*WARNING – POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT*
Because of the nature of the way the story is delivered, the summary I’ve provided below may contain spoilers, ruining your enjoyment of the game.
Occasionally you get to experience science-fiction that is so far in the future, so alien, so foreign, so weird or so abstract that your mind struggles to assimilate it using your current experiences and knowledge of the world around you. Transistor is set in the weird and wonderful digital city of Cloudbank, a genuine utopia and ever-changing city that transforms to suit the majority whims of the people, communism cross Facebook. People themselves also seem to exist on a digital level, framing a world just beyond one we can conceive of in the near future.
While this sounds nice, a few intelligent and creative individuals calling themselves the Camerata disagree and have decided to stage a style revolution, seizing control of the transitional nature of the city to create a more permanent city adhering to their own tastes. The key to this revolt is “The Transistor”, a conveniently sword-shaped flash drive that can absorb individuals to create the new city. The means of seizing power in the city is called “The Process”, a digital army of re-modellers. Caught in the middle is Red, a singer, one of the many individuals the Camerata deemed more valuable inside the Transistor than outside of it.
But enough about the surreal story. Supergiant Games have brought some of the strengths of their first game, Bastion, to Transistor. The colourful art style of Jen Zee transitions seamlessly from menus to cut scene to game play. Darren Korb has created another thematically suited soundtrack which is inter-dispersed well throughout the game. Transistor also makes use of the isometric, top down view for game play and multiple play styles which can suit the player.
Half of your time is spent moving through the linear levels, listening to the voice in the Transistor, accessing terminals to learn more about the world, it’s people and what is actually happening. The other half is spent in combat, using the Transistor to fight the process. The Transistor acts as a medium to use different powers and abilities. While each power has it’s own individual use such as ranged or melee attack, teleportation, seeker missile, etc., they can also be used to add extra abilities or enhancements to other powers, or passive enhancements to you. With a limited amount of slots for your powers, your combat style is both limited but still allows for a large amount of versatility. While I started off with close combat and teleporting around, I finished the game with ranged attacks that weakened the enemies and stealth.
This so far is all very similar to Bastion, so what stops it from being a simple re-imaging of a good game? Transistor implements an element of turn-based strategy, similar to that of old-school Final Fantasy games. Your turn charges up which you then implement. Each power and movement uses a certain amount of “turn” and once you’ve used up as much as you want, your actions then sequentially activate. While this isn’t a bad system which is a good attempt at strategy, it leaves you mostly vulnerable in-between turns where the only thing to do is run away from your enemies who take advantage of the fact that you’re much slower than they are. This in-between part was where the game lacked a bit as it was tiresome.
At the very start, you had to solve a problem involving pressing two buttons at once to open a door, using the combat mechanic to solve the issue. I like this use of the “turn” strategy outside combat, but it was the only instance of there being a puzzle in the whole game.
And while I love the story, it wasn’t only until the very end that I understood most of what was going on. And that was after listening and watching every cut-scene, accessing every terminal, listening to every message and unlocking all the biographical information by using the powers. There are still things that I don’t quite understand, somewhat because of the abstract nature of the world, but mostly because the delivery of the story wasn’t overly strong. While I can easily complain about being spoon-fed a story, this was too far in the opposite direction.
Transistor is a good game. Despite the odd choice of combat style, it was still a well-balanced and had an excellent difficulty scale that resulted in a lot of fun. The art style and music draws you into the game and simple act of removing an initial game menu meant Transistor was very easy to jump into every time. I can especially recommend this game to any aficionados of science-fiction, or to anyone who enjoyed Bastion.
Next review in 3 Weeks will be Among the SleepCover Image