Although Supergiant Games saw its foundation in 2009 by several former developers for Electronic Arts, they wouldn’t release their first title, Bastion, on several platforms until two years later, although its development time was worth it, given the acclaim the company’s first title earned. Their second title, Transistor, was announced in 2013 and released the following year on a few platforms, although iOS devices wouldn’t receive the title until the year after, although luckily, it holds up to the hype it got like its spiritual predecessor.
Transistor features a tactical battle system that fuses real-time and turn-based elements, with protagonist Red able to freeze the action in a planning mode where she can move around queue several commands (active and passive and alterable at save points) with which to attack the enemy, all actions consuming part of the turn gauge. After executing her orders, she must wait for her turn gauge to fill completely, during which the player must have her evade the enemy as best as possible. While executing commands in real-time is possible once her gauge is full, odds are, given the somewhat imprecise nature of touch-screen controls, players will wish to pause the action and plan commands.
After killing all foes on a battlefield, Red receives a proportional amount of experience, with level-ups occurring once she has acquired one-hundred-percent experience, in which case she can learn new commands, unlock passive ability slots, and access special handicaps known as limiters that can boost experience acquired after a battle with penalties such as increased enemy HP. If Red’s HP bar runs out, she loses access to one of her four active commands, and once all her abilities are gone, it’s Game Over, in which case she can revive at the last save point with limiters removed or restart the battle with limiters kept. Despite the slight learning curve of combat, it definitely helps the game, somewhat feeling like a cross between the battle systems of Japanese RPGs such as Final Fantasy XIII and Parasite Eve.
Transistor’s touchscreen controls aren’t terribly difficult to get a handle of, although things such as a save-anywhere feature and in-game indication of playing time would have been welcome. Even so, the title interfaces well with players.
The cyberpunk story is interesting, as well, although the talking sword, the titular Transistor, somewhat brings to mind the narratives of Japanese RPGs such as Tales of Destiny, and there are common errors, mostly punctuation, in the dialogue text.
Transistor’s aural aspect mostly relies upon sound effects and voice acting, which is mercifully well above-average, to do the job, although some of the musical tracks are fairly enjoyable.
The visuals also look nice, resembling those in Bastion albeit with a much darker atmosphere, although some animation of the common static art would have been welcome.
Finally, a playthrough takes a little less than ten hours, although there’s plenty lasting appeal with a Recursion mode, basically a New Game+, alongside many achievements.
Overall, Transistor is another great Supergiant Games title, what with plenty positive elements such as its tactical battle system, tight control, an interesting if slightly-derivative narrative, great audio, and pretty visuals. It does have a few things going against it such as the slight learning curve and the error-filled script, although it’s certainly another feather in the cap of its developer, this reviewer definitely hoping that more solid titles will come from its developer in the future.
This review is based on a playthrough on an iPad Air.
+Solid tactical battle system and control.
+Good sound and graphics.
+Great replay value.
-A bit of a learning curve.
-Script is full of errors.
The Bottom Line:
Another solid Supergiant title.
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Playing Time: Less than 10 Hours