It’s not that often that we’re treated with a game that
is both visually and audibly appealing, but even rarer is when the gameplay
works so well. Bring in Supergiant and their new game Transistor and you’ll be
rather pleased with what you get.
Like its predecessor Bastion and you know immediately you’re
getting a high polished game, but sadly, you’re also getting a relatively short
Transistor never fails to satisfy the player via its
visually appealing art style calling back to artwork similar to that of painter
Gustav Klimt, even when the environment takes a dramatic visual change as the
game goes on; be it gameplay or cutscene.
Yes like I stated earlier the audio is a treat with a
nice range of R&B jazz music to just some simple beach music, and while the
tracks that will stick with you the most are those that actually have someone
singing, you’ll never think any pieces are particularly bad.
The only actual downside, if any, to Transistor is its
gameplay. Like Bastion before it, the gameplay in Transistor is nothing to write
home about, let alone give the time of day. Yes, it has depth and it works well
in one of the most engaging ways possible, but it just never quite feels up to
par with its visual and audible counterparts. Even with all that said it’s only
a minor complaint.
However what Transistor’s gameplay gets right is the aforementioned
depth it has. Transistor is both part RPG and a dungeon crawler, similar to
Diablo 3. Players fight hordes of enemies, get experience when it’s all over,
and get upgrades when they reach a new level. Transistor’s levels are handled
through stats like HP, but special abilities given to the player that the
player combines and arrange in unique ways to keep themselves alive and
Abilities can be used as actual skills, status effects,
or just upgrades for other skills. It’s not all perfect as you are limited for
a majority of what you can do, but there is so much do experiment with that you’ll
end up with hundreds of different combinations that create new and unique
skills, be it a gun that can change your enemy’s affiliation, getting back some
health, or changing an attack entirely from an energy beam to a lunging attack,
there’s a lot to see and experiment with.
Enemies will continuously leave behind cells in their
death and if these cells aren’t picked up in time the player will be greeted
with either the former enemy now alive once more or an entirely weaker and new
As the game continues players are introduced to new
enemies, but their number seemingly never exceeds more than 10, leaving a lot
to be wanted. The game does try its best to compensate for this by introducing
higher leveled enemy variants that often come with new abilities and higher
stats. It seems like a bit of a cop-out. This sadly makes the game fall into a
common gray area where the player will take on a “preferred method” in gameplay
where the best way of handling enemies will be virtually your only way of
What makes this approach to gameplay bad is that the designers
seemed to realize these questionable decisions and actually included a method
of fighting this. If the player’s HP reaches Zero their health will refill, but
players will lose their most costly skill and this continues till the player
loses their last skill. It does make combat a tad more heated in dire
situations such as certain boss battles, but the game only includes a small
amount of these situations.
Although not entirely difficult, instead fluctuating
based on your play style, those who aren’t quite feeling like they’re getting a
good enough of a challenge they can use special nodes to increase the
difficulty of the game. By using the skills the player can make enemies respawn
in a short amount of time, deal twice as much damage, and they might even
divide themselves upon death for more enemies to try and defeat. While it does
offer a big downside for the player, it does increase the amount of experience
the player receives at the end of combat.
Combat can be played in two different ways, actively and
a more traditional RPG sense of combat that calls to mind Final Fantasy XIII’s
combat. While players can attack freely in the active time battle, only having
to stop using some skills that require cool-downs, and it helps keep combat
flowing. While this is the preferred method for tackling some enemies, it won’t
be long before players quickly find themselves low on health in certain
The unique twist on its combat is the ability to
seemingly stop time and layout a set of a select amount of skills. Abilities all
take up different amounts of space on the time-bar and it can be manipulated to
fit more skills in certain patterns that it would in other ways. It’s an
interesting take on the combat and easy to rely on to finish most battles, but
it does require the player to stop and avoid enemies while going through a cool-down.
The actual narrative of Transistor follows the story of
Red, a singer in beautiful futurist city known as Cloudbank. Red ends up being
attacked by the game’s enemies known as the Process. Red eventually comes to find the title weapon of the game
known as the Transistor, buried in the chest of her former, unnamed, lover who
is now trapped inside the Transistor, but still capable of communication
An organization known as the Camerata are responsible for
the Process attacking Red and continue attacking her in attempts to gain the
Transistor. Together, Red and the Transistor leave to confront the Camerata and
so begins the beginning of the game’s main story.
While the Transistor helps keep things moving in the
story with his dialogue that acts as both dialogue with Red and a narrative,
the story can be further expanded upon via PC logs, resting on the hammock in
the many Backrooms the player finds, and a few certain cutscenes found by
visitng special areas, and while some of these can be avoided entirely they
give a better look into the life of the protagonist Red and how her life was
led before the events of the game began and worth searching for if you’re
looking for a more immersed experience.
However Red isn’t the only character worthy of interest
and the same applies to her deceased lover. Players will often find other
characters that do play major roles in both side-stories and the overall plot,
but like the PC logs, they can be easily missed, but they play a minor role in
By combining abilities with one another and trying them
out as all of passive, combat, and status skills players will be able to unlock
more detailed history on the people of the world in Transistor to help tie the
story together in a more coherent way.
While the core part of the game is roughly 3 and a half
hours long, a bit on the disappointing side, chances are you’ll walk away
pleased with the experience. However if you’re still looking for more from the
game the player can tackle special challenges meant to test the player’s
ability to quickly exterminate enemies, survive large onslaughts, and other
skills in general. Players are in turn awarded more experience and special
unlockable music tracks that are well worth trying to obtain.
Transistor also brings in the familiar New Game+ mode.
Players can continue a new entry with all their previous abilities, current
level, and setup, but enemies will scale in comparison. It’s well worth trying
if you still want a harder experience.
I ended up playing through roughly 4 whole hours of
Transistor and while I was a tad disappointed by the game’s incredibly short
length, I must admit that I was satisfied with the overall experience and found
the core story to be worth playing through at least once.
In the end Transistor is a visually compelling and audible
masterpiece that suffers from a short duration and a few questionable decisions
in its combat that will likely leave you wanting at least an additional hour or
two of content.
Charming visuals. Gorgeous soundtrack. Deep Combat.
Questionable design choices. Short length.