SuperGiantGames set a pretty high precedent for a first game out of a completely new developer. Some magical experience with a voice over unlike anything you had seen, heard, or experienced before. Suffice to say: the bar starts high and the demand for something better is even higher.
I don’t really know where Transistor falls in that plane of judgement, but I can say it’s off to a promising start. Seeing as this is literally the first place it’s been seen and been playable, I was surprised just how much they were showing.
The game introduces you to the protagonist, Red, a lounge-type singer, right off the bat as a kind of fragile and innocent character being hunted by a set of mechanical assassins. Not much else is known, until she runs into the Transistor. The sword seems to be connected to all kind of electronics around this highly advanced city. You find it through the chest of its first victim, and also: it talks. Bastion players will instantly recognize the voice of Rucks as the voice of the Transistor. The once fragile Red is then quickly filled with power and speed, and no longer acts as the brief damsel in distress.
Those expecting the same kind of narration are in for a different trip with Transistor. One, Transistor the character, the sword itself, is with you as opposed to watching you. He isn’t really a reflective narrator, he just knows more about the enemy you face than you do, but he is with you, and can’t tell you the future. Plus he won’t be commenting on every little thing you do. Instead, it’s more like he’s along for the ride, giving you advice, and consistently reacting to what you are doing. It acts like a two sided, normal conversation, where you are speaking with your actions, and he is speaking with his words and knowledge.
It’s overall a good mechanic, and it seems fresh and different enough to feel more “inspired” from Bastion, rather than completely derivative. In an interview with Darren Korb, he told me that there was definitely interest in carrying over a lot of voice over into their next game, but they wanted to change it up.
The combat is really where Transistor shined. You have a few attacks and gain a couple more over the course of the level I played, but aside from melee and slight range, there is one major mechanic that ties it all together. Pulling the right trigger (no platforms announced yet, but I played this demo on a 360 controller), you enter a mode where you plan out your next few steps. You only have a small bar to work with, but you can set up your next few attacks and plan your strategy by moving around your enemies (they’re frozen in this state), queuing up attacks, and then pulling the RT again to unleash each attack. It isn’t quite instant, but it is significantly faster than just mashing the A button next to an enemy, allowing you to easily out-maneuver the mechanical foes you face. The drawback is you’ll have to wait to reboot to attack at all again at all, as well as use this “slow down” ability.
It seems like a really neat idea that needs to prove it will have interesting and evolving gameplay throughout the entire story; something that can match Bastion. I’m excited to see more, but for now Transistor is set for an early 2014 launch on currently unknown platforms.