At this point, I own Transistor on at least three different platforms – I’d pick it up on sale, part of a bundle or just on a whim, but never got around to playing it. But now that I have played it, I truly understand what I’ve missed out on – Transistor has already placed itself in amongst my favourite games of all time.
To start with, I want to address the game’s soundtrack, possibly my favourite aspect of Transistor. As with Supergiant Games’ first major success, Bastion, Darren Korb returns to write and produce the soundtrack to the game and does an incredible job. The game’s music manages to successfully encapsulate the true essence of the game – wonder, mystery and loss are all presented through the beautiful music that fills up most of the game.
Also returning from Bastion is Ashley Lynn, whose performance as Red is astounding. Notice I said ‘performance’ because I truly believe that with Korb’s superb writing and Lynn’s breathtaking singing, they’ve managed to produce a game score that is worthy of significant praise.
So, how does the rest of the game hold up? I’m happy to report that the game exceeds my expectations.
Without going too far into spoiler territory – You play as Red, a renowned singer in the city of Cloudbank, a city plagued by ‘The Process’, a calculated robotic force commanded by the formidable Camerata. During a performance, Red is attacked by the group, but manages to get away with The Transistor – the large sword used in her assassination attempted – however, this comes at a cost as, not only is the Transistor seemingly capable of absorbing consciousnesses, it also absorbs Red’s voice.
Red and The Transistor, now with the consciousness of an unknown man inside, escape into Cloudbank, hunting down the Camerata and their process army. An unusual premise, Transistor, manages to utilise its setting and channels it into every part of the game. From the soundtrack to the location, to the gameplay – every part of Transistor is aware of what it is and what it needs to be to aid the story and develop the world.
Similarly to Bastion, Transistor is presented from an isometric point of view which helps develop and create the world in which you explore. Because of how it’s presented, each location is beautifully drawn and built, with secrets and interactable objects appearing throughout in some unique and interesting locations.
But, enough about how the game looks and sounds, how does it play? Transistor is a unique blend of RPG and turn-based strategy. The core gameplay is split between its real-time combat mode, in which the player can freely explore and fight enemies, and also its frozen ‘planning mode’ – which allows the player plan their attack to utilise the many functions Red picks up along the way.
Initially cumbersome, I’ve found that Transistor manages to pull this combination off well. Unlike other games that have tried this, I feel that Transistor makes the experience smooth and simple to grasp – it doesn’t bombard you with different commands, or abilities you need to be aware of. Instead, Transistor allows you to select only four functions, which act as Red’s move pool – these can be upgraded and swapped out throughout the game.
Eerie, mysterious, but beautiful – Transistor is a prime example of just how good video games can be. It’s smooth gameplay, interesting and engaging world, and stunning soundtrack leave little to be desired when playing through the game and I am eager to play more. Transistor is easily one of the best games currently in my Switch library and I can whole-heartedly recommend it to just about anyone.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*