*This was originally posted on my old Tumblr account on July 11, 2014.
There’s a certain charm that Transistor has that pushed me to buying the game on Steam a couple weeks back. Seldom am I impressed at indie games, as most that I have seen felt rushed and lacked appeal. For Transistor however, it’s one of the diamonds in the rough and here’s why:
The gorgeous city of Cloudbank gives an art deco twist to the usual futuristic cyberpunk art style.
Its aesthetic appeal alone is impressive and it isn’t because of quality graphics. It’s the stylistic choices that Supergiant Games applied to Transistor that got to me.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful games I have ever seen, Transistor takes you into this cyberpunk dystopian city of Cloudbank. Supergiant uniquely combined futuristic and vintage art deco in every aspect of the game and each new setting is incredibly detailed with its own unique look and feel while still fitting in within the game’s main stylistic theme.
The animations with your weapon and skills are smoothly made and well detailed compared to most indie games.
Finally, though the cinematic cuts in the game are merely a combination of narrative and stills of certain events, the artwork is so amazing that you wouldn’t even care that they used still artworks instead of actual animation.
Transistor uses a novel skill tree that allows gamers to freely customize their skillsets.
Aside from the unique aesthetic appeal that Transistor offers, its mechanics of the game will keep you playing because of its interesting qualities and creative approaches.
Transistor allows you to switch between freestyle and strategized combat seamlessly letting you choose how you want to approach the battles. However, as the game progresses you constantly feel forced to keep choosing a strategized combat style and the trigger to do that takes some time to cool down. Thus, battling in the game feels a little awkward, repetitive, and sometimes annoying.
The skill tree however is very interesting as it allows you to really customize the skills you utilize in terms of the skill upgrades and the active or passive placements. I feel Supergiant made it this way to balance the repetitive combat feel of the game. By allowing you to get creative with your skillset, you are able to veer away from the repetitive, awkward, battle system.
If you feel as though Transistor isn’t difficult enough, the game has an additional optional mechanic called “Limiter.” As you level up the game also unlocks Limiters, a mechanic that rewards you when you choose to add difficulty to your enemy robots called Process. Basically, a Limiter is akin to skills which you enable for your enemies. Each Limiter you add to your enemies gives you an experience boost after every battle.
The story is told through machine terminals, your talking sword, and bits of still art combined with narration.
The game plunges you right into the conflict with little to no back story and a lot of mystery. As you go along there are narrative stills and little machines called terminals that give you just enough information to deduce the back story. I found myself craving for a deeper and juicier narrative to bite into because a game this good deserves a story well told. However, the only source you have for the story is from your talking sword, the terminals that you will encounter, the narrative cuts, and the main enemies that you will face.
Through them, you also get a glimpse of Red’s character. Sadly, you will never hear her speak until the end of the game. From all the clues thrown around however, you will find that Red is a sassy singer whose large popularity and powerful lyrics prompted the government’s attack on her.
The leaders of Cloudbank’s society, Camerata, wanted to gain the trace of her soul and use them for the Transistor in order to build a new Cloudbank. They also used the Process, the robot menaces that chase after her, to help with the new changes.
The story gets an interesting twist when you get to the middle, and the ending has some shock factor. By the time you finish, it will make you wish it had more narrative content.
With a game as good as this, the credits rolled a little sooner than I would have liked.
All in all, Transistor is a truly unique and stylish game that will leave you craving for more. Though it has its fair share of flaws, its creative gameplay and skill system, amazing art, and interesting plot makes it all worth the buy. I commend Supergiant games for producing such a beautiful and polished game that indie developers rarely achieve. This indie game gets a 9/10.