sun 15/12/2019

Transistor | reviews, news & interviews

Transistor

Transistor

A visually striking action-adventure with a tad too much complex combat

'Transistor': Nice visuals, shame about the repetitive arena combat

Videogames aesthetics are often misleading. There are many examples of beautiful games that have no artistic merit, emotional heft or ludological interest. There are also many examples of ugly games that grip utterly. Of course, the ideal is both simultaneously – and Transistor almost does that.

On visuals, its beautiful Steampunk setting is wonderfully realised. This, combined with exemplary character and narrative design, delicately draws you into a floating city and the story of Red and her sword/partner Transistor. She, silent fury and constant movement; he a disembodied voice revealing the plot in his ramblings. It is indeed a rare game where the sword is the character you'll connect with.

Transistor - beautiful action-adventure from the makers of BastionIn terms of aesthetics, then, Transistor is a success that improves on the visual and storytelling techniques the developer showcased in its critical smash Bastion. But what about the gameplay?

There's certainly a lot of it – Transistor in play focuses nearly solely on arena-based combat. Whenever the intrepid duo encounter the robotic Process who've taken over the city a dotted line marks the area the duo must fight it out with them. Combat is a hybrid of realtime running about and smacking enemies with a mix of melee and projectiles and, when your timer allows it, going into a pause mode where you can queue up attacks that then happen instantly when you unpause.

On top of this already complex combat system is layered a growing arsenal of weapons that can also be mixed with each other for surprising effect. For instance, adding your camouflage ability to your sword increases your damage when attacking from behind, or adding grenades to your dash ability leaves behind a trail of bomblets as you dash in a direction.

Transistor - beautiful action-adventure from the makers of BastionThere's more – optional "resistors" to increase enemy difficulty (or decrease it, although these only appear late on!), multiple weapon and power slot types and combination attacks. The end result can be at times overwhelming. And combines with another weaker element – the inventiveness of the enemy design and variation doesn't match the complexity of weaponry or the quality of narrative. In other words, by halfway through this relatively short game, you'll have seen a lot of the same arena scenarios repeating.

What does count as a brilliant idea in play is the way Transistor deals with defeat. Lose a combat and you're immediately back to full health, but having lost one of your four favourite weapons temporarily. It forces you to change strategy, try new ideas and improvise.

Another great touch is the "back doors" that lead to arena combats based around solving puzzles – how to eliminate all enemies in under five seconds, or in one pause, for instance. These, again, shake up the play and force you to think in new ways – making them well worth hunting out.

Transistor is ultimately a game that looks better than it plays, that delivers a nuanced narrative with beautiful and emotional characterisation between its main pairing of one woman and her sword. But beneath that, too little love has been lavished on the actual play.

She, silent fury and constant movement; he a disembodied voice revealing the plot in his ramblings

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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