By Etienne Dubuc
In 2011, Supergiant Games granted us Bastion, a game that was acclaimed by critics and public alike. Last May, the company launched its follow up with Transistor, an action role playing game that can immediately be linked to Supergiant games through its visual style.
Transistor puts you inside the skin of Red, a female singer who just lost her voice and survived an assassination attempt. The game starts with you picking up an USB key-like sword, which is the titular transistor. The adventure then takes you on a trip to save your city, Cloudbank, from The Process, a robotic army force.
You will fight The Process with gameplay reminiscent of Baldur’s Gate. At the push of a button you start the « turn » function that stops the game to allow you to plan your actions. This kind of gameplay is an ideal compromise between the 100% action game and the turn-based RPG. Both types of game having their hardcore fan base, situating their newest game in a middle ground allows Supergiant to reach gamers in both factions. Without being completely obligatory, the turn function has to be used if you want to reach the end of the game. I highly doubt the feasibility of a walkthrough without using it.
The RPG aspect is mostly present through the experience you gain with each battle and levels you attain. Each time you level up, you get to choose a new power and a new limiter. Powers basically are your attacks. Each power may be used as an active effect, an upgrade effect or a passive one. The active one is the actual attack move which you can pile up to a total of four. The upgrade effect modifies an active power by adding some features to the active power. Reducing your cool time, adding an area effect, and making the power less expensive to use are just some examples of modifiers that will be open to you with the upgrade effect. The passive slot will influence the overall characteristic of Red, healing you and so on. With 16 powers to mess with you’ll have a lot of customization possible and be able to fight with Red exactly as you like. Using a power in a different effect spot unlocks a background story about the actual person in Cloudbank who created the power.
The limiters are add-ons that raises the difficulty of the game by upgrading the robots you face. Each limiter gives you a certain bonus percentage of experience after each fight. Those limiters are completely optional, but will help you get your powers faster, so use them wisely. This idea is a pretty good one. Being able to manipulate the difficulty of the game, to a certain point, is a nice feature that really optimize the game for pretty much every one.
On a side note of the story, you get to practice your skills in challenge areas where you’ll be ask to test your aptitude in speed, planning, surviving and power. Sadly those challenge won’t push your limits. Most players will probably be able to pass them in one or two tries. Each time you complete a challenge, you get to unlock a new song that you can then play in the lobby of the challenge area.
Transistor is a game that offers a lot of customization on the battle side of things which, by itself, makes that game enjoyable to most players. The graphics and music, that are both beautiful, complete the experience in a really nice way. The player will be caught up in the city of Cloudbank and its defense. The story that slowly reveals itself to the player truly starts to make you think and look back on everything that happened at the very end of the game, which is something you rarely see.
You can watch the trailer for Transistor here:
Etienne Dubuc is the host of a French radioshow called « Les geeks ont raison » and program director for CISM 89,3FM in Montreal. You can follow him @geeksontraison