Today's entry in this exploration of everything I liked this year finds it way to the sequel to one of the best games of the last few years. Transistor, by Supergiant games, was the much anticipated follow-up to the wonderful indie hit, Bastion.
Transistor is at once both similar and very different to it's predecessor. There are familiar beats to the narrative. Mysterious protagonist, with an engineered, disembodied (of sorts) narrator, a strange unfamiliar world that is unraveling before you, and a central story of tragic characters doing the best they can. As with Bastion the game manages to create an intriguing world, while only really sketching that world. The tangible details that might fully realize the vision of the game world are secondary to the style of the delivery.
It does feel somewhat like a retread theme wise, but that style is so visceral and so well executed, and again paired with a wonderful soundtrack, that you can quickly forgive those narrative similarities.
Gameplay wise however it's only really the way you view and move around the isometric world that will feel similar. That's because the combat has been taken in an entirely different direction. It's different, and maybe even a little innovative, if perhaps biting off a bit more than it can chew. It provides an odd combination of real time and pseudo turn-based mechanics that require both some planning and some execution.
The central character, Red, can utilize a system called Turn() to execute a series of planned moves. These moves can be built with ever more elaborate components as you level up and earn more possible parts for your combos. The ability building is actually a lot of fun, with more depth than is initially apparent. In fact, if I had a major criticism of the game, it's that it doesn't take full advantage of the possibilities that are presented, as a limited set of enemies mean that once you find a good tactic, it's largely pretty sound throughout your play-through.
Thankfully, for those who want to explore it further, there is replay factor in the various ways you can tweak the challenge in a similar method to Bastion's shrine.
The first play through however is the star, as with Bastion, it's a melancholic story, with a wonderful atmosphere. As mentioned above, it hints at it's world rather than actually building upon it, but in this case, that is strangely enough. It's another haunting, mesmerizing, effort from Supergiant, and well worth your time.