Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is a third-person shooter in the Transformers franchise. The game has a new developer and bridges the gap between the Transformers movie universe and the game Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. It acts as a prequel to both Fall of Cybertron and the movie Transformers: Age of Extinction. It takes place before the Ark is launched in the Aligned continuity (after the events of Transformers: War for Cybertron), but also deals with one of Lockdown’s schemes in the Age of Extinction part. At the start of the game an object flies towards Earth, in continuity with the movie, destroying an orbiting satellite and it is spotted by the mercenary Lockdown. The player starts as the Autobot Drift, sent to a burning city to investigate the attack. Lockdown is there as well and he manages to reach the artifact that crashed there first, the titular Dark Spark. When it is in Lockdown’s possession, its power makes Optimus powerless to intervene and Lockdown departs. Through thirteen chapters the story takes various characters through many locations based around the Dark Spark then played largely as a flashback in Cybertron based on the games’ storyline instead of the movie. For each chapter the perspective usually switches between Autobots and Decepticons and the game does not offer a choice in transformers or a specific faction side as in the previous games.
Characters players get to control are Bumblebee, Drift, Grimlock, Jetfire, Optimus Prime, Sharpshot, Sideswipe, Soundwave and Swindle. There are about 20 guns in total, including a regular shotgun, rifle, minigun and semi-automatic gun, but also chaining beams, a slime cannon that slows down and a blade shooter (Gear Shredder). Certain attacks are unique for a specific transformer, such as the ability for Sharpshot to cloak. There are both car and air-based transformations, as well as a Dinobat and an Insecticon section. Weapons can be upgraded with bonuses for specific weapons, faster reload and larger clips. By leveling up or completing bonus challenges gear drops can be earned, ranging from bronze to gold in value, and prime for specific milestones. These boxes provide new weapons, character unlocks for multiplayer, Tech (single-use power-ups) and Hacks (gameplay modifiers). The latter two often offer experience multipliers or other advantages. Duplicate drops are converted into upgrade points.
The online multiplayer mode is called Escalation. Up to four players work together cooperatively to destroy fifteen waves of progressively more difficult enemies on eight maps in totals, grabbing ammo and reviving each other during games. In multiplayer there are over 40 characters to choose from, some with different models based on the movie or the game universe, and also the Generation 1 Optimus Prime. The Wii U version does not have the multiplayer mode. The experience and leveling system with its unlocks is shared between the single-player and multiplayer mode.