that every old TF fan knows is explained in detail, while stuff like headmasters and targetmasters are mentioned in passing as if everyone knew what they were.
The illustrations so far are hugely dull, and in the same vein as Renegade’s Transformers card game. Good looking but completely devoid of personality. I’ve seen that they’re stealing some images from the IDW series going forward, and they’re certainly light years better looking.
The layout is… serviceable. I don’t like the patterned grey behind the text, but it still reads OK. The PDF has no layers (grrrr) so you have to endure. It’s not actively hard to read.
Next up is the chapter on creating the character. I suspect I won’t like it, based on what I’ve seen and heard…
Does it say anything about Prowl being a completely ruthless war-damaged manipulative spymaster who no longer makes moral choices but only tactical ones with the goal of defeating the Decepticons and keeping the peace, regardless of whether he has to assassinate to achieve it? No. Does it say anything about him almost losing himself completely in the Devastator, and that he has since been plagued by nightmares and an unwelcome sense of belonging to the Constructicons? No. Anything interesting about him from IDW has been thrown out. Only the most superficial stuff – that he helped form Devastator – remains.
- The Transformers RPG review – Intro
- The Transformers RPG review – Chapter 1: Introduction
- The Transformers RPG review – Chapter 2: Character Creation
- The Transformers RPG review – Chapter 3: Influences
- The Transformers RPG review – Chapter 4: Origins