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Review

Transistor Review

  • Game release: May 20, 2014
  • Reviewed:
  • PC
  • PS4

Ghosts in the machine.

A dead man. A weapon. A dress, torn and discarded on the ground. A voice says, "What a night. You're still in one piece; that's all that matters."

Transistor begins with remarkable confidence, throwing you right into the life of nightclub singer Red at what might be her lowest point. There's no immediate explanation for who she is, or what this world is, or what happened the night before, and all this mystery only makes your journey more captivating. Transistor asks you to trust in it, to come along on the journey even though you have no idea where you're going. And it rewards your trust, weaving a beautiful and unconventional sci-fi tale with a human heart, and empowering you with a wonderfully flexible combat system that fuses real-time and turn-based action to create something that feels unique.

As you move through Cloudbank, the world of Transistor, you encounter manifestations of the process, a force that's seemingly running rampant, annihilating Cloudbank as it goes. With the help of the transistor--the strange weapon you pull from a dead man's body when the game begins, a weapon Red drags along behind her as if it's a sword that's too heavy for her to wield properly--you fight the process. You can run around fighting your enemies in real time, but you're outnumbered, and you're just not quick enough or strong enough to overcome them this way. Thankfully, you have a trick up your sleeve called turn, which enables you to freeze time, plot out your upcoming movements and attacks, and then carry them out in rapid succession.

As you progress, you collect more and more techniques, called functions, each one the essence of a fallen resident of Cloudbank. There are 16 functions in all, including straightforward attacks, movement abilities, a function that spawns a doglike helper, a function that temporarily turns enemies into allies, and others. Each one can be slotted as an active ability, or to upgrade another function, or to give you a passive benefit. There are a remarkable variety of ways in which these techniques can be combined, and hitting on particularly effective combinations and putting them to use in battle is immensely satisfying.

You can upgrade any function with any other function, making your skill set extremely customizable.

Transistor's combat makes you feel powerful by giving you an edge on the process, but it also encourages you to think carefully about what you're doing, because the process is no pushover. It has tricks of its own, sometimes obscuring your vision, sometimes pulling you out of your turning phase without warning. It's a clever foe, which makes matching wits with it all the more enjoyable. And, much like the idols of Supergiant Games' earlier game Bastion, Transistor has limiters, optional modifiers that make your life more difficult but reward you with more experience, so if you want a more challenging experience, you can have it.

But what is the process, really? And what has happened to all the residents of Cloudbank? Red is driven to get to the bottom of it, and she's not alone. From inside the transistor speaks a man's voice, bringing life to your quest as it responds to your actions and slowly helps you piece together the story of Cloudbank. The always-present voice also puts a relationship at the heart of Transistor. Red can't speak--the events of the night before have stripped her of her voice--but her wordless actions reveal her fierce determination, and as the voice speaks from the transistor, and Red finds ways of responding to it, a connection between the two becomes clear.

There's a touch of magic, even of spirituality, to Transistor's story, a sense that there are things within the world of Cloudbank that transcend our understanding of what's possible.

Also shedding light on the world and its people are the files accompanying each function. To reveal more about these people whose essence has been trapped in the transistor, you have to use their functions in different ways, putting them in active slots, upgrade slots, and passive slots, which gives you an incentive to tweak your build and try different techniques. The files are so well written and paint such vivid pictures of Cloudbank's fallen residents that you naturally want to uncover all the details they contain.

Red has a good set of pipes. Or she did, before last night.

What slowly emerges in Transistor is the story of a clandestine organization called the Camerata, working behind the scenes in Cloudbank for its own purposes. And while the answers to the plot's questions about who the Camerata are and what the transistor does are interesting, they're not what makes Transistor's story special. Cloudbank is a technological world, but not a cold one. It's not a place of pure ones and zeroes. There's a touch of magic, even of spirituality, to Transistor's story, a sense that there are things within the world of Cloudbank that transcend our understanding of what's possible.

And Transistor's artful presentation has some magic of its own. There are a few astounding moments in Transistor, like the moment when you step up to a microphone and press a button to sing, and Red's haunting voice comes in and carries you back to what had happened the night before, the visuals communicating in shorthand what words would take too much time to say. Or the moment when Red, silhouetted against the city, speeds across Cloudbank on a motorcycle, hunting the people who are responsible for everything that has happened.

Transistor is always a good-looking game, but in these instances, it demonstrates a rare knack for combining its visuals and music to powerfully convey both narrative information and tone, driving the story forward with Red's own unwavering resolve. So in the end, yes, Transistor is a fun action role-playing game with a neat combat system, but beautiful moments like these make it more than that. They make it a game with a soul.

The Good
Fascinating and unconventional narrative that exudes confidence
Empowering combat system that fuses real-time and turn-based action
Visuals, music, and writing combine to create some terrific moments
The Bad
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Carolyn played through Transistor's story twice on the PlayStation 4, using the new game plus option to go through it a second time. She also tested out the PC version a bit. In the interests of transparency, she'd like you to know that she was an avid reader of GameSpot when Supergiant Games' creative director, Greg Kasavin, wrote for the site, and she has had friendly chats with him on a few occasions.

