Disclaimer: This review is based on a press copy provided by Supergiant Games.
Supergiant Games, the innovative studio behind the indie mega hit Bastion, has finally released their next narrative driven game, Transistor. The cast returns to deliver another epic experience. So does Transistor live up to the hype it received from Bastion fans? Is it another indie gem, or does it fall into the pits of the forgotten?
This review contains images and names that may be considered SPOILERS to some viewers, however I am keeping them to a minimum so I don’t ruin the game for you.
Transistor is, without a doubt, a gorgeous game to behold.
From the beautiful landscapes, to the fascinating character designs, Transistor is one of the best looking games to date. Not just for an indie game either; the art holds its own in terms of visuals among several AAA titles. If you liked Bastion, you will feel right at home with Transistor because the art style is familiar, yet endearing and more complex.
The great artwork isn’t the only thing that sets this game above the rest. The music is some of the best I have heard in any video game. From dark, ominous tunes to happier tropical sounds, the tone that the music sets is phenomenal. Remember that feeling you got when you first entered the Temple of Time in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time? It’s that feeling all over again.
Transistor brings a lot more perspective to its world than I could ever imagine before playing it. When a monster is supposed to look huge, it looks huge. When a tower is supposed to look tall, it looks tall. It is interesting to see how they pull this off given the camera angles. Even though you are viewing the game from a third-person à la Bastion, the sense of scale is never lost. The interactive cut scene art between chapters are some of the best looking pieces, almost like a moving graphic novel.
There is a large amount of variety in the characters you meet face-to-face, whether they are friendlies or vicious enemies bent on stopping you.
Each character has its own personality and story behind it. When going up against enemies, collectively known as The Process, each one has a different attack style and abilities that alter the battles in interesting ways.
Some enemies are tanks, laying waste to whatever is in their path, most likely you. Others are healers, acting as health recharging stations for the enemy. One particularly annoying foe is a machine whose primary attack is to snap photos of you.
At first it doesn’t sound like much, but considering that the photo it takes immediately appears on-screen and covers over half of it, you can see how that ability could disorient you during a frantic battle… which it does.
Boss battles are also very intense as you have to use every ability at your disposal in order to defeat them.
From machine gun lasers and mortar bombs, to spawning enemies and sharp body parts, each boss is different from the last. And by different, I mean literally different. At one point, I was fighting a boss which was charging at me with an umbrella. The next boss had me running away from a gigantic scorpion-like stinger.
Speaking of combat–it’s a complex system. Since everything about this game is somehow connected to the story, here is some general info that shouldn’t spoil it.
You collect certain moves by finding or doing certain things. Each move is special in its own right and provides a different method of attack. When attacking, you have three options.
- You can go full-on real-time attacking so that you are constantly on the move.
- You can pause time and plan out your moves which uses reserve energy.
- You can also use a combination of both methods to catch your enemies off-guard.
I find that third option to be the best one since it allows me to plan some moves, get to cover, and then launch a heavy-hitting, backstabbing attack which The Process have trouble dodging.
Whichever method you decide to employ, be careful, because one slip-up can cost you. Whenever you take hits, your life bar goes down and you don’t re-gen health until the end of a battle. Instead, if you lose all of your health, one of two things can happen. First, if you were on the move while being hit, you can trigger an emergency move. This essentially lets you get some final hits in and possibly recover. However, this move is not guaranteed.
What is more likely to happen is the second thing. The screen will pause all action and you will lose an ability. Once you lose the ability, you will be back to full health but without that ability.
The only way to regain abilities is to visit the save stations known as access points. The thing is, you can only visit these access points once a battle is over. So, since you have four ability slots, this means that you have four lives. Once you lose all your abilities, it’s game over.
Another thing that modifies combat is the use of limiters. Limiters are “upgrades” that make the enemies stronger and more lethal. If you choose to play with limiters, you are in for a harder fight. However, you get a nice boost in XP and can level up faster. Since leveling up in this game has its own story as well, you want to level up as fast as possible to unlock more of that story.
I don’t want to reveal very much about abilities, limiters, combat, or anything else, really. Everything is so integrated into the story, I’m afraid to say very much for fear of ruining the experience. I will just say this: Everything, and I mean everything, is tied to the story in some way. Make sure you are exploring as you play because you will always find something.
With all that said, what are some of the negatives?
No game is perfect and Transistor is no exception. For starters, if you have the PC version of the game, make sure you use a gamepad when playing. Even though you can customize the controls with the mouse and keyboard, executing moves and interacting with the environment can become a little cumbersome. Personally, I used an Xbox 360 controller and I felt better control when using it, rather than the PlayStation 4 controller.
Another thing that got annoying was the camera angle. Granted, this is the best camera angle for this type of game; however, sometimes during the levels I lost track of where I was due to not being able to rotate the camera for a better view. This never hindered me in any combat situation, but did become a nuisance when I was trying to find the right path to travel next.
Yep, that’s it!
Transistor is just one of those games that you have to play. I couldn’t cover everything because that would ruin the experience; and believe me, you want that experience. While no game can truly live up to insane amounts of hype, this game comes pretty close. Every aspect blends almost perfectly into the style and story.
While no game is perfect, it comes close enough that I give Transistor a 10 out of 10.
What do you think of Transistor? Leave your comments below!
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