Transistor was recently announced by Supergiant Games and a playable demo has been available at PAX East this weekend. The newest effort by Supergiant Games, the studio behind the lovely Bastion, Transistor is a science fiction RPG that takes place in a futuristic city. A group of assassins have attacked this woman, named Red, with a mysterious sword-like weapon, known as the Transistor. Utilizing this strange weapon, this woman must defend herself against forces who will stop at nothing to recover the weapon. I got to play the demo at PAX East this weekend, and boy am I psyched for more!
The sophomore effort by Supergiant Games doesn’t play like Bastion. Players go from city block to city block, trying to uncover the mysteries of the Transistor’s past, all the while fighting off the forces that would very much like to have it back. Transistor is a mix of an action-RPG and a turn-based strategy, so combat is action oriented with a strategic element. The weapon gives you several different abilities that you can use to defend yourself, and you unlock more as you find memories. You start with the basic melee-range slash and a straight-line blast. Eventually I was able to unlock a dash that goes through the pillars on the battlefield and a harder-hitting shot that drops splash-bombs.
Another ability the weapon provides is the ability to basically stop time. This is where the strategy element comes in, as it allows you to plan out how you’re going to move and attack. For example, you could pause time behind a pillar, run out, queue two attacks and run back behind the pillar. The amount of actions you are able to perform are limited, and you can’t use any abilities until the weapon recharges, so you’ll have to strategize and use cover to succeed. This does not mean you are limited to playing in a turn-based fashion, you can go full-on action if that’s what you prefer.
I really appreciated how there wasn’t a tutorial; you just learned by playing. I had no knowledge of the game before I played the demo, but the first puzzle I encountered just came naturally to me, as the combat did. The puzzle involved opening a door that had two locks on it. By stopping time, I was able to queue up a hit for one lock, and then run over to the other lock and queue up a hit. When I executed the plan, I hit the first lock and zoomed to the second one in an instant and the door was opened. This was a clever use of the game’s mechanics, but it didn’t require any hand-holding.
Visually the game is gorgeous. It’s fairly reminiscent of Bastion‘s art style, but it has it’s own flair. The animations are fluid and it’s just a treat to look at. One of the most talked about parts of Bastion was the narrator. I was happy to see that a narrator has returned, but this time it’s in the form of the Transistor. Like Bastion, the protagonist is voiceless. It seems that before the events of the game, Red was a singer or performer of sorts. It is explained that “they”, the pursuing forces, took Red’s voice away from her. The weapon has seemingly taken the thoughts and memories of a someone who was close to Red, and it actually talks to her and helps her organize her thoughts and sort of guides her through the adventure.
I really enjoyed my brief time with Transistor, and I’m really looking forward to more updates in the coming months. The game is expected to be released in 2014… probably. That’s what they are shooting for anyway. The release platforms have not been determined either, but it would surprise me if there wasn’t a PC release at least.