Hands-on with Transistor [PAX East 2013]
March 28, 2013
Did you play Bastion? If not you should probably stop what you’re doing right now and go play it. For the rest of us, the creators of Bastion (Super Giant Games) have a new adventure coming our way: Transistor. When I saw the trailer I noticed the game had an isometric view, so I expected similar gameplay to Bastion with a few changes to make it unique. My expectations were completely wrong, and I’m so happy that they were.
The demo started with the main character, Red, being transported to the starting location. Red is a singer who has been targeted for assassination by “The Process”. It’s never fully explained what The Process is, but from what I can gather they are a technology-based organism. After walking a bit Red comes into contact with the Transistor – something that appears to be a sentient sword. Using a similar method to Bastion, the Transistor will narrate throughout your adventure; giving advice and insight as you play.
When I picked up the weapon, I expected it to be a standard sword, one that I could swing it around and possibly have some special moves with. I was surprised when I pressed the attack button and the sword did a slow move which resulted in me sending out some type of pulse energy. The second attack I used was even slower. How was I supposed to defeat opponents without any kind of attack speed? That’s when the next piece of the puzzle was presented, as you have the ability to pause the action and plan out your attack. You have a meter at the top of the screen, and as you design your attack it will eat up chunks of the meter. Also, when you move, that also pulls from the meter.
You can move freely, but to be efficient you need to plan attacks and movements accordingly. That’s when it hit me that this is supposed to be more of a tactical game. If you really want to you can use the attacks in real time, but I can imagine this will become increasingly more difficult as the game progresses.
When enemies appear on the field, so will wall segments. You can use these to your advantage when planning out your attack so that you can hit an enemy then move behind cover to avoid damage . Naturally, this this works the other way as well. When you finalize your attack enemies begin to move in real time again and it takes time for your attacks to complete. This means you can target an enemy in the paused mode, but by the time you actually get around to attacking that enemy they may have moved behind a wall. Long story short, you need to predict where an enemy might move.
As I progressed I picked up some additional attacks, such as one that allowed me to dash and another that appeared to allow me to throw what I think were cluster bombs. These attacks allowed me more freedom in real time, but to finish off enemies without losing much health I had to use both real time and the planning mode while fighting. There are also upgrades for your attacks that will strengthen and alter them.
Red isn’t the only one that has been targeted by The Process, as over 100 people have gone missing in the city in the past 12 months. There is a bigger conspiracy at work here, and based on some dialogue at the end of the demo there appears to be a force behind The Process that we will be discovering when we play.
Just like Bastion, the world of Transistor is beautiful. There is a strong futuristic theme in both the environments and the enemies. The music also does a great job of bringing the world to life. Actually, there is a song that I thought was licensed music from a record label that I later found was produced in-house. I was very impressed with the quality of the audio, the visuals, and especially the game play. Transistor is set for release sometime in early 2014 and I can’t wait for it.