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Transistor Review - Mysterious Beauty

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Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Supergiant Games
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 20.05.2014
Official Site: http://supergiantgames.com/

 

Indie studio Supergiant Games made quite a first impression with the acclaimed Bastion back in 2011. They are back with another action RPG, and moments after you start playing Transistor you can see, hear and feel that the same studio made it. The trek through the retro-futuristic city of Cloudbank takes us on a journey that is visually stunning and backed by an incredible soundtrack and well thought-out game play.

The game starts with the heroine Red pulling a large sword, the titular Transistor, out of her murdered friend. Somehow his soul and consciousness has been transferred to the weapon, and together they set out to solve the mystery of what happened to them. Mysterious robots known as the Process have overrun their city of Cloudbank, and Red must use the power of Transistor to seek out the truth about what’s going on. What ensues is an excursion to connect the dots to find out how the demise of the city, the process, and the illuminati-esque group the “Camerata” are intertwined.

While Transistor is a story-driven game, the story is buried deep within the various computer terminals, audio logs, and subtle musings of the Transistor. This means that players who really want to get the most out of the story and characters will need to do some digging. For those who aren’t into this kind of storytelling don’t need to worry though; Transistor can be thoroughly enjoyed by its other standout qualities.

The game play consists of exploring Cloudbank and battling the various Process droids. The combat blends real-time fighting with turn-based qualities. Red has an action bar that, when full, allows you to enter the “Turn()” mode. During Turn() the action is paused and you can move around and plan attacks which Red will carry out with super-speed once you’ve depleted the action bar. This system is feels very natural once you learn to plan ahead, and allows the player to create a play style that suits them.

The abilities of the Transistor, called functions, add further depth to the game’s excellent combat. As you level up Red she will gain access to more and more functions. Each function can be placed in an active, passive, or upgrade slot in your load-out screen. While in an active slot the function is mapped to one of the four face buttons, allowing you to perform it in real-time or during Turn(). By placing other functions in the upgrade slot of an active function you can modify how it works. In the passive slot functions will add stat bonuses for Red, or allow for more moves during Turn(). This system encourages experimentation with different functions in different slots, and really allows you to customize Red’s abilities to your personal liking. The game actively urges you to try functions in various slots by rewarding you with backstory and information for the various characters in the game.

Transistor is quite excellent on most fronts, and any faults are mostly nitpicks. It’s not a long game, and doesn’t give much incentive to go for a second play through if you uncovered the full story on your first go. Some may find the cryptic nature off-putting as the game really throws you headfirst into the deep end without much explanation of story and game play mechanics, but at the same time part of Transistor’s charm is how it encourages you to find out these things for yourself.

Transistor is definitively a game worth checking out, even if you are not a fan of the genre or aren’t swayed by reviews. For once you let the game suck you in; odds are that you’ll fall in love with this beautiful adventure if only you give it a shot.   

 

What's Good? Striking visuals and art diretion, great soundtrack, deep and fun combat & interesting game world

What's Bad? A bit on the short side & the story is a little too well buried for casual players

 

Ingólfur Ólafsson

Managing Editor.

 

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