Beautiful cyberpunk without the grime.
I was a pretty big fan of Bastion when it was released. The art style and presentation were very unique and interesting, and the way the story was told through narration was very well done. Let’s not forget it was a blast to play as well. Supergiant Games returns with Transistor, yet another interesting title in both storytelling and style.
Taking place in a cybernetic world called Cloudbank, Red, a famous singer, is on the run from an unknown force while wielding a large talking electronic sword that guides her along the way.
Platforms: PC, PS4
Price I’d pay: $20
Length: 6-7 hours
What really sold Bastion for me was the story telling and narration. In Transistor, the narration is done through the sword Red carries, but not in the same sense as Bastion. Instead, the sword is telling her where to go and what to do along with giving exposition. So the narration plays out like an in the heat of the moment situation, not in the past tense. It is very well done, and considering that is the only spoken dialog, it is very impressive.
“Turn” based combat
While the game can be played in an action sense, it would behoove the player to use Turn while in combat. Turn pauses time and allows the player to both move Red and plan out attacks using an active time bar at the top of the screen. When un-pausing time, Red will quickly execute the planned moves in fast succession as if the enemies aren’t even moving. This mechanic offers up huge amounts of strategy when taking on numerous enemies. Not to mention, it is both fun and satisfying to pull off a great combo.
Using an isometric view much like a dungeon crawler like Diablo or Torchlight, the player can see the battlefield in a much clearer way, and visually, the game is pretty stunning to see. The animations of both Red and the enemies are well done and give off a hand drawn feel to them.
After a battle, Red will gain experience based on how many enemies were defeated and what limiters were turned on. Limiters will change-up the battles, making them slightly more difficult depending on what is turned on. Red will also learn new abilities and attacks when leveling up.
I really like how the game unravels the mystery behind the story. The abilities and attacks are known as Functions and each one represents a person in the city of Cloudbank. Most of them were influential people that shaped the city itself. When gaining a new Function, it starts off as a blank data entry with just a name, but using that Function in battle will unlock more of the person’s story and hearing the sword comment on them adds even more to it. It really gives off this film noir feel that totally fits the style completely.
While the equipping of abilities is complex and essential for later in the game, it is not explained very well in the beginning. In fact, aside from maybe two or three prompts early in the game, Transistor doesn’t have much of a play tutorial. After about an hour or so with experimenting, I did finally understand it. Each ability can be equipped as an attack, but if players like the attacks they already have, they can use those abilities to buff the attacks they have equipped. Every ability has passive and secondary functions that can add extra stats and utilities to already equipped attacks. Like I said, it is complex and understanding it took me a while.
Much like Bastion, there is a challenge mode of sorts that the player can take on. These challenges can be timed battles where Red must kill every enemy within a time limit, planning battles that force the player to figure out a way to defeat every enemy using only one Turn and many other types. Completing these will unlock the music in the game to be played in the sort of hub world.
While on the topic of music, Transistor boasts a pretty amazing soundtrack. So much in fact, I’m looking forward to purchasing it when it becomes available. Supergiant Games realizes how good the music is too. By holding L1, Red will hum along with every song in the game while the player hears it. It added just that right amount of style that made me smile.
Transistor feels very different from Bastion in terms of combat. While Bastion was more of an action game, Transistor takes some careful planning in combat if players want to survive. While this is different from their first game, it still makes Supergiant’s new title a blast to play while still looking beautiful and sounding amazing.
Players looking for a very artistic world with unique narration and an amazing soundtrack, you have just found it. Strategy fans will have a great time taking on the combat, and anyone looking for a great game for $20 should not pass this up. Transistor has the style along with the game play that makes this a must own for many.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.