In spite of only being Supergiant Games' second title, Transistor comes packed with a ton of hype. Bastion, its first release, was not only a mega seller in the indie scene, but also incredibly well received by fans and critics alike — garnering our coveted "RPG of the Year" award for 2011. With only a tremendously catchy teaser floating around the internet, I was biting at the bits to get some one-on-one time with the game at PAX East this year. Thankfully, our friends at Supergiant hooked myself and QA Columnist Michael Apps up with roughly sixteen minutes of decadent video game artistry.
Our heroine, Red, is on the run from five assassins. As far as we know, she was a famous singer in Cloudbank and now has to use the power of the Transistor — a glowing, multi-talented sword/dulcet toned narrator — to guide her through obstacles and past threats. Supergiant has used the narrator hook before, but the Transistor seems to be more involved. As far as I can understand, this weapon is now home to the soul of a poetic dead man (as well as any other spirits you find in passing that wish to come along for the ride). What does the Transistor want with Red? Why was her voice taken? Where did these attackers come from? Supergiant is remaining tight lipped for now, but I can’t wait to hear more.
Like Bastion, combat is close range and takes place on an isometric plane. Unlike Bastion, there are important strategic elements to every enemy encounter. Each action button is attached to a specific skill, obtained by absorbing lost souls. There are fairly melee attacks, ranged straight-line attacks, area-of-effect attacks, and dash/teleport manoeuvres. Actions are simple in practice, but require thinking for results. Thankfully, Red has the ability to freeze time briefly to map out the best path of movement and subsequent commands. Naturally, the number of actions that can be placed in queue while time is frozen is limited, so an intelligent strategy has to be considered to progress.
Aesthetically speaking, Supergiant is definitely carving out its own visual niche. Like Bastion before it, Transistor's hand painted graphical style is sharp and features a bright colour palette. However, the isometric environments bear a visceral, almost cyberpunk, feel and characters models are highly detailed and unique to juxtapose this motif. There's a definite flavour to the game that echoes its predecessor's, but remains distinct nonetheless.
Darren Korb is quickly becoming my favourite video game composer. From the very beginning of the demo, his upbeat, almost trance-like score set the tone for both the narrative and the science fiction environment we were being dropped into. Where Red is the story of a singer who has had her voice stolen, Ash Barrett's stunning vocals make a grand return to issue an overwhelming "cool" feeling to Red's story arc. Suffice to say, it would be an understatement to say that I'm excited to by Transistor's OST.
The hands-on demo ended with a release window of 2014, which nearly left Michael and I hyperventilating from withdrawal, but I've been assured that more content will be revealed as development progresses. In terms of platform, Supergiant is sticking to vagueness, opting to go wherever the players are in the future instead of fixing on any one outlet now. That said, based on their Humble Bundle and Steam successes, a PC release is likely a given. Keep an eye on this one; it already feels like a contender for 2014's RPG of the Year.