“Transistor” review

It’s been a long time since Supergiant Games has graced us with a game. In that time “Bastion” has risen from cult status to indie gaming royalty among other titles like “Fez” and “Braid.” People waited patiently for the new title, “Transistor,” and that patience paid off.

What the public received was a game reminiscent of “Bastion’s” isometric adventuring style, but with more flavor. More life. More…jazz.

“Transistor” is hard to categorize as anything but an action-RPG, but the strategy elements almost make it a turn-based attack frenzy. Red, the protagonist of “Transistor,” lugs along her trusty sidekick through combat against various digital and physical enemies that are trying to halt her progress to find those who stole her voice, and something more precious, from her.

Obviously, the combat in a game from Supergiant Games is probably the first thing to talk about. I won’t lie, I’m not in love with the combat system of “Bastion” as I feel that isometric views are extremely difficult to use when a character has range and accuracy dependent weapons. Something gets lost in the translation.

There is a similar problem in “Transistor,” but the way the title makes up for it is with a tactic-planning system that is seamless and effective. The user can pause the battle and plan their next moves accordingly, attempting to use their new position to strike critical blows at the back of their target, or turn their foes to their own side for a moment.

With something like this, it’s obvious that some people would be concerned that this would break the combat horribly. Thankfully, the bearably long cooldown of the pause mechanic, coupled with the ability to dodge attacks in real-time allows for some good balancing.

Red can use a variety of attacks. Some can spread like a cluster bomb, others can ricochet like a bullet, and so on and so on. What I really think is the best part about “Transistor’s” gameplay is the fact that all the attacks and powers are interchangeably used as passives, buffs, and base attacks.

Take the ricochet attack, stack on the cluster attack as a buff and you have a missile that ricochets off in a dozen different pieces to kill multiple enemies. Use your “teleport” power to move through a group of enemies, but add a buff that makes each one of the enemies you pass through turn to your side for a brief moment. The combinations really lend to varying play styles and gameplay experiences for a plethora of different enemy types and configurations.

Like I said, isometric can be a little daunting when it comes to combat

What about balance though. The turn-system balances out with cooldown, but what about these adaptive powers? When Red loses all the power in her “life-bar,” for lack of a better term, one of the attacks in her tray of 4 is removed. This comes back after a certain amount of time, but it introduces a nice little bit of panic to a situation.

Players are now forced to learn to balance their tray between good attacks they have skill with and those they can use to end a fight. Sure you like the laser attack that goes across the battle field through multiple opponents, but you better hope you’re good with the up-front melee attack because you just lost the laser mid-fight and there’s a huge enemy with a ton of health.

Of course I have to talk about the art style and music, though. While the game is very solid in the mechanic department. “Transistor” is, in my opinion, way more beautiful and pleasing to the ear than “Bastion” ever was.

Sure, they have slightly different styles, and the music is also radically different. But I think Supergiant may have found their art style in this title. The look of the game is just so vibrant and alive that you get lost in it. This game is a true example of not needing to be realistic looking or even graphically intensive to be competitive with current gen console games. Couple that with some great music that really catches you and sweeps you up, there’s no way to lose.

Is “Transistor” for everyone? Probably not. I can imagine that this, like “Bastion” is not everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I’m going back to play “Bastion” to see if I like it more after being so taken with “Transistor.” But for those looking for a new IP, from a great indie company, “Transistor” is well worth the price tag. Try the original soundtrack too if you really dig it.

“Transistor” is available on PC through Steam, and PS4. Enjoy!

These little transitional sequences are just a feast for the eyes

A copy of this game was purchased for the purposes of this review.