Discussion

620 comments
false6hepherd
false6hepherd

@Maverick6585  Yep, I would tend to agree with you. There are no points in "The Bad" column, where is the reviewer arbitrarily taking away points? Although nothing is ever perfect, this game is nearly there. I would judge a game to be near "perfect" if it succeeds in realizing the potentials and doing good in what it sets out for itself in its design and narrative. In other words, this game does not bite off more than it can chew - the combat and customization is extremely fun, the narrative is just right for a roughly ten-hour playthrough experience (which you can elongate by recursion mode and doing the challenge rooms in the rest areas of the game) the music is brilliant, and Red and the Transistor should be held up with all the other great male / female duos of the last year or so - Joel and Ellie, Booker and Elizabeth. This game is a neo-noir masterpeice, and it is successful in all of its gameplay facets, which is more than most contemporary triple A titles can say (*cough* Watch Dogs). 

These huge 300-person studio titles that jam their game worlds with content, of which only a small percentage is fun, will have serious stylistic (if not economic) competition from these smaller studios in the coming years.

Maverick6585
Maverick6585

I've never disagreed with a review before, but this deserves at least a 9 

alkimome
alkimome

This game is so beautiful, it has one of the best starts I ever seen in all games I ever player!

saint311
saint311

How is the combat empowering when you're forced to use certain skills just to unlock aspects of the story?  And the balance of recovery and certain enemy attacks isn't balanced?  The skill system overall is great, but the force of use, and w/ so many cheap enemies/fights (looking at you multi-Man fights) causing you to just lose skills temporarily, I can only say Bastion is superior, both in gameplay, philosophy/story, and miscellany/tertiary features.

JBLAZE916
JBLAZE916

How is this a game an 8 when you can't name any negatives?? Please give us the reasons why it's only an 8! Gamespot has turned into a joke when it comes to reviewing games. 

seanbrandowen
seanbrandowen

Gr8 review as always,Turn based strategy not every ones cup of tee..... 

tbstage1968
tbstage1968

...and another 8. this is getting ridiculous. 

McGuirex3
McGuirex3

So if I want to play this game on a console then I'll have to buy a PS4? I think Not cuz this & the other games that are out for the PS4 & or the X1 for that matter are just not, what's the word I'm trying to find... right now to buy a next gen. con.! May in about a year or so, maybe!


Happy gaming all!!!

darmarian
darmarian

I was really hyped up for this game, the visuals were top quality, the story was engrossing (to a point), and the combat system was really intuitive... for the first 2 hours. I don't know what happened- a switch sudden;y turned off and it was just repetitive combat with the same drones and different colors, tougher enemies were just bigger enemies or had a prefix/suffix to their name, and the whole story about the people you 'meet' (the dead's back story require far too much reading- and I'm an avid reader) was not as stellar as the hype. I might be of the few that would give this a 5/6 score, but to say that there are no bad points to this game is a little blind (maybe bias due to friendship with Kasavin of SGG? Probably not). But hey, that's my two cents. To all that enjoyed it, I'm glad that you found something more worthwhile in it than I did- happy gaming.

leikeylosh
leikeylosh

Just finished this game last night. I would give it a 5 or 6 at best. The narration doesn't have the same weight as in Bastion, the story is dull and the ending was supposed to be emotional, but it ends up being an overused twist and one that doesn't make any sense.


And I still don't understand the combat system completely, it's confusing as hell. Though I have to say the last battle was fun, albeit short.

rogeralamode
rogeralamode

Reviewer's voice is grating and unpleasant. Also not sure I can trust this review. Is this game really the equivalent of Watch Dogs which also got an "8"?

sambucca
sambucca

Hey, I didn't know Carolyn Petit was a tran....errr....sistor player...

Evil_Saluki
Evil_Saluki

I love this game, it's like a modern day Amiga classic.


CoRiNi
CoRiNi

Great game, the world is beautiful, a world that I always imagined as something we will see in the future. Amazing soundtrack as well. the gameplay is fun and the fighting doesn't get repetitive due to the many possible skill combinations.

 My only disappointment is the exclusion of the "hummed" versions of the soundtrack in the original Soundtrack, which I had to record myself from the game to listen to them. 

daikkenaurora12
daikkenaurora12

Carolyn gave it that score because the main character is a girl.  Carolyn is a sucker for games that have female leads.

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

The art direction, sound, and combat mechanics are all really great, but as a complete game, I found it to be really linear and bare bones. Besides the agency tests, the game literally drags you by the hand throughout it's duration. Nothing to explore or collect.

Sound_Demon
Sound_Demon

FINALLY this game is out, the combat is extremely difficult (I'm playin it on hard) but the customization options are really worth the struggle, I love neo-futuristic cities and slums theme. The artwork is incredibly executed (not perfect but IN-CRE-DI-BLE) I'd give this a 8.5 if not 9.

