Bastion by Supergiant Games was one of my all-time favorite games, and easily one of the best titles I’ve ever played. So when I saw Transistor on the show floor at PAX East, I knew I had to try it. I waited in the que for around two hours, and when I finally sat down to play I was super excited.
The demo started off with some of the best voice acting and most beautiful artwork I’ve ever seen in gaming. Believe me when I say that any of the videos and screenshots you’ve seen thus far don’t do the visuals in Transistor justice. I won’t spoil any of the story in this piece, but instead will be focusing mostly on how Transistor feels and plays.
Like Bastion, Transistor has a top-down, isometric camera angle, allowing for more of the action and environment to be seen. Moving about the level with the left control stick was easy and the character animations were smooth. Attacks are mapped to the face buttons, and as I made my way through the demo I acquired more abilities until every face button was assigned a different attack. One attack had me driving my sword into the ground, one let me shoot beams, and another exploded into a powerful nova-like blast. The controls were easy to get used to, and made traversing the level and fighting enemies both super easy and fun.
One of the coolest thing about transistor is the Turn 0 ability. This allows you to freeze time, and stack up your abilities until you’ve exhausted all of the resources you have available for Turn 0, or until you choose to engage the actions you’ve lined up. Each ability or movement on the field cost a set amount of the resource. When you’re finally ready to unleash all the actions, you press R2 and everything unfolds in the way you’ve queued it up to. This system adds a deeper level of strategy to the gameplay and turns each encounter into a puzzle of sorts.
Near the end of the demo, the leveling mechanic was revealed. I was offered a new skill, and was able to either replace an older skill with the new one, turn the new skill into a point to put into one of the older ones, or exchange the new skill to increase my damage output, defense or speed. This deep level of customization allows for each player to have their own unique play style. Unlike in Bastion where you only had about 10 weapons to choose from, Transistor will have thousands of abilities and combinations to use.
After the demo I had a chance to speak with Darron Korb, the composer for both Bastion and Transistor. He was able to tell me that there is no connection storywise between the two games, which after seeing Transistor, I had expected there would be. He also was able to tell me that having Transistor (the name of the protagonist sword) taking the place of the omniscient narrator from Bastion was totally different to work on, seeing as Transistor is narrating the story as it unfolds.
Transistor launches on the PS4 and PC on May 20th. After playing it for such a short time, and being completely enthralled by it, I’m glad I only have to wait a month for the full release.