Transistor Review: Delayed Gratification

But that’s a high barrier just to know what’s going on, and that’s Transistor’s real trouble — it’s just as easy to never have any idea what the context is, which renders a beautiful and fascinating world into just a lot of background. Art Director Jen Zee’s work makes Cloudbank into a beautiful and fascinating place, and Composer Darren Korb’s soundtrack adds a haunting element, but for all the character the visuals and music impart, Transistor struggles to deliver it in any other way.

It’s only after you’ve invested a few hours into the game that Transistor starts to pay you back for your efforts; at first, it just feels somewhat overwrought, with all that atmosphere and empty dialogue.

There’s a great game in Transistor, and a deceptive and strange world, and a touching character relationship between Red and the sword, even if it only makes sense once you’ve seen the ending cinematic. But Transistor won’t give you those things up front; you’ll have to earn them. That means putting up with a story that seems meaningless and a battle system that starts out feeling limited to the point of being potentially annoying.

Stick with it, though, and Transistor develops into something more than Bastion Junior. Like Bastion, Transistor shows that Supergiant has some incredible talent on its team. What you get out of Transistor will directly correlate with what you put into it, however, and that barrier of entry weakens what ultimately is a solid remix of some of the ideas that made Bastion interesting.

Pros:

  • Another graphically gorgeous Supergiant title, with an equally enthralling soundtrack
  • Once it ramps up, battle system offers lots of strategy and varying elements to keep gameplay fresh throughout
  • Functions are a smart take on balancing battle abilities, buffs and upgrades to encourage customization that’s easy to understand
  • Limiters let you set your own difficulty on the fly (although you have to unlock them first)
  • If you’re willing to dig for it, there’s an engaging story and world hiding in text files…

Cons:

  • …but you’ll have to dig deep and much of the game will be confusing and empty from a narrative standpoint
  • Lack of narrative drive makes it tough to care about Cloudbank, relegating its beautiful vistas to so much background and making much of the Transistor’s dialogue more or less useless
  • It’s difficult to be an effective fighter in early gameplay, as Red is slow and enemies are quick; it’s only later, with more abilities, that the battle system becomes really fun to use

Final Score: 70/100


Transistor was reviewed using a pre-release Steam version provided by Supergiant Games. GameFront employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.


Phil Hornshaw is senior editor at GameFront. Read more of his work here, and follow him and GameFront on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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