Monday, June 2, 2014

cmd review.08

As soon as it was announced last year, I was really looking forward to Transistor. I really enjoyed Bastion, so another game by Supergiant Games was one that instantly came onto my radar, even when I didn't know all that much about it.

Transistor, while a fantastic game, was one I was initially very unsure about in some ways. This was mainly due to the game's combat.

Transistor stars the voiceless Red, a musician who had her voice stolen by a group known as the Camerata, finds a speaking sword called the Transistor, which she then uses to fight a mysterious enemy that are simply known as Processes. From the get-go, the game is pretty fast paced, presenting you an outline for your story, who your enemies are, your setting, just about everything. It’s easy to note right from the beginning that the game is absolutely gorgeous. Transistor is heavily stylized, much like Bastion, but the art is beautiful, between how the settings look, the character designs, and the boss and enemy designs. The aesthetic of Transistor is easily one of its strongest points, and going through each area, seeing each character portrait, and seeing the enemies was all fantastic.

I will say that Red is easily one of my favorite designed protagonists in a game just about ever. She has a unique look to her, again, thanks to the stylization of Transistor, and isn't overly sexualized by any means. Although she doesn't speak much, it's easy to tell what her personality is like and who she is as a character, which to me, only serves to make her that much better of a character. She's a strong character who, as you progress through the game and learn more about her, simply becomes all the more interesting and developed.

Going alongside the visuals is the music, which I would dare say is probably one of the best parts about the game. Between guitar, piano, more electronic sounds, the soundtrack is definitely varied, and each song is very strong. In particular, the song for the credits was probably my favorite throughout the whole game, but, just like Bastion, the rest of the soundtrack hits it out of the park. One of the other great upsides to Transistor’s soundtracks is the inclusion of a hum button. By holding down the ‘Hum’ button (Tab for mouse and keyboard controls), Red will hum along with the music currently playing. At first it just seems like a neat little for fun type of thing, but it works very well, and the humming that Red does with each song sounds fantastic. It really makes me want a ‘Hum’ button in every game- that's how nice it is. It’s a bit of a small touch, but it’s so inventive and original that I would just love to see something like that show up again in some other game.

Of course, this isn't to discount the core part of Transistor: the gameplay and the combat. The game is in an isometric view, with you exploring the world and areas you’re in and occasionally ending up in battles against groups of enemies. Movement is rather simple and fluid, with a WASD setup or clicking with the left mouse button. There are many different terminals and objects throughout the world that you can interact with, and alongside what the Transistor says about them you get to learn a lot more about the world and the city Red is from. Those little touches are absolutely fantastic that help you learn more and more about the dire situations as the story goes on.

The combat of Transistor itself is pretty interesting. From a first glance, it seems very similar to Bastion, but it quickly becomes so much more. Instead of multiple weapons that you can equip, in Transistor you only have one weapon, the eponymous Transistor. Variety in combat instead comes from different equippable abilities, such as projectiles attacks, area of effect attacks, and mobility types of abilities to aid you in fighting enemies.  

The biggest departure from something like Bastion is the Turn() function. Turn() effectively helps make Transistor more of a strategy action game than just an action game. Turn() slows down the game to a halt, allowing you to plan out all of your actions up to a set point: How/where you move, what attacks you make, what enemies you attack, etc., and then allows you to play it out in fast motion. I learned the hard way that this quickly becomes a requirement, as trying to play without Turn() against multiple enemies becomes an uphill battle, especially later on in the game. The trade-off to using Turn() though is that you lose your ability to attack until the meter you use with Turn() refills completely. It leads to make combat surprisingly hectic and varied, as there are always so many options you have. Alongside that, you have the ability to put functions (the abilities you use for combats) as upgrades for equipped abilities to give them extra traits, or as passive functions, which give you, as expected, passive bonuses that can help out in combat. All of these help give a ton of options for combat, to help you cater to what type of playstyle you want and to keep combat and encounters always feeling unique.

I don’t want to give away too much away about the story of Transistor, because, while it isn’t the most plot-heavy game, I still find the story something best experienced personally. It is something that can be a bit sporadic at times, but the dialogue, the characterizations of Red and the Transistor, and what happens to the city the game takes place in are all fantastic. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get emotional from the final cutscene of the game.

In all, Transistor is an absolutely fantastic game—and easily in contention for my favorite of the year so far. Every part of it is so highly polished, and while a bit short (which is, luckily, alleviated by a rather grueling New Game Plus mode), the game is a marvelous experience from beginning to end.



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