*Authors Note* Transistor is available for PS4 and PC, whilst for the sake of this review, the PS4 version was played. Mild spoilers will be contained within this review.
Transistor; the latest game from independent studio SuperGiant Games, has been a long time in the making. Off the back of their incredibly successful Xbox 360 hit Bastion, Transistor has been in development since July 2011 and after initially giving us a tease back in March 2013, the project was finally revealed to be coming to PC and PS4 in 2014 – more specifically May 20th. Featuring many elements that made Bastion so wildly acclaimed, does this venture from fantasy to sci-fi work much as it did before? Read on to find out.
Our young female protagonist Red has had her voice stolen her voice, in the midst of an attack on an unidentified man. Her voice gets sealed within a mysterious sword-like device known as the transistor, while the party responsible for the attack; the Camerata and their legion of robotic monstrosities known as the ‘Process’. With the consciousness of the murdered man also trapped within the Transistor, it speaks to Red, serving as her guide and the player’s narrator. From here Red treks out to restore order to Cloudbank, clear out Camerata and the Process, and reunite with her lover. Unfortunately what I found was that the overall plot and general dialogue was a tad on the ridiculous side and was never particularly interested in what went on. I felt like the origin and destination had previously been decided while an assortment of random interruptions were created to force bumps in the road and even these were not brilliantly executed.Like Bastion before it, Transistor takes a top down isometric perspective and combines it will a clever mixture of action based gameplay with turn based mechanics. Players can choose the risky, bordering on senseless path of tackling all combat in the moment to moment approach, but the smarter move is to combine this with the turn() ability that freezes time and allows the player to plan a more strategic approach to the encounter, something necessary when faced with larger numbers of foes. Red is quite customisable with four different function slots and in excess of a dozen different abilities that can be inserted into those slots. Those not used serve as mods to enhance the effects of the function, for example by expanding the impact radius of an attack. Limiters can also be equipped, that despite the extra difficulty they create for the player, you yield increased experience following each encounter as a result of combat. If you’re ever finding combat too difficult then remove the Limiters and the experience becomes a little easier for you once again. What I most took from this brilliant gameplay experience was a rich layer of depth to it, thanks to incredibly customisable mechanics that make the game playable to all regardless of their level of experience.
The world of Transistor is packed with colour, with the world in ever changing shades of green, blue, red and purple. There’s nothing plain or bland to see here with Cloudbank full of ever colour and shade you can imagine – it is simply spectacular to behold. The voicework, whilst not working with the greatest writing, pulls off the story with real class, never falling into the traps of getting too cheesy when perhaps the dialogue could have taken them in that direction. The game is accompanied by some equally superb musical tracks which can be individually unlocked and played of your own accord thanks to a small challenge mode.
Transistor does what many thought impossible, it matched the quality of its predecessor Bastion, not thanks to its narrative but thanks to incredible gameplay and a beautiful world. I did find myself mashing through the dialogue so that I could move on with the action, but don’t let that detract from what is an excellent experience that all must play.