Transistor – Review

After their success with the critically acclaimed title Bastion, Supergiant Games is back with a new game called Transistor. If you enjoyed Bastion you will love this game as well.

**Note** The video review was recorded in a single unedited run without any planning. We will typically plan video reviews at the very least with some light editing when necessary. Either way this written review should address any depth lacking in the video portion.

Extended Review

Bastion received near universal praise with its unique charm and design. While these unique design elements worked well, I always wondered if we would see them work just as well in a future game. With Transistor, Supergiant Games took those unique mechanics and evolved them into what seems to be an equally praiseworthy game. Between the story and sci-fi setting along with a combination of evolved and completely new gameplay mechanics, Transistor hit all the right marks.

The game takes place in June 2067 in some clean sci-fi themed world. Right from the start the game introduces Red and the Transistor who find themselves in an interesting situation. Without revealing any specifics Red picks up the Transistor which is a sword looking device and we learn that she has lost her voice. Now for those of you who didn’t play Bastion, one of the unique features was how the game was narrating and retelling a story as you played. Since Red has lost her voice, that narration concept was evolved by using the Transistor as a quasi-narrator. Since the Transistor is involved in the action with Red and they require each other to survive we got to hear this personal relationship form with some neat tricks to help make it a two way conversation at times. Having this extra layer of depth over Bastion has really sold me this narration concept Supergiant started with as it works even better in Transistor.

I avoided discussing some story specifics earlier one and at this point you would probably expect some plot related discussions. Well the issue with discussing any story specifics is that a couple sentences could easily summarize the entire story which could ruin it for many. Thankfully despite being a rather simple and short plot there is some depth and quality to be found. The main objective has you chase down ‘The process’ which could be compared to a computer virus as it is changing everything in its path. While that is going on there is also a personal relationship forming between Red and Transistor as they fight their way through the game which was really neat. It is more wishful thinking on my part but I really do feel like an extra hour spent on developing that relationship side of the story would have done wonders. Regardless the story was well paced and timed which turned out really good in the end.

With the new take on narration covering story elements, the combat has been overhauled with a new ‘turn()’ system that which sees significant use during encounters. This turn() mode pauses the game and enters a planning mode where a combination of movement and abilities can be queued. Once the queue is full, it can be instantly executed and the game drops back into real-time combat. Of course the turn() bar refills in a matter of seconds giving you another session to plan out the next moves. It’s a pretty neat system and it works pretty well with a whatever input method you choose, heck it would even work with touchscreens given some minor UI tweaks.

To help bolster this new combat system, Transistor has over a dozen abilities to unlock which span a wide variety of effects. These abilities are further diversified by having three different effects depending where they are assigned. There are only four main slots for active abilities however each of those have two boost/modifier slots and there are also for passive slots available. While you can’t necessarily fill each slot right away you still can build a ton of different combinations which lead to some neat effects. I suppose there is a bit of a weakness here as I rather quickly found a somewhat overpowered formula and rarely moved away from it. But if you are at all interested in story elements you will need to experiment with the abilities as using them in each slot unlocks some backstory on each character.

Like every other element of the game until now, the sights and sounds in Transistor are pretty spot on as expected. The soundtrack is deeply attached to the game and story but despite that it is quite enjoyable when listened alone too. The visuals have this hand painted feel yet are still very clean and sharp like we had in Bastion. What is most impressive is the game conveys atmosphere while remaining bright and colourful, this is only possible when the art and soundtrack are so tightly integrated together. It’s definitely a nice change considering most games still try to push the dark and gritty style these days with boring colour palettes.

In the end Transistor is an absolutely phenomenal and practically flawless game. My biggest issue is that the game could have spent a bit more time developing the characters but this is more wishful thinking than an actual flaw. Either way the story and setting was still great coupled with fun gameplay and brilliant design overall. If you have any interest in Transistor I highly recommend picking it up as the game is definitely a worthwhile playthrough.

 Score 9 Large – The Verdict

Plus – The Good

  • Nice story with great storytelling mechanic.
  • A wide variety of abilities which are versatile too.
  • Fantastic art style and soundtrack really ties it together.

Minus – The Bad

  • It’s honestly a practically flawless game.
  • Could have been slightly longer to build characters more.
  • Some ability combinations are a bit too powerful.

Full disclosure

  • Play time: 6h – Steam.

  • Completion: Completed the first playthrough.

  • Version: v1.26010 – Latest.

  • Platform: PC – Also a bit of PS4.

  • Acquisition: Steam – 7.45$ CAD.