Transistor is another action RPG from Supergiant Games; creators of the 2011 Xbox Live Arcade hit Bastion. It takes place in the world ruined by a group called the Camerata, who unleashed an army of machines – which quickly turned on them, and destroyed the city. Intrigued? Read on.
You control a diva named Red who has come into possession of the transistor - a talking weapon that has a range of attacks – some of which are explosive. Transistor’s story is told through a mix of news reports, and messages at terminals scattered throughout the city.
In terms of gameplay the battle system is partially real-time, with you and your enemies able to run freely. I say ‘partially’ because you can freeze time in order to plan out a chain of attacks. This can of course, be a big tactical advantage. Adversely if you waste the opportunity, you will have to wait for the bar to recharge before you can freeze time, or even attack again. The battles take place in cut-off sections of the map where you have a few enemies, and a dozen objects to manoeuvre around, or hide behind. There’s a healthy dose of boss fights too, mainly against the Camerata.
As you progress, you gain skills from fallen enemies, including members of the Camerata you’ve defeated, and from general progression and levelling up. Said skills can then be added to your sword as both attacks, and upgrades to those attacks at certain access points (which double as save points). Their effects vary depending on what you assign them to.
The skills you’ve attained can be practised in a place called the sandbox. Which is basically a beach with a large tree that has doors to various practise areas, ranging from speed (beat the clock challenges), to planning (taking out every opponent in a single move). Here you can listen to the Transistor soundtrack on a jukebox, which is a decent listen, and new songs can be unlocked by completing challenges.
Visually, Transistor’s hand-drawn art is reminiscent of Bastion. However, in stark contrast to Bastion’s steampunk style, Transistor has a futuristic look about it. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. Enemies don’t respawn, making it impossible to grind and level-up before going up against a difficult boss fight. With no way to upgrade your abilities or power levels, difficult boss fights become impossible boss fights. In addition, the transistor’s voice is hard on the ears at various points.
Overall Transistor certainly shows how far Supergiant Games have come from Bastion - which was a great effort. Unfortunately, it’s missing some essential elements in an RPG (such as the aforementioned grinding) making a few bosses harder than they should be. Yet, as bad as those flaws may sound, I had a great time playing it thanks to the battle system, and the sheer charm of the characters. Chances are if you loved Bastion, you will enjoy Transistor just as much.