Supergiant Games come back for their second title after the impressive Bastion released on Xbox Live Arcade in July 2011, and Transistor is a similar title in some ways. Both games are action RPGs, Transistor retains a beautiful colourful art style, a narrator and it features an upgrade system although Transistor to me felt like it was a deeper RPG than Bastion in my experience of both and is set in a sci-fi background.
The story of Transistor is about Red, a singer (with red hair) who has lost her voice and an unnamed man who she finds dead by the hands of the Transistor sword but his consciousness and soul is trapped within the sword is able to talk to Red through the sword. Her voice is also trapped within the sword too so she is unable to talk back to him except for typing on some screens that are littered throughout the game.
Red’s quest is to free the consciousness of the man and her voice from the sword, there is obviously a relationship between the two and she wants restore him to his body so he can live again. In this Sci-Fi world set in Cloudbank, a robot force called The Process are commanded by the Camerata who want the sword that Red yields.
As you go through Cloudbank you face these minions of The Process, many different “machines” that you meet in a few different varieties of enemies and some take more attacks to kill than others but as you go through you gain XP quite rapidly to help you upgrade your sword.
The combat system in Transistor relies on planning via the Turn() function which is used to plan movements and attacks on enemies using your different abilities, it pauses the action as you plan and then you go back to the real world Red will carry out your attacks. It’s a nice system that works well and helps you work out how to effectively use your powerful attacks and do the most damage, you can also fight without planning as well, isn’t turn-based like it may sound.
I really liked how the combat felt, it was a nice system that felt satisfying to watch as Red carries out your attacks and really embodied Transistor as a game that was well designed and executed, the combat system with the choice of Turn() or just fighting normally felt really good and effective.
Your attacks are called functions and you can customise them to have the best range of attacks to suit you, your attacks have unique features about them, some rely on others for greatest damage like explosions, or others that hurt single or multiple enemies. There is a good range and variety to the attacks each of which have secondary functions, you use these features to customise of all 16 as attacks and various upgrades which can benefit you different depending on the combinations. I choose attacks that could hurt multiple enemies at a time and used my other functions to help increase power, stun opponents and cut the cooldown on each attack.
The world is dying and that atmosphere and style is so well conveyed, you can tell as you play through it that Supergiant are very talented and it feels very polished.
As go through the game the difficulty can be raised if you’re finding it too easy with “limiters” which are unlocked everytime you level up and are at the players discretion to use if they want to, with many turned on it becomes much more strategic and difficult if you’re looking for that challenge. I tried limiters for a bit and found I preferred it without them but it’s a nice optional ability for those that want it, they can change the behaviour of enemies, the player and other things for increased difficulty.
The visual style is beautiful, hand drawn and the colours can be striking with lots of detail on the environments, the effects all look nice too and its wonderful visual achievement.
I enjoyed the story a lot, I thought the narration was used as a good tool for it and it slowly reveals things although it is limited mainly to Red and the narrator, most of the other characters you meet aren’t very developed and skip by pretty quickly, a great world has been created it’s a bit of a shame we don’t get to see more of it but I never felt like the experience was missing anything.
The levels are well designed and balanced with nice variety in the environments from a visual perspective, as you go through there are multiple varieties of enemies which require different skills from the player to get past, if your health drains fully you don’t “die” rather you lose access to your functions (attacks) until all 4 of them are depleted and then you die, the ones you have lost are then locked for a certain amount of visits to upgrade portals dotted around the game, they are quite frequent and well balanced so you don’t lose your favourite attacks for long, this is another thing I liked about Transistor.
It’s a decent length to play through, there is a meaty and satisfying experience which is very well crafted as I’ve said, there is decent enemy variety, an intuitive and fun combat system which makes it a joy to play through, the RPG systems are deep with customisation provided to the player to let them play in their own style with the ability to further increase that challenge.
Games to me are all about enjoyment and having a satisfying experience, Transistor is definitely that, its very well crafted, has a distinct and beautiful art style, the gameplay and combat systems are polished, well designed and interesting. Transistor is something that I would very highly recommend, its a very satisfying and enjoyable game, I can’t wait to see what Supergiant release next.