Videogame Review: Transistor
From: Supergiant Games
Available on: Windows PC and PS4
Played on: PS4
Supergiant Games is known to many as the creators of the wonderful Bastion, a top down mashembashemup roleplaying game that was first released on Xbox Live Arcade and has since been released for almost every platform imaginable. Bastion was a new kind of game, taking gorgeous art, simple gameplay and a rich story and combining it into a novel adventure of constantly narrated fun.
Transistor then, is the follow up title from Supergiant and it is a sprawling cacophony of stunning visual design, intricate gameplay and innovative concepts. It’s a game far more adult than its predecessor; both in tone and in delivery. No longer a case of just bashing the right button at the right time, Transistor is a game of strategy, requiring the player to contemplate his actions both in and out of combat.
Transistor is the story of Red, a lounge singer in the city of Cloudbank. At the start she is paired with a talking sword, The Transistor, a weapon imbued with life. She must use it to battle Process – robotic enemies that are wreaking havoc in the city streets. This is where the player begins and through exploration, combat and woven narrative the game becomes so much more than what it first appears to be.
As Process continues to damage the city, parts of the background vanish into a pristine white. It’s rather unsettling given the colourful melange that Cloudbank generally is.
The game is played from an isometric perspective, with Red dragging The Transistor behind her. Sparks fly as the greatsword scars the pathways. When Process attack, she is fenced in by a boundary of pulsing lines. Combat takes place in real time, with up to four available actions, swappable at ‘access points’ you’ll frequently encounter. Everything is gilded with tech-speak. Attacks are called names like Load(), Mask(), Jaunt(), Spark() and Breach(). Some will send explosions at the enemy, some can penetrate walls and other creatures. Switch() causes enemies to befriend you briefly, attacking their fellow Process. Help() summons a friend to aid in battle. Crash() is a general melee attack, chainable up to multiple enemies.
Of course these can all be used as secondary functions as well; Bounce() when applied to Spark() as a secondary function causes the small projectiles to fly from the originals, doubling damage. It’s all very multi layered. Later you’ll get passive slots, allowing you to have a third option for each and every function you attain. This means that there is an additional level of strategy and planning to your gameplay, particularly as death causes you to lose, albeit temporarily, one of the four functions you currently have in use.
Adding yet another layer of strategy is the Turn system. With a press of a button time stops, and the player is given a planning grid over the world that allows you to setup your attacks. Chain attacks as you like, given the limitations of available time, and then instigate them to smash enemies with a powerhouse of attacks, evasions and counter attacks. Not only does this give it a turn-based style of gameplay, but it’s a limited resources; Turn has a cool-down period where you are helpless. You can’t attack or defend, only move during cool-down and so while you’ve done epic damage during that phase, you’re vulnerable afterwards.
There’s not much more to say about Transistor. It’s a stunningly beautiful game, with the same strong gameplay you got from Bastion but with the added depth of turn, multiple layers of functions and enemies that upgrade over time. It’s a game that most any gamer can enjoy – like Bastion before it, and games like Journey and perhaps even Osmosis it’s a difficult concept to explain, and in theory it’s a lot more complicated than it becomes in practice. It’s also got a stunning soundtrack.
I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and think it’s well worth a play.