Looking at screenshots of Supergiant Games' upcoming Transistor, it would be easy to assume that it plays similar to the developer's previous game, Bastion. After playing through it at PAX East, however, it immediately became clear that this is an entirely new experience that's every bit as impressive as the studio's first game.
You control Red, a famous singer in the city of Cloudbank that's been targetted by a group of assassins for unknown reasons. After being attacked, she wakes to find herself on the other side of the city. Plunged into a dead man is the same sword the assassins used to attack her with. She pulls it out of the body, and discovers that the dead man's voice and consciousness are now tied to the sword itself. It speaks to her, but doesn't offer any explanation about why she's become a target. It isn't a back-and-forth conversation, as the assassins have somehow taken Red's voice.
Within seconds of wielding the Transistor (the sword), Red is attacked by robot-like Process enemies. She starts with basic attacks, but quickly learns several new abilities throughout the course of the demo. I was only able to attack with basic strikes at first, but unlocked an evade called Jaunt and a projectile called Spark before I was done.
More useful than any other ability is Turn. With the press of the right trigger, the action stops and you're given the opportunity to plan Red's attacks. It's a finite system, and each action and movement fills a bar at the top of the screen. Once it's completely full, you can't queue up any more attacks. When you press the right trigger again, Red jumps into action.
Stabbing enemies in the back does more damage, so I frequently employed a useful strategy made possible by Turn. When a large enemy appeared, I'd pause the action, Jaunt behind it, then queue up numerous attacks. Once I resumed the action, Red followed my actions perfectly and took out the baddies before they knew what hit them. This useful ability comes at a cost, however, as your standard abilities become frozen until a cooldown period expires.
Playing Transistor was the most fun I've had at PAX East so far, and it also looks and sounds absolutely beautiful. Designs for the city, enemies, and Red herself are detailed and gorgeous, and the soundtrack already seems like it will rival Bastion's, both of which feature vocalist Ashley Barrett. Supergiant currently has the game slated for an early 2014 release, and it immediately became one of my most anticipated games after my time with it on the show floor.