It should be noted that this is a continuation on Beast Wars, and because I haven't had a chance to go back to finish watching Beast Wars, there are going to be story elements I can't explain, because they happened in Beast Wars and this will include loose spoilers for Beast Wars. Also like Beast Wars, thanks to E3 and trailer work, this is more of an Opening Impression. To the Beast Wars fans. I can talk about Black Arachnia now, but I'm not going to go into her shipping with Silverbolt (not that one, the Arialbots aren't a thing here). As for the plot itself, Megatron won the Beast Wars, and has developed a hatred of organic material, along with free will. As a result of this, he captured all of the cybertronians, took their sparks, and controls an army of vehicon drones which you see for 2 and a bit episodes before he gives three of them free will. At first, the only remaining transformers that are left are four surviving Maximals, Optimus Primal, Rat Trap, Cheetor and Black Arachnia, but thanks to a virus that Megatron used to take over the planet, the four of them need to be reformatted with new bodies that are implied to be techno organic. This is the lack of Beast Wars knowledge talking here, but does that mean their bodies in Beast wars were organic? Were they always supposed to be techno organic? Moving on, there are a few flaws in the new bodies though. First, the beast and robot modes are apparently in a state of flux in them. While their minds are calm, they can go to robot mode. But if their emotions get out of control, they are forced back into Beast mode. The robot modes as well also have a small problem of easily being tracked, whereas the beast modes can barely fight against the Vehicons so... pick your poison? I do like the idea though of seeing a Cybertron where Megatron won on a not completely destroyed planet because from memory, the only other time we see that is the intro to the 86 movie. Yes the Decepticons control the planet in the first two seasons of G1, but most of the action is on earth so for all we know, Shockwave's form of a controlled planet is him hosting rave parties for the bots and cons that aren't in the show at that point in time. My one issue with the transformation aspect in this is that it does raise the question of "why not have this as well in Beast Wars?" and before you say it, I know this was an idea they probably came up with after Beast Wars for Beast Machines, but its still one of those ideas that makes you question why its a problem now.
I'm not really going to be going into the characters because for the most part, they're still the same characters as Beast Wars, just with more development now so they aren't as obnoxious. I can't comment on Black Arachnia other then she is an interesting character for the afore mentioned "I've barely seen Beast Wars, I plan to go back to it after the marathon, along with two other tv show reviews I plan to do after it". The only thing I can really comment on character wise is the three Vehicons I've see in action, Tankor, Thrust and Jetstorm. They're ok bad guys, pretty one dimensional though, but it is implied that Tankor at least has the spark of a Maximal Rinox to be exact, with Thrust being Silverbolt.
Presentation wise, I'm not sure if its an upgrade or a downgrade compared to Beast Wars. The soundtrack I do enjoy more then Beast wars, as it goes for a slightly gringe techno themed soundtrack which I think works well as the setting is Cybertron. An example of that kind of style (and totally not a plug) is the Eater Battle theme from Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth, which you can find on the youtube channel as it is apart of the Mediaholics Playlist. The part of the presentation though that has me torn is the visuals. To make a reply that I did on a comment public (the reply on Beast Wars was also posted onto a Transformers facebook group I'm a part of, so I replied to it there), I was comparing Beast Wars visually to traditional 2D animation which was the common style for tv shows back then, along with Toy Story 1. My big problem with it was the textures on the models along with the way the models moved around in slightly stiff way, just enough to notice it. For this, I'll be mostly focusing on the comparison between Beast Machines and Beast Wars. Just to make that clear.
A point in Beast Machine's favor, the world is better designed around the limitations of the technology. Like I said before, this is set on Cybertron so the textures on the models go for a more metalic look to them, which does compensate for the basic texturing. To compare it to Beast Wars, I believe Cybertron is made of metal, whereas a lot of Earth in Beast Wars looked like it was made of clay, rather then dirt, stone, grass, ect. The camera also gets more dynamic at times, making moments look more visually interesting and it again helps hide the limitations. The Vehicons also have interesting designs to them, but look like they were designed to be a toy first, character second. The Maximals on the other hand, that whole "pick your poison" thing applies here too. I'll start with the Beast Modes, because most of them look really good. The texturing on Black Arachnia, Rat Trap and Cheetor gives them enough of an update from Beast Wars, and the slight techno details in them puts them just far away from "realistic" that you don't get the uncanny valley effect, though I will admit I prefer all four of their beast modes before the Reformatting. The only real complaint I have in those three is Cheetor has a bit of a bug eye syndrome, his eyes are gigantic in beast mode. Primal on the other hand looks worse to me. The techno details on his neck makes it sometimes look like his head isn't actually attached to his body, like the model wasn't finished. There is also a fur texture on him this time compared to Beast Wars, which does lead into my issue with beast formers at times, leaning a tad too close to a robot with skin that just creeps me out at times. I don't know why but I don't have any issues with the others in that department, at least for Beast mode.
Robot mode on the other hand, and we come to a new problem. To me, these are some of the worst robot mode designs I have ever seen overall (not including toy designs). Black Arachnia gets off the lightest in that department as the only two things to note as problems would be two missing spider legs (assuming four of them were meant to be her robot arms and legs) along with a design that would probably push the age rating if it was done with today's technology, and would probably make a lot of parents angry because of the depiction of the female body (It's still a kids show, no there's no nudity, but in terms of fem bot designs she does rank up there are one of the more questionable designs. Rat Trap's design has a Bayformers Prime effect on it, in the form of "where did those wheels come from? You're a rat, rat's don't have wheels!" Primal looks ok, but textures also plague him as his head looks really bland compared to other transformers heads, like he took off his helmet and forgot to put it back on again. Cheetor's design in robot mode is the worst to me. He looks lankey, especially with the legs that look like they'd be as tall as most robots on their own if they weren't going for a cat hind legs approach to them. I get that he's supposed to be a fast character, but he just looks like he's been on a wheelchair for years and finally got the ability to walk again. Seriously all the muscle mass is in his torso, which just makes the legs look all the more spindly. For reference, Beast Wars: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/MdcsLHf6wb4/maxresdefault.jpg and Beast Machines: http://www.oocities.org/tigerhawkvok/CheetorR.jpg . Oh and as for Nightscream. I'm not a fan of the emo kid look for character design. Nothing else to say really.
I will give Beast Machines credit of doing one thing I didn't think Transformers would ever do, a story based on the conflict between nature and technology, and I am curious to see how they handle it. If they go for a one sided point of view, or a more balanced neutral perspective. Like with Beast Wars though, my one issue comes back to the animation, though for different reasons then Beast Wars, even though things like the weird ways necks can turn is back too. Unlike Beast Wars where I had a little knowledge of it, the most amount of knowledge I had on Beast Machines going into it was some of the designs of the toys from reviews which... yeah lets just say I have no plans on actively going after a Beast Machines collection. I will give both Beast Wars and Beast Machines credit on having a "story first, toys second" approach to the two shows because they do feel like more natural progressions of the story rather then "Oh we need this toy in the show, lets write a story about this guy!", something many other shows, even in Transformers to this day, are guilty of. Getting proper exposure to them for the first time, I am willing to continue looking into them, experiencing their worlds. Their big issue though is the animation, time has not been kind to them visually. If you can look past them and, like me, have barely given them the time of day before, I think you may find something good in them, it all comes down to if you can survive the animation. Up next is going to be the post E3 podcast, but the next review will be Robots in Disguise 2001