War For Cybertron: Siege – First Impressions

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This time I will share my thoughts on the upcoming Siege toy line, debuting in late 2018, part one in a trilogy called War for Cybertron which is the next segment of the long-running CHUG/Generations toy line. I originally just intended to post a few tweets about it, but it grew and here we are…

General concept

The overall idea of the War for Cybertron toy line, at least the Siege section, is to, as the name implies, goes back to wartime Cybertron and explore pre-Earth incarnations of the Transformers. This has been done before toy-wise, the latest example being the toys based on character designs in the celebrated War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron games from High Moon Studio found in Generations/Thrilling 30. This time around we however see new interpretations of pre-Earth Transformers seemingly not based on any media incarnations we´ve seen before. I think there might be more than one reason for this toy line taking this direction.

Looking back at CHUG/Generations, most characters from the G1 years 1984 through 1988 have been remade, not least during the Prime Wars trilogy which gave us Scramble City-styled combiners, Titans, Headmasters and even Pretenders (in a way). In a way, there is not much more of dignity from G1 to CHUG-ify, (except perhaps Micromasters which, as we shall see, are represented in Siege). Therefore, the logical thing is to start the whole G1 remake marathon over, there has been some time since Classics debuted and demand for new iterations of characters last featured say a decade ago (at least in certain size classes, devoid of gimmicks they originally did not have) should be there.

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Second, all branches of the Transformers franchise are at the moment G1-oriented. Cyberverse is a cartoonishly stylized version of G1 aesthetically, the upcoming Bumblebee movie has a section featuring very G1ish Transformers warring on Cybertron in it and there is also the Evergreens toy line with very G1-influenced designs. While I am not sure about the reason for this streamlining of the franchising as a whole towards G1, the direction of WFC: Siege fits right in there.

Third, the IDW G1 comic universe is ending after well over a decade, and will be rebooted in the beginning of next year. While pure speculation, it does not seem too far-fetched to assume there will be some alignment between the new War For Cybertron toyline and the IDW comic reboot. Overall, I think the overall concept of WFC: Siege, supported by the comics or not, is a welcome, if not entirely novel, one as I think the Great War is still an interesting era to focus on. If the IDW comics in some way converges with it, it is even better!

It should be noted that like in the G1 cartoon, the pre-Earth concept is foremost visible in the alt-modes of the toys, and even here it varies, with Sideswipe´s car mode looking very close to a real-life Lamborghini, whereas Starscream´s alt mode is a very close match to the tetrajet design in the first cartoon episode… and then there is everything in between. Nevertheless, I am up for the concept!

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Aesthetics

What sets Siege apart from say, the Prime Wars trilogy but possibly sub-lines before that as well aesthetically is what I would call realism, evident in the degree of sculpted detail and paint finish on the toys. As for the former, Siege toys generally seem to have a higher degree of sculpted detail on their surfaces than their predecessors, possibly to give a more of an impression of realistic-looking robots rather than 3D representation of toons. It is certainly the antithesis of the G1 Masterpiece aesthetic of later years where surface detailing is more or less abandoned in the name of Sunbow cartoon accuracy. As a general rule I prefer the former aesthetic, I have however not made up my mind yet as to whether the new toys are TOO detailed in their sculpting detail or not, that judgment must wait until I actually have them in hand.

As for the second element, paint finish, there is the inclusion of painted “battle damage” on the figures. I guess this also is part of a new “realism” direction, but from what I have seen so far it is not very appealing, rather maybe the one thing that detracts from my enthusiasm for this toy line. But again, let´s see how it looks in hand.

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Gimmicks

If Titans Return was a celebration of the Headmaster gimmick, it seems that at least the Siege portion of the War For Cybertron trilogy is all about Target Masters, in more than one way:

  • There is the dedicated size class Battle Masters that feature robots (humanoid or beasts) transforming into weapons to wield for larger robots. It feels like a callback to both Target Masters and Action Master partners.
  • The micromasters featured combine into weapons to wield for larger robots, this in turn feels like it is inspired both by Target Masters and the Micromaster combiners from 1990.
  • The weaponizer deluxes turn into armor bits and, yes, weapons, for other robots to wield. This concept is somewhat reminiscent of how Godbomber and Victory Leo worked, only more flexible, as most Deluxes and Voyagers in the line have multiple 5mm ports for these to attach to.

