Supergiant Games’ Bastion was a favorite of mine in 2012. I loved the art, music and integration of a narrator/commentator; It was a fantastic mix of style and substance. I was equally impressed by Bastion’s action and mechanics which invited comparisons to titles from the 16-bit era. After Bastion, I was ready to give whatever Supergiant Games’ next game a chance.
The developers said we were going to notice that Transistor was obviously made by the same people who made Bastion, however it was going to be a different style of game. It turns out Transistor was an action role playing game.
I approached the game like I did with Fallout 3; I could play it as an action game but I was better served freezing time and issuing commands through Transistor’s “V.A.T.S” equivalent, Turn(). Attacking enemies in realtime was an ill advised move because enemies were often faster than Red. I executed a series of actions and then had Red run around waiting for Turn() energy to recharge.
Who was Red? That was one of the many mysteries that I had to unravel throughout the course of the game. I knew Red was the protagonist and a talented singer who lost her voice. However, her relationship with the Transistor, the city of Cloudblank and the antagonists, the Camerata were all shrouded in mystery.
Unravelling the mystery involved unlocking abilities called Functions and upgrading them. The more Red used a Function, the more information unlocked. Much of how this computer themed world operated was gleaned from the various terminals strewn throughout the world. I loved the fact that future weather was determined by voting. I loved the fact that they could even manipulate the weather to their collective whims in the first place. It was a fantastic world and I wished there were more avenues to reveal more of it.
I liked the idea of marrying information with Functions because in theory, it would motivate players to try out different Function combinations in order to unlock more information about the world. Unfortunately, this goes against my way of playing games which is to find the most effective means of attack for my play style and exploit it. I guess I should count my blessings that they didn’t directly tie story elements to Limiters. I enjoy a good challenge but I didn’t want to pile on the handicaps to the point where the game became annoying.
Transistor was beautiful. The visual style resonated with me more than Bastion’s but I can’t say I found the soundtrack as memorable. I’ll likely pick up the soundtrack and give it a good listen because I enjoyed what I heard but it just didn’t leave an imprint like Bastion’s.
I felt the battle system was at its best in the challenge rooms where I was given a fixed set of Functions to accomplish certain tasks. In the main game, it was a more relaxed affair and didn’t ask much of me. I felt like I was going through the motions and brute forcing my way through the battles. I couldn’t imagine how easy the game would have been if I hadn’t installed a handful of Limiters.
Transistor wasn’t a case of style over substance; I was just hoping for more substance. Perhaps its a by product of the Function system that enabled too much variety and they had to keep the encounters more open ended. I wasn’t forced to re-evaluate my skills or employ tactics beyond dumping high damaging abilities, running away and then repeating. There were more challenge rooms and Limiters to unlock via a second session which I may embark on because there are many missing pieces to this world that I wish to fill out. Disagreements aside, it’s a one of the most unique games that I played in 2014 and oozes so much style that it warrants attention.
For more information on Transitor, visit the official website.