The Transformers franchise’s popularity in most media hasn’t been replicated quite to the same level in video games yet, but every so often, we do get releases that make some intriguing promises. Tessera Studios and Outright Games’ upcoming action game, TRANSFORMERS: EARTHSPARK – Expedition is looking like one such game. From its combo-based combat to its choice of protagonist to its focus on exploration and Metroidvania-esque level design, it seems to have plenty of elements in place to make for a solid experience, and to learn more about the game and some of those elements, we recently reached out to the folks working on it with a few of our questions. Below, you can read our interview with Julio Romacho Hipólito, producer at Outright Games.
"We wanted to create a story that everyone could enjoy, so Bumblebee was the perfect starting point."
Given how many fan-favorite characters the massive cast of Transformers has featured over the years, what was behind the decision to shine the spotlight on Bumblebee in particular for this game?
Bumblebee is an iconic character that has been prominent in so much Transformers media over the recent years. He is instantly recognisable to both the new, younger generation of fans and by those who’ve been fans of the franchise for decades, and acts almost like a link between the generations. We wanted to create a story that everyone could enjoy, so Bumblebee was the perfect starting point. We also felt there was a lot to explore within Bumblebee’s character and backstory, so we’re looking forward to seeing seasoned fans discover new things about this heroic Autobot.
For fans of the Transformers IP, will EARTHSPARK – Expedition feature plenty of references and easter eggs?
Absolutely! We have plenty of recognisable characters that will appear alongside Bumblebee throughout the game, including Optimus Prime of course, as well as Grimlock, Skullcruncher, Nova Storm, and Skywarp. The in-game card collection features a number of illustrations and descriptions of fan-favorite characters from across the Transformers universe, and astute players will also notice a few subtle easter eggs throughout the game…
How heavily will the game emphasize exploration, especially given the game’s inclusion of Metroidvania design elements?
The game has a very big focus on open exploration, with plenty of secrets, detours, and side missions dotted about the biomes for players to discover. The side missions link closely to the main story, so there’s a lot of incentive there to find and complete them. Players are also able to backtrack to previous biomes in order to access new areas that may have originally been inaccessible the first time around.
What can you tell us about the three biomes that will be available, and how much they will differ from each other?
The three biomes work as separate maps that must be completed in order to access the next one. The first is Road Canyon, the second is Jungle Temple, and the third and final is the Glacial Mountain. As can be inferred from the names, each biome boasts a new type of environment with unique threats, challenges, and twists that keep the game exciting.
"Bumblebee’s racing car form can be used to travel around the world more quickly, but it can also be incorporated into powerful combo attacks in battle too. There are lots of possibilities here for players to explore."
What kind of depth and variety can players expect from the game’s combat systems, and the abilities that will be available in Bumblebee’s arsenal?
We’ve developed a dynamic hack and slash combat system that utilises combos to create exciting action sequences. New abilities and combos can be unlocked as the game progresses, with abilities like the Charged Shot and Grapple allowing access to new areas, and others like the Ultra Attack allowing huge amounts of damage to be done to enemies.
How expansive can players expect the game’s progression mechanics to be?
Players can expect to gradually unlock new game mechanics throughout their playtime. While the list of new combos and upgraded abilities is expansive, many players will likely gravitate to a few that they enjoy using such as the Charged Shot or Nitro Boost
What sort of an impact will Bumblebee’s vehicle form have on different aspects of gameplay, from movement to combat to exploration?
Bumblebee’s racing car form can be used to travel around the world more quickly, but it can also be incorporated into powerful combo attacks in battle too. There are lots of possibilities here for players to explore.
With TRANSFORMERS: EARTHSPARK – Expedition being a game that’s designed for all ages, what are the biggest challenges of crafting an experience like that? How do you look to strike the right balance between complexity and accessibility?
The most important thing for a game like this is to keep the core mechanics simple enough for young players to grasp, while providing optional additional features that appeal to older, and more experienced players (for example, our fully-fledged combo system). By identifying challenges young players typically have with open world games, and implementing solutions that helped solve those problems, we were able to create a solid foundation. We then added a lot of side missions, collectibles, and other optional content that provides rewards for those who are up to the challenge.
"We’ve developed a dynamic hack and slash combat system that utilises combos to create exciting action sequences."
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of the game be?
TRANSFORMERS: EARTHSPARK – Expedition will take many hours to complete the main story campaign and then even more to find every collectible and hidden easter egg within the game.
Since the reveal of the PS5 and Xbox Series’ specs, a lot of comparisons have been made between the GPU speeds of the two consoles, with the PS5 at 10.28 TFLOPS and the Xbox Series X at 12 TFLOPS. How much of an impact on development do you think that difference will have?
Working on a title for both older generation consoles at the same time as a current console requires that there be some concessions, because of modern development tools. However, the smaller TFLOPS difference between both console generations doesn’t have a huge impact on our development perspective.
The PS5 features an incredibly fast SSD with 5.5GB/s raw bandwidth. How can developers take advantage of this, and how does this compare to the Xbox Series X’s 2.4GB/s raw bandwidth?
The PS5 and XSX SSDs are without a doubt, much faster than older generation consoles. One opportunity is to take advantage of the loading times, and to use them to develop seamless transitions between maps.
The Xbox Series S features lesser hardware compared to Xbox Series and Microsoft is pushing it as a 1440p/60 FPS console. Do you think it will be able to hold up for the more graphically intensive games as this generation progresses?
1440p/60 FPS is still an ambitious goal from a performance perspective, so it is possible that many incoming games are going to target 30 FPS on Xbox Series S because of those hardware restrictions.
"The game has a very big focus on open exploration, with plenty of secrets, detours, and side missions dotted about the biomes for players to discover."
What frame rate and resolution will the game target on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S?
In PS5 and Xbox Series X, TRANSFORMERS: EARTHSPARK – Expedition will have 4k resolution and 60FPS. The Xbox Series S edition will feature 1440p resolution and a frame rate of 60FPS.
What frame rate and resolution will the game target on the Switch in docked and undocked modes?
For undocked mode, the dynamic resolution will be between 480-720/30FP, whereas docked Switches will have dynamic resolution between 720-1080/30FPS.
What are your thoughts on the Steam Deck? Do you have plans for any specific optimizations for the device?
It is an incredible portable console, I think people are very happy with how it is handling games. However, TRANSFORMERS: EARTHSPARK – Expedition won’t have any specific optimizations for the Steam Deck.