Yes, there are more 5 mm ports than usual on the new toys in order to accommodate the various weapon gimmicks, but it does not seem that they affect the overall aesthetics of the toys too much.

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Casting

More than anything so far, the casting so far makes this toy line feel like something of a reboot in the Generations department, a sort of Classics 2.0 if you will! The reason is that Siege features large portions of the 1984 cast on both the Autobot and Decepticons line already in the first waves! Optimus, Ironhide, Sideswipe, Hound (Prowl, Ratchet and Mirage in later waves), Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave with Laserbeak and Ravage, Shockwave, even Reflector, it reads as a who´s who of the 1984 toy catalogue! Sure, the alt modes of the designs are “Cybertronian” to various degrees, but if we look at robot modes they are quite close to the G1 source materials and that is how I will display my toys anyway, thus, this toy line feels like a new jumping on point to me, and I am certainly going to jump on! Then there is a second category of characters where we continue to delve into the more obscure parts of G1: Cog, Brunt, Sixgun, Chromia and Micromasters! Chromia is a most welcome addition (I prefer her to be a Cybertronian car over motorcycle), Micromasters are the last major segment of G1 not really featured in Generations yet, and Cog, Brunt and Sixgun? It is awesome that we get add-ons to Titan Class toys released one to five (!) years ago! Overall, I give the casting an A+, there is certainly something for both new and experienced collectors to be found here! Now that we are discussing casting, let´s have a closer look at the individual figures…

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Optimus Prime (Voyager class)

Let us start with the penultimate Transformers character, the big red truck dad bot himself – Optimus! As for alt mode, it feels like the G1 truck with added tech detail and a strange looking roof with additional lights… as in, it does not look like either an Earth vehicle or something truly Cybertronian. That roof becomes one massive back mounted plate on the robot mode, arguably its one eyesore. I bet several fans are speculating if that roof can be taken off the figure completely. Apart from that though, I think we have a robot mode that equals the one of Classics Prime, or even surpasses it in ways. Yes there is that backpack and also lower arm kibble, but the latter is less prominent than on Classics Prime, and overall the proportions and the overall design screams G1 cartoon Prime. This will, despite a few blemishes, be the central Optimus figure in my collection!

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Megatron (Voyager class)

The tank mode feels a little lackluster, but the robot mode is really on point in terms of aesthetics and proportions. It´s the Megatron I´ve wanted for years, with Henkei being a NERF gun, CW being a Leader Class figure and TR being a triple-changing Headmaster… this just ticks all boxes for me. I first thought the face sculpt was a bit too stylized but I am warming up to it. Overall this figure will be a great counterpart to Siege Optimus.

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Ultra Magnus (Leader class; Voyager class core figure plus armor)

I have wanted a “white Prime in armor” type Magnus toy since Fansproject´s Commander Armor for Classics Ultra Magnus. I liked CW Magnus, but was not a fan of the partsforming with Minimus, I also prefer Magnus to actually be Magnus. I am genuinely surprised they did not just create an armor add-on for Optimus but rather went all in and created a separate core figure. Alt mode looks great too, the RiD design looks befittingly alien for the toyline.

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Shockwave (Leader class; Voyager class core figure plus armor)

An appropriately scaled Shockwave figure has been strangely missing from CHUG since its inception, this figure however ticks all boxes, nailing both scale, alt mode and robot mode aesthetics. The core figure that is. The accompanying armor/skateboard/alt mode pieces feels like an afterthought being designed so that Shockwave like Magnus could be a Leader Class figure. I don´t care much for four-armed armed up Shockwave or the hoverboard but at least the combined alt-mode looks cool.

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Sideswipe (Deluxe class)

I always found Universe Sideswipe a bit wonky and having a bit too clumsy car hood chest to really look like the sleek bot he should be… Siege Sideswipe rectifies all that, it looks like a legitimate home run in both modes. A minor nitpick is that we don´t get a rifle AND a shoulder cannon, but overall, I won´t be needing any other Sideswipe after this one!E3544_Starscream_Bot_Mode

Starscream (Voyager class)

While I was never personally a fan of the tetrajet design, it is cool that this Cybetronian version of the Seeker alt-mode is getting a toy incarnation. I find the jet mode a bit lacking with its large undercarriage,  in terms of robot mode however, I think this Starscream is the nicest one we´ve had since Classics, and in voyager scale to boot!

