Friday, 8 August 2014

Game Review: Transistor

This is my first written review, as such this maybe a long and likely bumpy ride but bare with me.

I recently completed the game Transistor by Supergiant Games and I was as impressed with this outing as I was with Bastion and as with this being the developers second game there are moments where the similarities blurred a little but it never felt exactly the same as the combat, narrative and music was a more enjoyable package it had me going right until the end.

The combat from Bastion was competent for an isometric brawler it had impact when you hit enemies and they reminded you that it’s better to defend or dodge their attacks. Transistor’s combat is a little different as you only have one weapon, The Transistor which is a collection of data from individuals in the world they you are exploring that give you different combat abilities, augmentations or passive traits. You also have the option to pause the action and plan your attacks against a single or group of enemies which allows you to combo attacks and actions together. One example is that you can use the skill Jaunt() as an active skill to move yourself behind a target quicker than it would be walk there and then unleash a number of attacks that would back stab the target giving a damage bonus. Once you resume real time play the plan plays out in an amazing visual display of action.

The end result can feel really satisfying and the skill system is very adjustable. The only flaw in the system is that once you find a catch all way of dealing with most enemies you will stick with that set up until forced to do otherwise. When you lose all your hit points instead of a game over you lose access to one of you active skill until you have the chance to swap you skill rotation around which can make you realise the set up you were using was a little ineffective and you then swap everything out and rebuild which can be really fun. The fun it a little lowered when a “death” lockout you highest damaging skill and limits you to running from what were in most cases easy enemies to waiting for the pause ability to come of cool down.

It is also of note that enemies don’t stay static either and will add perks and skills over the play time which can make some skill options a little interesting. Once I had a skill active that made a explode-able orb and when struck in combination with another skill would unleash a devastating area effect “boom.” One of the newer enemies was able to shield other and decided that the orb was the best object to provide a shield to and such not allowing me to complete the combo I had in mind a situation I was not expecting at all. Other changes to enemies will make them move faster, do more damage, clock, attack a little differently or change in some other way which as completely surprising.

The narrative of Transistor feels a step up from Bastion in a why having the relationship be appear more personal between the narrator and the protagonist but leaving it open to if they had ever meet before this incident or maybe who the narrator was before had always been watching over Red not sure if he was able to make such a move as he did. The world itself give the impression that it may be more of unknowingly digital world where the motif of “See you in the country,” gives the impression of removing oneself from the simulation and back into the real world and although unanswered it left me wondering if how these people came to be in this world that we are only privy to such a small amount of information on.

The narration is as expressive as it was in Bation but give it more of a film Noir feel that fits the visual display of the world. The narrator always appears to have a word or two about everyone as when looking through your skills you will find that you can find out a little more about the people of the world you find yourself in as well as finding news bulletin and message terminals that give the world a greater deal of depth that you can either choice to be immersed in or just ignore for the most part. It’s a great read though.

The music of the game is as stellar as Bastion and with the addition of the protagonist being able to hum along to the background music between combat make the atmosphere presented keep the Noir feel that is consistent in the background environments. Once again the soundtrack does change to reflect the mood of what is happening on screen from in combat to changing locations from expressing urgency to remembrance adding up to something that could be listened to outside of the game quite naturally.

All in a very enjoyable title that didn't reach the point of feeling tedious or trivial and was an improvement on the formula Supergiant started with Bastion and with the addition of a “New Game +” feature it is very inviting to do it all again for the addition challenge.

You can get the game on Steam.