Back in 2011, an indie title arrived on Xbox Live Arcade that would forever change the lives of a small developer by the name of Supergiant Games. That title- as unassuming as any – was Bastion. Seemingly overnight, it took the indie world by storm, and to this day remains one of the most popular games ever to grace XBLA. It is a game that, after seeing continued success on Steam and iOS, is considered by many to be a contender for the most influential indie title of recent years.
It was unsurprising then, that when Supergiant Games announced the follow-up to Bastion in March of last year, it was met with a lot of bated breath and nervous anticipation. For a company to release a title that was as immensely successful as Bastion was one thing; but to have the courage to attempt to release a new game only two years later was something else altogether. Fortunately, it appears that Supergiant Games made it look like nothing at all.
Named Transistor, the title follows a mysterious character named Red who has seemingly lost her voice, a gift which made her one of the biggest stars of the futuristic city she exists in. Around her, the world is collapsing, being corrupted by a malevolent power that seeks to consume everything. Her blade, Transistor, is the only thing preventing her ending up like many of the other civilians. The story is dark and told in a way that constantly tags the player along on a wild goose chase; at any one time there’s always that one last piece of evidence you’re looking for to help solve the overarching puzzle. Its impressive storytelling by Supergiant Games that means you’re always on the edge of your seat, guaranteeing those gaming sessions that always go on for half hour longer than you initially meant for them to. While I’ve yet to finish the game myself, Transistor will undoubtedly be a title I’ll see through to the end, if for nothing else than seeking closure to a beautifully told adventure.
The battle system in Transistor is one of the most interesting and unusual I’ve ever had an experience with. While its predecessor used a real-time hack and slash thematic, Transistor takes this and mixes it with a turn based-esque system similar to those found in the Final Fantasy franchise. Its a love-child amalgamation of several classic combat systems thrown together to create something that may not work at all in any other setting, but absolutely soars in the crowded, futuristic streets of Transistor. While many of Red’s abilities are available for use on the field, the enemies can also assault you freely and its not long before you find yourself overwhelmed. Instead, combat is often best approached using the “Turn Mode”, which stops time and allows the player to choose combinations of different abilities in varying orders in order to hack, slash, blast, burn and generally destroy your opponents while they’re completely vulnerable. The Turn Mode has an innate cooldown, so its important to pick your moves wisely when you have access to it (each move takes up a set segment in your Turn Mode) and not expend too much time on weak abilities or inefficient combos.
It should be acknowledged that, despite their name, Supergiant Games are actually a small studio, relatively speaking. The fact that they consist of no more than a handful of hardworking men and women makes it all the more awe-inspiring that not one, but both of their titles released to date are some of the most beautiful and intellectually stimulating games I have ever played in my entire life. When I finished Bastion for the first time, the aesthetics of the game and the gorgeous tones of the music set a precedent that has rarely been touched since. One of the few games that has managed to come close, unsurprisingly, is Transistor. Both games ooze style and substance from every pour; you may run across an alleyway that’s inaccessible, bumping into the infamous “invisible wall” that has been limiting gamers since 3D games were a thing, but unlike other titles you will still feel like the alleyway has its place in the city, you can still imagine it being inhabited, what it would feel like and look like, even though you’ll never get the chance to go there – and that’s a trait that’s seldom found in the video game world today.
As Supergiant Games continue to move from strength to strength, I hope they occasionally take time out of their individual days to look back and realise the impact they have made on the indie world. While no game may ever reach the echelons of what Bastion achieved when it first dropped, Transistor does the company a credit and it stands on the shoulders of giants. While they may only be small, with games as good as Transistor, Supergiant Games may conquer the world, one beautiful indie at a time.
Transistor is a indie adventure title by Supergiant Games, available now on Steam and PS4.