First Impressions: Transistor

Yesterday I played Transistor. I played a lot less of it than I’d have liked, but that’s what happens when you prioritise dumb things like ‘university’ and ‘education’.

With just over an hour under my belt, though, I can say this much: The art and music alone is compelling enough to make me want to see it through. Coming from the same guys that did Bastion, I’d expect that. What I didn’t expect is how quickly the gameplay gets very customisable.

When you use the time-freeze planning, it reveals a different side to both the visuals and the music.
When you use the time-freeze planning, it reveals a different side to both the visuals and the music.

You pick up new abilities within five minutes of each other, each adding a new way to fight. With the game’s combat system making it possible to pause the action and plan out your moves in real time, it’s easy to get the hang of how these abilities work without being punished for doing so. The way this time-freeze planning works is quite hard to describe but very intuitive to learn. I’ve heard it compared to the Knights Of The Old Republic games, but having never played them the closest comparison I can think of is Mark of the Ninja.

Watching your plans play out becomes immensely satisfying when you really start to put this variety to use. Granted, you only have four slots in which to put abilities, but when you start modifying your active moves by mixing them with passive effects from your leftover abilities? Things get PRETTY COOL. The game actively encourages you to experiment: for reasons justified within the story, using your abilities in different functions unlocks more information about characters’ back stories. And how could that possibly be justified in story? Well, play it to find out. The story’s quite different from any other game I’ve played, at least so far. The funny thing is I don’t understand like 90 percent of what’s going on, and I’m pretty sure at this stage that’s the intention.

It looks PRETTY GOOD, you guys.
It looks PRETTY GOOD, you guys.

The two characters are perhaps the most intriguing part of the story, and wanting to find out more about them is the real driving force at this point where everything else is deliberately lacking in explanation. The leading lady you play as is Red, a singer who is a silent protagonist because of reasons. Reasons not yet fully explained, but compelling reasons. And then there’s… The Transistor, your sword. He’s a character. If you’ve played Bastion and loved the narration? Same voice actor, same function, albeit slightly different. The Transistor, rather than narrating a story from an immortal standpoint of the future, is instead speaking to Red as the events transpire. This allows him to show a much more vulnerable side in dire situations, and the fact that I’m saying this about a sword is juuust a little trippy. What’s his deal???

Well, I’ll go ahead and get back to it. Oh, as I briefly mentioned the music is super great. I bought the package with the soundtrack included, and apparently listening to the soundtrack beforehand would be SPOILERS. Just as well, because I love hearing how it’s integrated into the game first. My verdict? If you like your games gorgeous, check it out. But if you’re like me and you’re really bad at using the numbers on a keyboard, consider using a gamepad or buying the PS4 version.

-Jesse

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