A Sideways Glance at Transistor

A Sideways Glance at Transistor

Postby Arnold Sideways » Mon Jun 02, 2014 8:44 pm

Transistor was released onto the PS Store on the 21st of May. Created by Supergiant Games, the people who created Bastion (a much lauded release on the Xbox 360), it centres around a woman with no voice named Red and a massive sword called Transistor.

You play as Red in an isometric setting in the city of Cloudbank. Initially you are not told anything about Red's back-story, or indeed about how the city of Cloudbank works. This something that I love in sci-fi/fantasy settings. Instead of telling you who the city is run by and what the technology in the city does through blocks of long text in an introduction, the game instead shows you how everything works through using the technology and through occasional bits of monologue by Transistor as you walk through the world.

Voice acting is done marvellously. Initially I was concerned by the lack of speech on the part of Red, as I thought that the majority of the game would be silent and feel a little lifeless, but Transistor manages to keep up a near steady stream of high quality prose. The game's other characters are also voiced incredibly well, with the final boss in particular having some of my favourite voice acting in a long time. The music is fantastic, but for some reason it seems to be better in game than it is on the OST that I listened to on Youtube. You can unlock music to listen to by completing challenges, which are accessed by entering one of the many 'Backdoors' found throughout the game. These challenges are wuite fun, and most of them are pretty short. Some can take up to half an hour though, particularly the final wave based combat challenge.

Spoiler: show
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A view through one of the Backdoors


Combat is an interesting mix of real time and turn based actions. You fight your enemy, known as 'The Process', by using abilities which are known as 'Functions' (in a nice little nod to programming languages, the name of each function is followed by a pair of brackets). You can equip functions onto one of four open slots, onto one of four passive slots, and even as mods onto other functions, meaning that there is a lot of room for experimenting. Once you reach the higher levels you can even equip a function as a mod to itself. Falling in battle means that one of your active functions overloads, rendering it uselss until you've passed through a certain number of checkpoints, with death only occuring once all of your active functions have overloaded. This is good as it forces you to try out new combinations of Functions, and a good way of forcing you to change a combination which isn't working as effectively as some of the others that are available.

The main feature of the combat is the 'Turn()' ability. This allows you to stop time and plan out a limited sequence of actions. This can allow you to inflict heavy damage, and is easily the best way for dealing with groups of enemies as well as bosses, however you are more vulnerable and have limited combat abilities shortly afterwards. The wide variety of abilities and possible combinations helps to keep the combat fresh, and you can waste ages in the training mode (accessed along with challenges and a music player by entering one of the game's 'backdoors') trying to beat your highest score for damage dealt in a single turn. Getting over 2048 for the trophy is easy by the endgame, but getting up to 8000 or so will require a lot of planning and experimenting. I once detonated five bombs in five different locations to try and maximise my damage output in a turn, but this resulted in a minute of slow down followed by the game crashing, which was a bit unfortunate and was the only case I've had of crashing in the game.

Most of the enemies in the game will be beaten using Turn(), and on subsequent playthroughs, known as Recursions, you will find that bosses fall incredibly easily with Turn() and the correct function set-up. To make the game a little more challenging you can enable Limiters, which boost your experience gains from battles at the cost of making them harder. Finding the right function combination can make these fights a little easier, but having all ten limiters equipped makes for some really challenging fights. Enemies rank up throughout the game, gaining new abilities and new ways in which they can impede you, from getting stronger weapons to obscuring parts of your vision when you enter Turn(). Combat is generally quite balanced, although there are a couple of enemies that can wreck you if you're recovering from Turn(), and god help you if you get hit by a Haircut.

From starting Transistor until the final boss you should expect it to take you about five hours on your first playthrough, maybe a little more if you spend a lot of time completing the games challenges. It's pretty short, but fortunately this isn't a full retail release and costs £14.99. There is a new game plus mode, with an extra set of challenges being unlocked, which can help to flesh it out, but its length is a bit of a downside. Granted, I think the combat system might have become a bit drab if the story was any longer, and would have needed another mechanic to supplement it.

I would also have liked a few more puzzles in the game using the Turn() mechanic. Aside from the planning challenges (optional and really quite straightforward) and one switch pressing puzzle there's really nothing else. I would have enjoyed Transistor even more had it made a better use of Turn() outside of battles.

As it stands, Transistor is my favourite game on the PS4 so far. The combat system is fun, I love the atmosphere and the setting, and visually the game looks fantastic. I only wish it could be a little longer.

Score: 8/10

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Arnold Sideways
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Re: A Sideways Glance at Transistor

Postby Musashi1596 » Wed Jun 04, 2014 12:22 pm

Wait wait wait, this is isometric? How did I not know this before? I have to get this at some point now.

I, too, live in fear of being hit by a haircut.
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Re: A Sideways Glance at Transistor

Postby Lieutenant Fatman » Fri Jun 06, 2014 7:02 am

Nice review, I look forward to playing this, looks excellent.
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