The Nintendo Switch is rapidly becoming the place to be for indie titles. Transistor is yet another display of this migration in action. The portability of Nintendo’s hybrid console marries up with these smaller titles nicely, making them easy targets for gamers on the go. Transistor is no different. It is the next action-RPG to come to the Switch from Supergiant Games following Bastion.
An enigmatic journey
Like Bastion, Transistor is more about its characters and level design than anything else. From an isometric camera angle, players take control of Red, a singer and citizen of Cloudbank. Right from the start, she stumbles upon the Transistor – a mysterious sword found impaling the corpse of some poor soul. To her surprise, the Transistor absorbed the dead man’s consciousness. He is able to speak to her through the sword and, essentially, becomes the narrator of the story. From that point on, Red and the Transistor set out on a journey to understand the Process and the shadowy elite group that controls them (known as the Camerata).
Like Bastion, the story artfully projects emotions in the game’s visual styling. Red and the soul trapped in the Transistor form a bond, one that began during the initial incursion of the Process. It’s exciting to see these story beats unfold. However, at times, the narrative became lost on me with ambiguous dialogue or a lack of exposition. While its mysterious elements can add a certain flair, it also felt slightly incomplete – like I constantly missed important details somewhere.
Real-time and turn-based combat
The thrilling aspect of this game lies in its combat. Transistor courts both action and turn-based styles of combat. Red acquires a multitude of melee and projectile attacks that all stem from her newly-acquired sentient sword. What makes this interesting is that the player can choose in the midst of combat whether to attack in real-time or make use of a strategic and calculated attack. Most attacks can be spammed in real-time. However, if you feel the need to slow down the battlefield and select the option to calculate your next move, you must wait for a recharge period following its execution.
When using a “turn,” players can fill an action bar at the top of the screen with various actions including walking and using any of the attacks for the Transistor that you collect throughout the game. During a “turn,” enemies will freeze and players can angle projectile attacks to hit multiple targets. This system also offers a great escape to collect your thoughts and strategize when low on health.
My only issue with the turn-based movements is that players have to also take enemy movements into account. Just because you selected an attack, moved to a different enemy, and selected another attack, that doesn’t mean you’ll actually hit both enemies. After you activate the action, Red will move to the positions you determined for her, but an enemy could have drifted out of the attack range.
The game excels, however, by promoting varied play through mixed use of real-time and turn-based attacks. There are many moments where players will find both beneficial. Additionally, there are several new attacks that players will find as they progress that each have their own benefits. And, players can up the ante with Limiters – special boosts to enemies that increase the difficulty but also reward the player with more progression.
The final word
Supergiant Games created another beautiful story arc accented by an inventive combat system and an artistic world design with a vibrant color palette. The musical composition complements the visuals and action in a way that makes the title feel like all of its elements are unified and synchronous to a radical degree. Supergiant has made it clear that stories are important to them. Players seeking a game with strategic combat and simply a great, unique story need not look any further than Transistor.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: September 13, 2018
Category: Action, Adventure, RPG
Publisher: Supergiant Games
Developer: Supergiant Games
A review code was provided by the publisher.