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publisher: Supergiant Games
developer: Supergiant Games
|ESRB rating: T
release date: May 20, 14
|» All About Transistor on ActionTrip|
Supergiant Games wowed many of us with Bastion, an artistically gorgeous game with unusual story-telling elements, unique gameplay, and a plot that rolled around in your thoughts for days after playing. Now they bring Transistor, a game that replicates many of the same elements of Bastion while still retaining its own vibe. Like Bastion, Transistor has that same stunning art style, another tantalizing score from Darren Korb, and an unpredictable story. However, the game’s brevity kills so many of the great things it has going for it. It’s linear with no real side quests or collectibles, removing all motivation to do anything aside from burn through the game and never touch it again. As such, it’s missing that depth in the gameplay I’ve come to expect from Supergiant Games and from what I previewed at PAX East 2013.
Something's bound to happen. I'll just wait.
I wish I had that arrow, so I could poke people with it.
I don’t feel right about going over the plot of Transistor, because like its Bastion predecessor, the plot is best experienced. Explaining it would not only spoil it for anyone who wants to play it, to attempt to do so would be an extreme disservice to the game. All I will say is that the game stars Red, singer whose voice has been taken away by the Process in their failed attempt to kill her. At that time, she also gained the use of a giant sword called the Transistor, that absorbs the souls of other fallen people in the city of Cloudbank and provides the narration of the story. The player will be fairly clueless as to what is going on until close to the end, as if it is a JRPG from Square Enix. At least your cluelessness will not last as long as it would in a JRPG, since the game is, as I’ve mentioned, quite short.
Gameplay is action-based, slightly hack-and-slash with a dash of a turn-based option thrown in. If her turn gauge is full, the player can instigate turn mode, move Red around on the grid and order her attacks. Each movement takes up some portion of the turn gauge, so no, you can’t run Red around the entire floor all willy-nilly. After a turn is executed, it takes a little bit of time to refill the turn gauge, preventing Red from using any attacks and leaving her quite vulnerable during this period. Every turn must be thoughtfully planned and carried out to use each attack with optimal results, a/k/a killing everything that moves.
Red learns new attacks and abilities from the souls the Transistor absorbs, and the player can pick, choose, and assign whatever abilities they want to four buttons on the controller. All of the abilities can also be assigned as upgrades to your chosen four or be set as passive abilities, such as regenerating health when not recharding the turn gauge. When Red’s health gauge crashes, sometimes she will be granted an emergency turn, and sometimes it causes an overload on her abilities. When this happens, the ability using the most memory on the sword will be temporarily lost. When the ability returns, the player will have to reinstall it and any upgrades that it originally had, which is rather tedious to say the least. If all attacks are lost, a lovely Game Over screen appears.
Maybe if I run really fast, something will actually happen.
The gameplay is quite fun at first, but near the end, you know what the magic combination is for the last few enemies, introducing a strong level of monotony. It’s briefly interrupted by the final boss, but it doesn’t take long to figure out how to crack his code either. The emphasis in the game is obviously on the art direction, story, and overall presentation, with which I’m normally just snazzy, but this time, I needed more with the gameplay, even if that meant side quests or seeking collectibles. Keeping the path so linear with relatively simple gameplay did not make me eager to continue my gaming sessions; it only made me want to get to the end sooner.
At least the game’s visual and audial effects were quite aesthetically pleasing. You can’t help but be mesmerized by the beautiful, painting-esque art style and the dulcet tones of Darren Korb’s melodies. The sword provides all of the dialogue, save for a few of Red’s songs, and his narration fits in with the flow of the game better than any other narration attempt I’ve heard with a game. He’s never overbearing, annoying, or that repetitive, and unlike some narrators or talking heads in games, he knows when it’s best to keep quiet. Most importantly, he knows how to make subtle suggestions that maybe you’ve already gone this way before or you’ve been dallying one area for too long without making the player want to duct tape his mouth (if swords had mouths).
As pretty as the game looks and sounds, it just doesn’t make up for shallow gameplay and a story that really fell flat for me in the end. At least I was able to complete it in six hours, so the tedium didn’t last for that long.
6.8 Above Average
Beautiful presentation with a fabulous soundtrack, and finally, there's a narrator that I didn't want to choke for talking too much;
While the gameplay is a bit unique and customizable for the player, it never went as deep as I expected it to and neither did the story.
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