There are few games that have endeared themselves to me like Supergiant's Bastion. The combination of Darren Korb's soundtrack, Logan Cunningham's wizened narrator, and tight gameplay that blends nostalgia with contemporary sensibility makes for a winning combination. My 20-minute demo with Transistor sang the same harmonies.
Darren Korb and Logan Cunningham are both back (the latter as the voice of the sword-like Transistor). In fact, the same seven individuals that brought us Bastion are the people currently putting the finishing touches on this new title.
The demo starts early in the game as Red removes the talking Transistor sword from a dead body. At the beginning, she only has two abilities: a slow slash and a charged bolt that can hit enemies in a straight line.
As she encounters other dead bodies, their essence is absorbed into the Transistor, manifesting as new powers. The game becomes much more engaging when a system similar to Fallout 3's VATS is introduced. When triggered, time stops and players are free to move Red into position and queue up moves.
Every step and attack eats away at a bar at the top of the screen. Thankfully, these can be plotted and reconfigured before triggering the sequence. Once activated, Red rapidly executes the moves. You won't need to worry about an enemy moving to another location during your queued actions (unless they have a special ability). The whole process looks and feels great to plan and execute.
A short recharge time leaves players vulnerable, so it can't be abused. Triggering the planning phase the right time to hit multiple enemies is rewarding and requires more strategy and patience than might be apparent at first glance.
Every battle yields experience, and after leveling up, I was given the choice of two different abilities. One was a bolt that hits multiple enemies. I chose the other option, as it enhances backstab attacks (a technique I had used often up that point).
These abilities work as enhancements to core skills, and made my slash more powerful from the rear. I could also move it to other abilities, including my dash, in which case it would serve an alternate function: turning me invisible for a short time.
We don't know much about Red yet other than she is a singer who has lost her voice. We have yet to find out who the voice of the Transistor is, or why the soul-like "traces" of the dead are drawn to the sword. But that's the magic of Supergiant's narrative design. The discovery is just so well crafted.
I'm glad that I don't have to wait that much longer to play Transistor (more than once, as new game plus is confirmed). The title will be out on May 20 on PS4 and PC. For more, check out an interview with creative director Greg Kasavin.