When Transformers: Forged to Fight was first announced by Kabam, it seemed like a perfect match between IP, developer and genre. Kabam (now a subsidiary of Netmarble) had already proved its mobile fighting game chops with Marvel Contest of Champions, and the Transformers franchise provides a deep well of characters to help the character work its magic.

Still, the danger would be just doing Contest of Champions all over again with robot skins instead of superheroes. The team creating Forged to Fight wisely wanted to avoid going back over the ground Kabam’s Vancouver studio had already tread so well, so while the DNA of the previous game is certainly present, executive producer Mike McCartney was able to highlight the various ways the Transformers will push mobile fighting games forward in a recent event in New York City.

Robots in 3D

While the Transformers have been known to get up close and personal when they fight, a big chunk of the time they are shooting things at each other: lasers, cannons, missiles, etc. With that in mind, McCartney explained that it was important to put the action of the game in 3D.

The effect on gameplay is simple but adds a new factor to combat right away. Attacks are still pulled off with the same tap and swipe system as Contest of Champions, but when the robots are further apart, those same gestures will perform ranged attacks. There’s an additional way to avoid ranged damage too, as you can swipe up or down to sidestep incoming fire.

It’s still very possible to close range and duke it out hand-to-hand, but placing fights in three dimensions makes them feel more dynamic. Even the map screens are done up in 3D style, making the whole game more graphically intensive no matter what you’re doing. McCartney said the graphics will downscale to ensure the game is playable on less powerful devices, but this is the one part of Forged to Fight that gives one a little bit of pause.

Base-Building is Involved — But Not the Way You Might Think

It’s easy to hear that part of Transformers: Forged to Fight involves building a base, collecting resources and fending off PvP raids and immediately start doing a little eye-rolling. One of the other journalists at the New York event asked if that meant part of the game is like Boom Beach or other build and battle games.

The answer is yes … and no. Resource collection is a thing, and base defense is important. But instead of raids and defense playing out like they commonly do (including games like Transformers: Earth Wars), each player base is like a mini-map from Contest of Champions. If you’re doing the raiding, you go from node to node and have to defeat three of the defending player’s bots to steal the maximum amount of resources.

Not only is this a pretty clever twist on your expectations, it also provides something else to do with the other Transformers on your roster. McCartney noted that in Contest of Champions, you often get a core group of heroes, level and rank them up and use them exclusively while the others you collect just sit around on your roster. Forged to Fight solves that since you can assign some of your bots to base defense, and you might even want some heavy hitters there if you are getting raided frequently.

A Reason to Transform

What’s the number one sticking point for any studio making a Transformers game? Probably giving the characters a meaningful reason to change modes.

Different mobile games have tackled that issue in different ways, but Forged to Fight relies on a simple but effective solution: the characters fight most of the time in robot form but utilize their alternate modes for heavy and special attacks. A lot of times, they manifest in the most obvious ways. For example, Optimus Prime’s heavy attack changes him into his truck cab form to run over his opponent.

But there are also stunning specials that make use of the 3D aspect of the game to full effect. One of the moves McCartney showed off saw a character transform into a jet and fly around its opponent, peppering it with blasts from a full 360 degrees. McCartney promised less duplication of move sets and more individual personality from the Transformers than even Contest of Champions has, which means players should be in for a lot of cool visual treats when it comes to transformations.

The other really promising part of Transformers: Forged to Fight that made even the non-gaming journos in attendance happy is that the game will draw on all part of the Transformers universe to supply its characters: toys, animated series, live-action movies and more. There’s even an in-game reason that Autobots and Decepticons would end up on the same team if that sort of thing would otherwise bother you.

The TL;DR summary of all this is that Forged to Fight uses Contest of Champions as its foundation but doesn’t rest on its laurels. It’s bound to get a few additional tweaks as it goes through its current soft launch phase, but it should be ready to roll out and impress come spring.