You'd be forgiven for thinking that Transistor was just a follow-up game to Bastion. At its most basic level it is a narrated isometric RPG after all but Supergiant Games' latest adventure is far more than the sum of its parts.
To mention Supergiant Games debut title in this review does a great disservice to Transistor as it is a carefuly crafted game that builds on the studio's wonderful abilities at crafting worlds to tell a beautiful and unique story set in a futuristic world with a charm all of its own.
The game begins with your character, a famous singer named Red, is stripped of her voice and left holding a massive, seemingly sentient sword, called Transistor, over the dead body of some unknown. The instant urge is to flee and you guide Red to her escape on a motorcycle through the streets of a gloriously rendered futuristic art-deco city called Cloudbank.
And Cloudbank is indeed a beautiful city; one that Charles Rennie Mackintosh would be proud to live in. The visuals for Transistor take on a lavish hand-painted quality that when rendered in 1080p on the PS4 give your eyes the treat of a lifetime.
The city is deserted except for these robotic creatures known which are part of a mysterious creation known as The Process which was brought into being by a secretive elite faction in the city known as the Camerata. It's these creatures that you must use the Transistor to defeat.
While the city is deserted except for these encounters with the process. Red frequently encounters public terminals which she can interact with, either to comment on a news story or vote on a public issue that could be as trivial as what colour she wants the sunset to be. There are also Backdoors which provide access to a series of challenges which serve to hone your combat skills for the battles ahead.
The Transistor itself interacts with Red, talking to her with a lost and sometimes haunted voice that both spurs her on and hints at a deeper sorrow at the heart of the game's fraught and lonely narrative.
Transistor can be played as a straight action RPG but it has been designed as a kind of hybrid of turn-based and action combat. Supergiant has implemented a system similar to Fallout 3's VATS which allows you to pause the game and queue up a series of attacks to take down enemies. It also allows you to creat combo attacks which cause more damage allowing for a swifter victory.
Pressing R2 brings up the turn-based mode allowing you to select your attacks. Each one uses up a certain amount of your energy bar across the top of the screen. Hit R2 again once you've queued up your attacks and Red jumps into combat with renewed purpose before taking time to recharge her energy bar. At this point it is prudent to take cover either by running or using the Jaunt (dash) ability to hide from the attacking enemies.
Red gains different attacks and abilities in the form os software upgrades for the Transistor. These can be used directly as attacks or active abilities themselves mapped to your choice of the face buttons, as upgrades to equipped attacks or passive abilities.
Learning how to combine these abilities is crucial to defeating enemies, especially as you begin to encounter the tougher bosses. Being able to inflict heavier damage is vital to defeating the bosses that Red will confront.
Transistor is a beautiful game. It manages to drawn you into a hauntingly beautiful world and has enough depth between the nicely balanced gameplay mechanics and the haunting storyline keep you engaged till the end. It is a truly glorious experience and one that you shouldn't miss.
Transistor is available to download now on PS4 and PC.
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