In a far distant future a rabble-rousing singer, Red, stands on a cold balcony. Her friend lies dead nearby, his chest pierced by a blade from another world known as the Transistor. The only way to get answers is to take this blade and fight the people who used it to kill him. Between you and them are a horde of beings from this other world that are trying to Process the city and everyone in it. I mean, you fought against it’s totalitarian policies but that doesn’t mean it’s citizens deserve to die.
Information about this game’s development is scarce. I could only find cursory information about its music — he says “only” as if the music wasn’t incredible. The music was once again composed by Darren Korb. The female vocals were performed by Ashley Lynn Barrett who also lent her talents to Bastion.
Supergiant’s Greg Kasavin said that they, “Have no plans for what comes next.” A bold and risky strategy. They originally created their small team so that they’d be able to be quick, so that they wouldn’t get bogged down. I think if they’re as quick as they want to be then they won’t need a plan, just a goal.
Fun Fact: Transistor won IGN’s award for Best Graphics in the Art category.
Transistor was released on May 20th, 2014. It’s competition was Thomas Was Alone (iOS), Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC, PS4, PS3, XBox 360, and Xbox One.), and Battlebock Theater (Win, Linux).
There’s an adage I’ve heard of in the games hobby, “there are some games I stop playing because I’m bored and some games I stop playing because I should have eaten dinner two hours ago.” This game definitely falls into the latter category. I stayed up until 4 in the morning finishing it on a Friday night. I spent the whole time thinking, “This couldn’t get better, it’s gotta end soon,” but it didn’t. It kept going, ushering me along. I expected to get mad like it was yanking my chain but I was just so excited that I didn’t want to sleep before I’d finished it.
Red spends her adventure on the move — there’s no Bastion to run to this time. While you take in the sights from the city of Cloudbank you’ll be spending most of your time trying not to get utterly destroyed by these creatures known as The Process. The Process comes in many forms the dog-like Fetch, the large lumbering Jerk, and the artilleryesqu Clucker to name a few.
Those large white walls are cover and it’s your best friend — besides The Transistor itself. Different enemies interact with cover in different ways. Fetches will walk around it whereas Jerks will smash it out of existence, leading other enemies right do you.
Cover is super important because of the Turn() mechanic. When Red uses Turn() she enters a turn based tactical combat mode. Each of her abilities and moving itself takes up time from the Turn(). When you’re done planning then you can execute your Turn() and Red will move very quickly running circles around the Process. After Red executes a Turn() however she’s unable to use any of her abilities until Turn() comes back online after 10 seconds. Most combat is a series of Turn() and then hiding until Turn() comes back.
The Transistor has the power to reconstitute processed individuals into programs. These programs are used to fight The Process, augment Red, or augment other programs. The game even rewards you for trying out new strategies by giving you more information about Processed individuals for using them in each category.
The music in this game is so good. Korb really outdid himself this time. The music is this sort of Electric Noir that masterfully meshes the neo-archaic atmosphere of the game. I mean, you’re fighting with a techno sword.
One thing that I actually liked about the game that got a lot of flak was the dying mechanics. When Red gets dropped to critical health she automatically Turn()s if it’s available and if it isn’t then she’ll go down. The game will then take away the program that takes up the most memory and then continues the fight. It can make the fight really tough if you go down but not impossible. You can reequip that program at the next Access Point but it can still be a slog if you lose your heavy hitting program.
I really loved the final boss of this game. I got so pumped when he started talking about using my power against me. I was really surprised by how good the AI was in this fight. Watching it perform Turn() and then back out and try to do more damage with a different set of moves almost made me feel like I was fighting an actual human.
After you beat Bastion you could play through the game again with all the stuff you’d already unlocked but not much changed in the game. When you Recursion through Transistor you keep picking the programs where you unlocked them in the first playthrough, while already possessing the programs from the original run. That’s right, you can augment your programs with themselves — programception
There’s a lot of information and lore in the game. Unlike most games I read it all. It’s not like Elder Scroll’s long and drawn out books. Lore is conveyed through concisely written paragraphs when it comes to processed people. Every so often Red will run into Cloudbank’s plentiful terminals, each of which presenting her a survey or some other insight into how Cloudbank runs. I mean, it doesn’t really answer any of the big questions about the game but I’m not mad.
I lied. I’m mad. The mystery of the game feels more obfuscated than interesting. The politics of Caelondia are never explained because they don’t matter. The purpose of the Process and what their world is is of critical importance and I didn’t get it. It feels like there are some bread crumbs missing.
This game is absolutely worth the 20$ price tag and even if you don’t buy the game I can’t recommend the Soundtrack enough. I had just as much fun exploring the world of Bastion as I did the World of Cloudbank. I wish Cloudbank had had more closure than it did but it was a helluva ride.
Next Week: Hotline Miami