"Transistor is a sci-fi themed action RPG that invites players to wield an extraordinary weapon of unknown origin as they fight through a stunning futuristic city."

Transistor is richly decorated, savory/sweet, ear, eye and soul candy. It even tastes good. Yeah, I licked my screen. It hurt a little, but it was delicious.

No, I didn’t really lick my screen. But I want to. I want to immerse into Transistor with as many senses as I have. For how barren the world is, Transistor absolutely drips with life. A world of death, where everything is alive. Lonely, but not alone. You don't really quite know what's going on at the start, but you get the feeling that you are caught up in the middle of something. Something big. You see a man lying on the street with an odd weapon stuck in his chest. The Transistor. It calls you Red, tells you to pull it from him. When it speaks to you, it seems to know you. You take to the streets to try to find answers. There are interactive kiosks scattered about, offering news updates, citizen polling, weather predictions... Sometimes Red will interact by posting a comment for the city to read, which can give keen insight into what she's going through, emotionally. A pseudo-multiplayer experience exists, somewhat similar to Dark Souls, where you see the ghosts of other players skittering through the streets. There are also in-games statistics that seem to represent global activity in certain polls or weapon use percentages, but I wasn’t able to verify whether this is actually tied to global statistics, or just made to represent such a thing. Either way, even an echo of life can be reassuring when you’re fighting alone. Story information is fed to you from the environment, from Functions you equip - offensive and defensive executable actions - and even from the enemies. They all join together, in a very synergetic way, to flesh out the mystery of this ghost town known as Cloudbank. This is one of the things I love most about Transistor, how it unravels it’s mysteries.

Style plays just as much a part in telling the story, too. Since there aren’t really many people around town, to speak of, the change in tone and color, in the design of the layout, can go to significant lengths to convey poignant emotion. Music and other sound cues are also masterfully designed. Logan Cunningham, known for his voice work in Bastion, developer Supergiant Games’ previous debut hit, returns as the voice of the Transistor, giving sometimes cryptic, but often specifically contextual, commentary on what transpires here. This voice reminds me of all the good things about Elizabeth in Bioshock Infinite. Very little to do with impacting your direct gameplay, but a constant presence with significant influence on how you participate with the game. The Voice is very much the soul of the experience.

Not your typical RPG, Supergiant has successfully combined party management, ability management, and ability modification, all within the same mechanic. That is to say, your abilities (Functions) are imbued by the spirits (called Traces) of the party member that hosts it, and when you combine said abilities, you not only kick a little more ass, but also learn more about your party members situation. It plays out in a more simplified fashion, but I found it clever, and it works really well. If you want the full story, you have to accept the challenge of trying out different Function combinations. You’ll unlock most Functions as you level up, but some will come in other, more story-driven ways. While I’m on the topic, if you fall to zero health in battle, rather than die, you’ll temporarily lose an assigned Function, and then your life bar is filled back to full, and then the process continues (pun intended). Now you finish the fight, but with less of a punch. Oh, and the Functions are lost by priority of most powerful. Makes for interesting challenges when assembling your arsenal. Go with one heavy hitter and a few light backups, and you’ll find yourself quite underpowered should you take a fall. All ability assignment and modification is managed at save points, which are, thankfully, abundant. Your lost Functions will eventually be recovered here as well. You’ll also unlock Limiters, which are fancy trinkets that allow you to modify the combat challenge.

I highly recommend Transistor to anyone looking for a soulful, strategic, action combat adventure. If you do pick it up, words of advice: Soak it all in. Pay attention to the voice(s). Play with headphones. Play with a controller (if you get it on Steam, like I did). Play in the evening, and if you’re lucky, when it’s raining. Sea Monster is really the only option. Read between the lines. Play with Luna. Stick around after the credits. Play it twice (the Recourse allows continued use of retained Functions, and leveling up, as well as subtle story changes). This isn’t Bastion, and it doesn’t try to be. This is a good thing. Don’t be sad. This is a good thing.

Travis   Admin wrote on 05/30/2014 at 02:00pm

I didn't realize this was out! I need to get this. After Bastion I have a lot of trust in SuperGiant Games.

AdamPFarnsworth wrote on 05/30/2014 at 03:02pm

This sounds really cool. I only read about half your post, as I want to get into the game knowing nothing about it. But I will definitely have to check this one out!

scrypt   Supporter   Post Author wrote on 05/30/2014 at 04:41pm

@Adym: I tried to be vague, or intentionally cryptic, with things that had to do with actual story, and anything that is specific happens literally within the first minute of the game. Figuring everything out, even the mechanics, is part of the fun, too, so I respect that :).

Travis   Admin wrote on 05/31/2014 at 01:37am

Also it's worth noting, this game will be coming to Mac and Linux later on, if you swing that way.

Travis   Admin wrote on 05/31/2014 at 05:01am

I'm a little over an hour in, and loving it. It's nice to have Logan Cunningham back as a kind of narrator, though in a very different way, and a very different character.

The game is absolutely beautiful, and the soundtrack just blows me away.

scrypt   Supporter   Post Author wrote on 05/31/2014 at 03:23pm

I was thinking of springing for the soundtrack, but for some reason it didn't sound as good to me outside of the game. I'm assuming I was just in a mood, or something, because it really is an amazing set of songs. You can listen completely, and repeatedly, to the whole thing for free on Spotify:

jdodson   Admin wrote on 06/03/2014 at 12:39am

Really interested in picking up something after Wolfenstein and this looks like a great candidate. Super Giant seems to always drop their games for Mac & Linux a bit later so I imagine they will port it at some point.

That said, this seems like a couch laptop game.

Does it work with a controller?

scrypt   Supporter   Post Author wrote on 06/03/2014 at 01:43am

My opinion, it works best with a controller.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 06/03/2014 at 01:51am

That's great. The game seems to be suited best for it too.

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/03/2014 at 02:23am

Jon, see my comment from a few days ago-- they have announced that it's coming out for Mac and Linux, it's just not ready yet.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 06/03/2014 at 02:24am

NICE! Maybe i'll wait till it comes native then.

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