I never got around to playing Bastion, but I did watch friends play it. The game seemed odd, the isometric camera angle weirded me out, and it lacked a hook to pull me into its world. This isn’t the case with Supergiant Games’ turn-based strategy game Transistor. When it was revealed at the Sony press conference on Monday evening, I immediately felt compelled to give it a go.
I met up Greg Kasavin, Transistor‘s writer and designer, at Sony’s booth. I was honest: I told him that I hadn’t touched Bastion, but wanted to play Transistor. I asked him what it was about, how it differed from Bastion, and what gamers should expect. Kasavin laughed and said, “You know what? How about you go in cold. I think it’ll be better for you that way instead of me trying to explain everything.”
And boy, was he right.
Red is the main character, a former singer who’s hunted by assassins. Her voice is stolen, so she ventures forward to discover who took it. Near the start of the demo, Red walks across the screen and picks up a sword — a talking sword. The blade, also known as Transistor, apologizes for Red’s voice loss, and informs her that she must help stop an outbreak of disappearing people across the city. It’s in Red’s best interest to do so as she’s the next victim.
You guide Red through several different rooms, fending off “Processes,” which are enemies that “process” people, and want to get their hands on Transistor. They remind me of Kingdom Hearts’ The Heartless; dark remains of Cloudbank’s missing populace.
Transistor’s gameplay is similar to Bastion‘s. Red’s powers are mapped to individual controller buttons, and each has a refresh rate. There are close-range attacks, AOE attacks, and a dashing ability which helps Red evade the faster, more life-threatening enemies. As you find others who are dying (or stolen, perhaps?) they enter Transistor. This grants you additional abilities.
The R2 trigger initiates a freeze-time mode that allows you to plot out a number of moves. Here’s an example of how it works. I was in a room with two Processes, and one larger enemy. Using the freeze mode, I plotted out an AOE that hit the two enemies in front of me, dashed to the other side, and attacked the last one with a close-range attack. Once I hit play, I watched my moves play out, like a Civilization game. Very cool.
Transistor‘s music is an odd mix that draws from trance, ambient, trip-hop, and drum-and-bass. As weird as that sounds, it’s perfect for the game’s environment and feel. Each composition’s uniquely orchestrated, and the overall soundtrack is one any genre fan will appreciate.
I found myself wanting more Transistor as the demo came to an end. I wanted to know why the citizens of Cloudbank were disappearing, and why assassins were after Red. This title alone made me want to buy a PlayStation 4. Kasavin was incredibly appreciative of my genuine enjoyment.
“We first announced the game at PAX. We had no idea what platforms we were going to release this on,” he said. “Sony saw it, and they were very supportive of the game, and are continuing to be incredibly supportive. Had you told me six months ago we’d [Supergiant Games] have a booth directly across from Assassin’s Creed IV, I would have never believed you.”
If you’re a fan of Bastion, good music, or fun trippy games, keep your eyes open for Transistor, which is slated for a 2014 release. Transistor will be available day-one on PC and Playstation 4, and Mac and Linux soon after that.
Now I think I’ll give Bastion another shot.