Transistor holds many similarities to Supergiant Games’ previous title, Bastion, but it deviates enough to make it a very distinct experience.

Supergiant Games has once again completely nailed the music and art portions of its game, though the story was lacking in terms of plot points, but did eventually come together. Additionally, the combat shines and falters at different points, but it is built on a highly strategic backend that is fun to play around with.

Much like Bastion, Transistor is an isometric action game with a silent protagonist and a narrator that conveys a good chunk of the story while you play. The world is in the process of being destroyed, and we must save it. The story centers around the famous singer Red, whose voice is stolen. With her is the Transistor: a sword that talks and serves as the narrator. Transistor wants you to have a connection with the sword, but I never did. He rarely says anything interesting story-wise, but the moment-to-moment interactions with him provide humor. Red and the Transistor interact with computer terminals, buildings they’re familiar with and scenery around the world, and he often has a funny, sarcastic comment to make.

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Not all of the storytelling issues can be centered on the titular blade; there just isn’t much of an interesting plot. It’s possibly because we’ve essentially heard it before through a better scope, or maybe Transistor hides too much story in paragraphs of text instead of dialogue or voice overs. Even still, Transistor manages to nail its ending. It’s emotionally powerful, which was especially impressive given that I didn’t care for any of the characters.

The artwork and musical score for Transistor is one of the best you’ll find, whether you’re looking at indie or triple-A. And this is important, because they essentially carry the game. There’s a particular moment toward Transistor’s beginning when a song and motion comic is used to tell some back story. In tandem, they conveyed a lot of emotion and made the sequence much more interesting than if it were told through spoken word. All the music brings a better sense of environment and feel to each situation. Dangerous encounters are given gravity by certain tracks, and emotional scenes are given weight with a sad song.

Logan Cunningham, the voice actor who played Rucks in Bastion, returns to the narrator role, and proves that he’s not just a cool voice. He shows some real acting chops, and takes on various roles in the game, each distinctly different. The voice acting in Transistor gave meaning to the words he read, even if the story wasn’t quite there.

The world of Transistor is brought to life with an art style that, while distinct, is still very much Supergiant Games. It’s easy to compare it to Bastion but Transistor goes so much further. It relies heavily on light by using reflections and beams to detail the world by drawing attention to certain things, or hiding them with shadows. It isn’t as water-color in appearance as Bastion and is actually a lot more minimum. It’s more muddled instead of a high-contrast, oversaturated look. Though, because it is more basic, emphasis is easier given to what needs to pop out, like Red.

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It may look like a basic action game at first glance, but Transistor tries something interesting with its combat. There is no basic attack. Instead the player gets four moves that are highly customizable. They range from shooting a powerful beam at a long distance, to firing many short range attacks quickly; to turning invisible for a short time. Moves that aren’t in use can buff abilities that are or give your character a passive skill: like gaining a shield to block damage for a short time. The system itself is very strong, and playing around with my moveset was a highlight of Transistor.

Additionally, there is a highly strategic turn-based element that requires more thought than if Transistor was a typical action game. Entering the the turn-based mode freezes time, and allows you to execute several moves without the enemy retaliating. Though, after your moves are finished, you’re helpless for a short time while you recharge. It adds depth with things like backstabbing and shield-breaking coming into play, but the time spent outside of the turn-mode feels lacking. Some of the moves take time to cast, and there’s not a good way to avoid taking heavy damage, besides things like turning invisible and hiding — which is boring. If there was a basic attack and dodge I think the combat would be more interesting. As it is, the enemies feel just slightly too powerful whenever time isn’t frozen, and most encounters devolved into me just running and hiding for half of the fight. Toward the end I was able to find the right combination of skills that I was able to spend more time attacking freely out of the turn-mode, and this made fighting much more enjoyable, but some of the aforementioned issues still persisted.

The end of Transistor managed to surprise me again, though. The final boss battle is between you and another enemy who can enter the same turn-mode as you. This was by far the most interesting fight, and justified how the combat works. If there was a few more instances of this, I think the middle portion of Transistor would have been far more interesting.

Transistor: Review

Transistor is a solid action game with lots of strategic elements, even if it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. The story never held my interest for very long, though it had one of my favorite endings for a game yet. The combat followed this same trajectory, but the last fight and the last moments of Transistor are what stick out the most. And even when things slowed down, the art and music were enough to carry me forward.

Pros

  • Amazing Art

  • Soundtrack and Voice Acting

  • The ending

Cons

  • Uninteresting plot

  • Combat feels off

7Overall Score
Reader Rating: (5 Votes)
9.1