When Supergiant Games first revealed Transistor, the game’s trailer, although exciting, didn’t go into much depth regarding the differences between it and the team’s last outing, Bastion. After getting a chance to go hands-on with the game at PAX, it seems that Transistor is going to give fans more of what they expect from the studio, while also refining the experience in terms of both story and combat.
Transistor’s PAX East demo started with the introduction of Red, the game’s protagonist, and a brief setup of prior events. There, we learned Red was a star singer and that five assassins are attempting to kill her. It’s unclear as to what the assassins’ motives are; even as she is transported across town with a man she knows and a mysterious weapon, the Transistor. During the incident, however, the sword kills the man, but absorbs his soul, allowing him to talk directly to Red. Bastion’s narrator, Logan Cunningham, reprises his role (if not his character) here, but by altering his character’s presence in the story, Transistor’s plot will be delivered very differently.
Since the Transistor is along for the ride, the man’s dialogue references the environments Red is in based on his own past experiences. Players are also able to investigate different buildings and signs; usually leading to a few lines of dialogue regarding what’s inside, or events that took place there. It’s unknown what sort of relationship Red had with Cunningham’s character before the events of the demo, or who he actually is, which adds an interesting dynamic to the situation in which they find themselves.The Transistor also has the ability to allow communication with recently departed souls.
This is where combat steps in and starts to differentiate the game from Bastion. At least in the demo, once the Transistor communicated with the departed souls, they wished to place themselves in the sword. Each additional soul added a new move to Red’s arsenal. Four abilities were acquired during the demo: a dash, a slash, a ranged charged attack and a bomb throw, which causes area of effect damage. Each move is mapped to a face button, and more abilities will be obtainable in the game, more than likely allowing players to build a set of moves accustomed to their play-style.
Although the moment-to-moment combat can be played similar to Bastion, Supergiant Games has developed a combat system which allows for a lot more strategy. Players are able to activate a planning overlay, allowing for precise timing and placement of different abilities. It works sort of like VATS from the recent Fallout games, but gives a better indication of your actions’ exact implications. Time is stopped during the planning stages and is vastly slowed during execution. However, some enemies have the ability to move or even use abilities if damaged during the plan. Player movement and abilities enacted during a plan will drain a charge gauge, forcing you to wait on a full recharge to use abilities or bring up the planning overlay again. This does a good job of giving players just enough control over combat where they don’t feel overwhelmed by what’s presented to them, while also allowing for overused plans to possibly cause more harm than good.
Supergiant Games is looking to once again shape the way stories are told through gameplay. Transistor’s PAX East demo shows the team is onto something again and could have another hit on their hands. Transistor is currently not confirmed for release on any platforms, but the team is hoping to have the game ready soon.