Wednesday, 19 August 2015


Post-Launch Reviews
Transistor (PC)
Developer: Supergiant Games
Released: May 2014
Played: story complete in 8h; 100% complete in 13h:12min


A man dear to popular singer Red lies dead with a sword called the Transistor in his body, but his consciousness has been taken into the Transistor. Pursued by the mysterious Camerata who stole her voice and robotic entities called the Process, Red races through Cloudbank to discover why she was targeted and why the Process are re-shaping the city.

At Launch

Transistor earned average review scores of 83%. Reviewers were very impressed with the story, art, and music, as well as the gameplay and upgrade system. Some critics felt that the story was too opaque or that it tried to be deeper than it is, and that the new game + mode fell short by not offering any new gameplay or enemies.

Post Launch 

Several small updates were released to fix bugs and localization.
An iOS version was released for phones and tablet.

The narrator in Bastion was smooth... and he's back voicing the Transistor. He sounds different enough, with the new character and the processing, that I didn't even notice it was the same person until I looked it up afterwards. But he's still great. I could listen to that sword for hours. Which is kind of a weird sentence, now that I think about it.

Transistor, like Bastion, throws you right into the middle of a complex story in a rich world. You immediately get the sense that there's a rather specific and very interesting story happening around you, but that you don't immediately know what it is. There's none of that "as you know, Bob" stuff - the characters know what's happening and the player fills in the blanks as memories are pulled to the forefront.

The visuals and art are fantastic. The sci-fi city is full of colour and lights, but rather than the harsh neon of cyberpunk, everything has a soft glow to it that makes the world beautiful - which creates a great contrast whenever the aggressive robotic Process show up. The occasional painted splash screens are gorgeous and provide a change of pace from the isometric view.

Combat is an action-RPG system with up to four attacks, but you can also use Turn() mode where you pause the game, plan your actions, and execute instantaneously - but then you have to wait for a cooldown before you can attack again, leaving you vulnerable. I found it very difficult to play at normal speed all the time and heavily relied on the turn system to survive. It works out to a clever blend of action and planning.

The equip and upgrade system is actually one of the best I've ever seen. Red gets a variety of abilities (functions) that you can put into active slots (push button to use function), upgrade slots (enhance an active function), or passive slots (give you an always-active bonus). Many games let you pick abilities to create your own play style, but Transistor goes further and lets you dramatically alter the abilities themselves. And you can completely remake your build each time you find a checkpoint, so you're never locked into anything and you're free to experiment as much as you want.

Even better, Transistor rewards experimentation with lore. Each function is derived from the data trace of a person, and by using functions in each possible role, you decrypt the function and learn more about the person it came from. In other words, you learn more about the characters and the world by experimenting with different combinations of functions, which is really cool.

And if you're not done experimenting and unlocking when the game ends, there's a new game + mode. It's necessary if you want to earn all the achievements and finish the challenges, though you also start unlocking duplicate powers that you can slot into themselves for even more combos. Speaking of the ending, though, it's a gut punch of feels. I could have guessed it but I was thrown off by some clever misdirection. 

I loved Transistor. The music (especially Red's) and the city are beautiful, and the game has a fantastic combat system. The story is a mystery wrapped in an enigma dusted with feels. New game + and the new options were enough to get me to push for 100% completion, which I rarely do anymore. Really, everything about Transistor is great and I highly recommend it. You'll see this in my 2015 top 10 for sure.

Recommendation: play it. 

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