Transistor Review

Written by Rick Lane

June 11, 2014 | 08:59

Tags: #bastion #transistor

Companies: #supergiant-games

Rick#1: There we are. Gosh, it looks lovely, doesn't it? Let's have another one.

Transistor Review

Rick#2: If you're into that sort of thing. It is rather like a painting you can walk around in. It's a shame that, also like a painting, there's nothing underneath that pretty canvas.

Rick#1: What are you talking about? There's oodles going on beneath the aesthetic.

Rick#2: Like what?

Rick#1: Like the story.

Rick#2: Ah yes, the story. Woman called Red establishes relationship with man in world slowly being destroyed by seemingly unstoppable force. There was a film like that, but with a ship and an iceberg. Spoiler, the ship sank.

Rick#1: You failed to mention that the man is actually a sword, the eponymous Transistor-

Rick#2: Nobody actually says "eponymous."

Rick#1: -which also acts as the game's narrator. Meanwhile, Red is a musician who has had her voice stolen, meaning she has to communicate largely through action, while the Transistor does the talking. All this set in a beautiful cyberpunk city themed around computer

Rick#2: None of that changes the fact that the plot is wafer thin and entirely predictable.

Transistor Review

Rick#1: You're looking at Transistor the wrong way. It isn't a game about what happens so much as who it is happening to. This is a game about characters, a relationship between two people severely damaged by a catastrophic event, and how they deal with the fallout. It takes the structure of a disaster movie and personalises it. Besides which, it isn't entirely predictable, there's a small twist about halfway through that I found pleasingly surprising, which is similarly driven by the game's highly creative approach toward characterisation.

Rick#2: If character is the game's main strength, why is it so deliberately obscure with it, concealing great lumps of it in places that aren't immediately obvious to the player?

Rick#1: Because it aims to strip back as much of the unnecessary lore and glossarial information, leaving a sharply edited central storyline, then letting the player choose how far he wants to dive into the history of the city of CloudBank and its population. I thought it was particularly good at using the terminals dotted around the map to dispense that information concisely as well. Didn't you?

Rick#2: I'll admit I liked it when Red uses the terminals to converse with the Transistor. I found them less entertaining when it threw a wall of text in my face or forced me to stand and listen to an audiolog. I suspect that the real reason behind this broadly scattered story is beyond that there's very little meat to Transistor.

Transistor Review

Rick#1: You're forgetting the combat.

Rick#2: No, I am including the combat in that statement.

Rick#1: Then obviously you weren't paying much attention, because Transistor's combat system is both unique and spectacular.

Rick#2: In terms of feedback it is a marked improvement over Bastion, I'll admit that much.

Rick#1: That being the case, you should also admit that it's tactically far more satisfying and strategically more complex as well. First off, alongside the hack 'n' slash tradition of clicking on enemies and unleashing various powers until they fall over, it's also possible to pause the game and plan your movements, chaining together a sequence of attacks that are executed much faster than normal. Yet afterwards you have to deal with a cool-down time in which you can't perform any attacks whatsoever. It makes Transistor's combat far more thoughtful and satisfying.

Transistor Review

Underpinning that is a broader upgrade system which essentially enables the player to create their own powers. Each time you level up you can select a new ability, which can be used as an active attacking power, slotted into another power to upgrade it, or as a passive ability that has a general effect such as reducing damage taken. This enables you to tailor a bespoke range of abilities that are effective for you.
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