 

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Hound (Deluxe class)

I have personally never cared much for Hound as a character, but this interpretation just oozes cool, I think it looks better than the upcoming Masterpiece Hound. Another “definite version” figure for me!

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Soundwave (Voyager class)

Robot mode looks perfect, scale is perfect and it is awesome the deployer mechanism is there. Alt mode is a bit of a question mark though, hopefully there is a hidden boombox mode in there too…

 

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Laserbeak and Ravage (Spy patrol)

The Decepticon Cassettes have also missed straightforward homages in CHUG with them turning into other things (tank Frenzy and Rumble) or being compromised by additional gimmicks (triple changing in TR). These figures are however on the money, I am not a fan of laserbeak´s visored pre-Earth look, but it is a minor nitpick overall.

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Ironhide (Deluxe class)

It seems that the van brothers are particularly hard to really nail in both CHUG and Masterpiece, could it be the lack of toy references that adhere to the original cartoon models? Classics Ironhide had its jigsaw puzzle-like alt mode and CW Ironhide was a lazy reuse of Off Road so this figure is a major step up, if not perfect; I don´t like how the windshield chest looks on the bot mode, it feels more like Kup than Ironhide… overall the best CHUG Ironhide yet though, with a nice alt mode as well. And cool weapon!

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Reflector (Deluxe class)

It was a positive surprise to see that this character(s) is getting a figure, and the way one of them has some sort of passable alt mode while three of them combine into an SLR camera is ingenious! I will however settle for one of these figures as I generally don´t get multiples of the same mold. Clever way of making other people buy multiples though!

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Chromia (Deluxe class)

A retool of Moonracer/Novastar, this figure looks quite different with added sculpted detail and the lack of a combiner port (the latter which was a shame by the way). Personally I prefer Chromia to have her cartoon alt mode over a bike, so while being another retool I feel like Chromia owns this mold more than Prime Arcee´s. Overall happy that she is getting another toy!

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Skytread (Deluxe class, Duocon)

The only thing that detracts from this fine looking figure is that it does not have separate bot modes for its respective components the way Battletrap´s did… On the other hand, maybe it is Battletrap that is not the perfect update given that it has those extra modes? Either way, on its own terms this looks like the perfect Flywheels homage!

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Cog (Deluxe class, Weaponizer)

This is another big surprise, casting-wise! It is really cool to get a figure which is basically an add-on for Titan Fortress Maximus, in full deluxe-size! As a Weaponizer, Cog can split into several weapon and armor pieces for other characters to wear. The gimmick is cool although one I personally don´t care for (more play than display value), I however find it lazy that the arms seemingly need to parts-form for switching between robot and alt mode. Minor nitpick, though.

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Brunt (Deluxe Class, Weaponizer)

…and here is an add-on for Trypticon! The tank mode looks G1 while the now existing bot mode is based on Don Figuerora´s old Sentinel design from Stormbringer. Another weaponizer gimmick I won´t be using, but the figure will be perfect beside Full-tilt at Trypticons massive feet!

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Battle Masters

I treat these collectively since I have no larger interest in the size class as such. I guess they are alright. I am not a big fan of the Targetmaster gimmick overall but for those who are I guess these are a welcome addition. Again, there is more play value than display value here, and I am all for the latter.

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Micromasters

As for these, I think it is neat that we are getting updates at all, I personally would prefer if they had more articulation in robot mode over being able to combine to weapons in pairs. The Battle Patrol combined weapon looks cool, but the other ones less so. Again, more play than display, which is of course fine in a toy line!

In summary

I look forward to this toy line very much! It really feels like it is a Classics 2.0 of sorts, a new jumping on point for anyone who wants to build a collection with the most classic Transformers characters. On top of it, I think that many of the toys in this line surpass previous versions of the characters they portray in many cases! The only thing I can´t help wondering is, what happens when the War For Cybertron trilogy runs out of its most classic characters? What will be left given how much the Prime Wars trilogy covered so much so recently? Given how promising this line seems so far, I am happy to find out eventually!

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