You gotta love how some developers put themselves in a "can you top this?" scenario with their games. Years ago, Ken Levine and his team created the dynamic BioShock, only to go leaps and bounds ahead of it with BioShock Infinite this past week. Independent developers are no exception to the rule, particularly Supergiant Games, who are about to one-up themselves with a follow-up to their best-selling Bastion game. Are you ready to enter the world of Transistor?
The follow-up, which was shown in public for the first time this past weekend at the Penny Arcade Expo East in Boston, has some similarities to Supergiant's original release. Like Bastion, Transistor is set in an isometric world where you can run around freely in 3D areas while still maintaining the gorgeous 2D design that we've come to expect from the team. But this game has its own remarkable tale to tell…
Transistor takes place in the futuristic city of Cloudbank, akin to Blade Runner but with its own artistic touch. People are mysteriously losing their voices, with no real explanation behind what's happening. When we first start the game, we meet a red-haired songstress appropriately called Red who finds herself attacked. She manages to survive, but loses her voice in the process. While she's scrambling away from mysterious forces that are following her, she comes across a fellow who transforms into a powerful sword. It speaks to her in a confident, heroic tone and she picks it up, looking to find answers behind these attackers and, hopefully, a chance to regain her voice.
Those of you who have gotten used to the fascinating world of Bastion will find a lot to like in Transistor. Like that game, the hand-drawn art is fantastic and you'll want to take time to spot small details throughout each stage, ranging from a poster featuring Red to enemy breakdowns that give you a better chance in the heat of battle. Fans of Bastion will also recognize voice actor Logan Cunningham, giving the proper amount of tone to the sword that helps you along in your journey. (He previously provided the continuous commentary for Bastion – this may be a different role for him, but it fits him well.)
Where Transistor manages to really shake things up is in its combat. Sure, there are puzzles to solve and larger enemies that require a greater strategy to conquer, but Red isn't stumbling into every situation like a novice. She can actually plan her attacks, hiding behind durable cover and then coming out swinging. You can attack enemies with a quick swipe and throw them off guard, run in with a charging attack to create more sustainable damage, and perform a special ranged attack that can hit anyone within your range. For defensive purposes, you can also hit the Y button and teleport yourself out of harm's way – a good idea when multiple enemies start firing on you.
The combat is stylish and never overwhelming and there's a degree of deeper planning to it once you press the right trigger. With this, the level you're standing in breaks out into grids and you can begin planning a chain of attacks to execute all in one shot, including a distance attack that can hit more than one enemy (with a flame on the ground) and quick swipes that can devastate even the most alert adversary. This technique will grow on you almost immediately and once mastered Red is almost unstoppable.
Like Bastion, Transistor will feature compelling level design that will challenge you at every turn along with hidden goodies strewn along the way, certainly adding to the replay value.
From what we played so far, the controls are quite responsive and we had no problem targeting particular enemies for our attacks. The planning system also works very well, though it isn't quite necessary in areas with only one or two foes. It's still worth tooling with, just to get the hang of it.
Now the only question left to ask is what platforms Transistor will be releasing for. PC definitely looks likely, as the game was playable on demo units strewn throughout Supergiant's booths. Don't be surprised if Xbox Live Arcade gets a version as well, since Bastion originally released on the Summer of Arcade program two years ago. The developer should also consider the PlayStation 3 – and PS Vita – as well, since it's getting a big independent push as of late. Fans would certainly appreciate it.
We'll have a breakdown of the game's deeper battle strategies closer to its release, sometime in early 2014. In the meantime, watch the trailer here and great ready for a nice little comeback by the Supergiant gang.