Transistor

 CIRCUITS AND SERENADES

The spiritual successor to 2011’s indie smash hit Bastion is out right now. What are you doing? Are you reading this article? You should probably be playing anything made by the game’s producer and developer studio, Supergiant Games, instead. Bastion, as a critical and popular success—hailed as both good, clean fun, and a work of art—and as a game made by seven people, was a game that helped to further cement the idea that indie games could be magnificent successes. It was this idea that helped early access, crowdfunding, game design contests, and investment capitalism take off in the gaming world, and revolutionized it from a top-down, corporate enterprise with increasingly bloated overhead. And yes, now the latest game from these creators is out.

Transistor shares many similarities with Bastion: both are 3D side-angled brawlers with RPG elements of character customization. Both tell epic stories spanning across shattered worlds. Both have had their excellent soundtracks composed by Darren Korb. Both feature silent protagonists whose vocal absence is filled by a talkative, yet gruff speaker, both of whom are voiced by Logan Cunningham, that suave bastard.

Yet Transistor couldn’t be called a copy of Bastion—or, in fact, any game. It introduces strange new elements of turn-based strategy intermixed in real time battles, which must be seen to be understood. It allows for extreme levels of customization, with each additional power, called “functions,” capable of being used to modify each other and the player in a huge amount of combinations. This is accomplished without being complicated, and with plenty of fun. The combat acquires a decidedly tactical edge, and cultivates thinking alongside every action. I’ve never played anything that could be called a “brawler” that was so cerebral.

In terms of visuals, there’s little to say. It wins. If Bastion was pretty, Transistor is drop-dead gorgeous. It’s a masterpiece of semi-organic circuitry splashed like neon paint in a high contrast environment with architectural style somewhere between the roaring ‘20s, Tron, and some uniquely imaginative concept art.

The soundtrack is excellent, if perhaps not quite as catchy as Bastion’s, and the vocals provided by Ashley Barret, the same singer from Bastion are outstanding. I should mention that if, at any point, you’re feeling that the instrumentals could use some accompaniment, you can hold down a button and the protagonist will hum in perfect time. That, I’m pretty sure, has never ever been done.

But I can’t get away with a complete fluff piece. Transistor’s plot (but not, I repeat, NOT its wonderfully emotional characters) can be a little weak at times, mostly just giving you something like a confusing plot twist and then sending you on your way to fight some more. There’s also the serious issue of bugs, which at the release build, anyway, were noticeably bad. Several times I had to restart a checkpoint due to game-breaking glitches, and lag is common, annoying, and at a few moments, fatal. As I write this, keep in mind, a patch to the game has just downloaded to my computer. Nothing is set in stone on the bug front.

All in all, Transistor is worthy of its hype, its studio, and its predecessor. A Game of the Year contender, no doubt.

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