In Transistor you play as Red, a famous singer in a futuristic utopia called Cloudbank. During a concert there is an assassination attempt on your life by a secret society called the Camarata. Red manages to escape the attempt on her life due to her lover intervening. This unfortunately results in his death and Red losing her voice.
The game then begins with Red on the street, the corpse of her lover close by impaled by the Transistor. As you approach, the Transistor begins to talk, it is your lover, his consciousness has been absorbed into the sword. You are not given any clear information upfront in the game though, and after the quick static scene depicting the events of the night so far, you are dropped into Cloudbank to begin the adventure. During the game the Transistor feeds you information on what has been happening to the city and what your objectives are. But if like me you are after more information about the world, this can be found by accessing a number of consoles scattered throughout the beautiful Cloudbank.
Transistor is a fantastic looking game, I found myself exploring every nook and cranny hunting for more information about the world. The art direction paired with an amazing soundtrack really absorbed me into the world. Every track in the game fits perfectly, and Supergiant went one step further: At any point in the game you can hold L1 and have Red hum along to whatever track it currently playing. There is no need for this to be in the game but numerous times when finding an amazing view, I would have Red hum along with the track for a short while and simply take in the world.
When not exploring, the rest of your time will be mainly focused on fighting an enemy known as the “Process”. They are a robotic force that have been corrupted by Camerata. There are two forms of combat in the game: fighting in real time allows you to move around the the world and attacking the enemies, with no limit to the amount of actions you can perform. This way of fighting is a viable way to play the game but Red is vulnerable and, with multiple enemies attacking at once, I found myself struggling to win encounters this way. The other mode of combat is to use the “Turn” mechanic. Turn allows you to pause everything around you and lets you move around and queue up your attacks before unpausing the action and having all your attacks play out at once. The trade off here is that the Turn meter is limited and only allows you to perform so many actions before its depleted. Turn also requires a cool down before it can be used again, leaving you unable to attack again until it has recharged.
After each battle you are awarded an amount of XP and when you gain enough, you level up. Leveling in the game also gives you access to new abilities for the Transistor (known as ‘functions’ in the game). These functions can be applied to the Transistor in three different ways: Active, Upgrade or Passive. Applied to the Active slot, functions are abilities or attacks used directly in the world. The Upgrade slots branch off of the active slots and modify the ability of the function in the active slot, and the Passive slot functions give Red passive bonuses or automatically triggered abilities. Along with the functions, later in the game you are awarded Limiters. Limiters are an ingame way of making the game more challenging. There are ten Limiters in the game and all offer different abilities, from buffing the enemies to make the tougher to limiting certain actions of your own during battle. These are completely optional during the game, but using them gives you bonus XP and allows you to balance the game to how you want to play it.
Supergiant have made a great game in Transistor. The game’s combat feels well balanced and the Turn mechanic is a nice twist on most RPGs’ turn based combat. The story is not given to you on a plate – which may put some people off – but this along with how amazing the game looks and sounds only helped to pull me into the world. I wanted to know as much as possible about Cloudbank and what was happening in the world, so was willing to explore the city for all the information I could find. And I will do it all again, in the enticing New Game Plus.
Reviewed on PS4