Ailurusf
Ailurusf

I had posted this before and it somehow got lost in the nethers of comment-land, so I'll say it again.

Thanks Carolyn for bringing up games that would have otherwise slipped by unnoticed. I do love your reviews and how humane they are. Seriously, more people like you are needed in the industry if we ever want to change the idea that games are just toys for kids. 

aegis_kleais
aegis_kleais

I had no idea this game was coming out. After getting Bastian when it was on sale, and being angry at myself for getting such an amazing game at a good price, I made myself a promise to buy SuperGiant's next game on the day it came out. Well, promise was broken, but I'm gonna buy this bad boy today at full price. Sounds like the team at SuperGiant are full of some talented individuals!

kidflash2000
kidflash2000

The bad is a blank spot and it gets an 8? I'm confused here...

penpusher
penpusher

@saint311 I'm only half way through it but I think you're exaggerating a wee bit. For one thing the info you unlock by using functions are hardly essential plot points, they're just there if you fancy learning a bit more, not everything has to be handed out to you on a silver platter. As for unbalanced combat? I haven't come across unbalanced, or cheap enemies, it all seems quite well balanced. Perhaps maybe you just need to be more careful with your planning. I also see no problem with losing skills temporarily. It's not like they're gone all that long, and waiting for them to return encourages you to investigate the other functions, and to be careful in the planning stages to minimise your loss. If there was no punishment for lousy planning the game would be too easy.

Sound_Demon
Sound_Demon

@leikeylosh A quiet story isn't a dull story, and just cause you aren't given much information on the events make it dull. The man in the transistor hasn't been revealed and how Red lost her voice is still a mystery as well as why she was targetted for assassination and why the city is empty is another mystery. It's a game that lets you do the thinking to fill in the gaps. The ending wasn't supposed to be emotional, it was emotional. The ending made no sense to you because you didn't know the relationship between the characters.


Combat system is it's strong point, extremely customizable and lots of variety to how you can fight make it interesting. The only true down part to this game was that length wise, so much more could have been revealed (mostly story wise).

Sound_Demon
Sound_Demon

@rogeralamode In a sense yes, I'd say Watchdogs didn't have the "feel" I was expecting from it. But this game captures it's atmosphere (art music and camera style) and takes it account into the gameplay and it all fits in perfectly. It doesn't mean you would enjoy it more or less but it's something that you would notice about the game which is a great plus. The biggest downside to this game is it's too short and the story is shrouded (and i mean shrouded) with mystery. Nothing is truly revealed even at the very end but it makes it interesting. Why is the city evacuated, who is the man in the transistor, why was red targeted for assassination, how did she lose her voice? so much remained a mystery but hey, maybe one day there will be more info.

hitomo
hitomo

@Evil_Saluki  no one likes Amiga games ... if people would have actually needed to pay for (Amiga games) the System would have been dead after a few month ..


but the comparison to something old and limited like an Amiga classic game, says more then a lot about this games


^^

hitomo
hitomo

@CoRiNi  but the game Looks like something we know from the past

kleefkikker
kleefkikker

@Sound_Demon I see this come up a lot on GS, 'are you a boy or a girl?' - it hardly matters what sex/gender the person writing a review is.


Don't know thise other games, but I thought the review on this was well-written and informative - looks like it will be a lot like Bastion; nice gameplay, but the game will be more memorable for the visuals and especially the audio.

Ailurusf
Ailurusf

@Sound_Demon It's "her". Carolyn is transgender and female identified. Not sure what's so hard to understand about that. 

Sound_Demon
Sound_Demon

@daikkenaurora12 People please give this man more upvotes so Gamespot can kick off this reviewer, she gave Kentucky route zero 3 a 9 and Transistor an 8 (just cause of his political views), oh and let's not forget the fact that the female lead is a solo combatant making her "a strong independent female lead", this game deserves an 8.5 if not 9. It was that good although I wish it were longer.

kleefkikker
kleefkikker

@Ailurusf pretty sure this game wouldn't have slipped by unnoticed, it's the spiritual succesor to Bastion afterall...

hitomo
hitomo

@Ailurusf warning, dont fall to their plot ... this is a game made by a former gamespot employee


if you Play games for the feelings they give and not for the challenge they present,

you could aswel read a book

ESPM400
ESPM400

@kidflash2000  Just because a game doesn't have any specific flaws that are deep enough to point a finger at, doesn't necessarily mean it's a perfect game. Conversely, a game may score higher and have something glaring that other aspects of the game make up for. A review score is a number assigned to a subjective opinion, not an absolute measure of the game.

klugenbeel
klugenbeel

@kleefkikker @Sound_Demon Exactly, doesn't matter if Carolyn is male or female...her reviews and opinions are terrible male or female. I'm not sure who's voice is more annoying, Carolyn's or Jess's. Thank god Gamespot got Lisa Foiles...what a breathe of fresh air to hear a female that doesn't make my ears bleed.

daikkenaurora12
daikkenaurora12

@Sound_Demon Carolyn almost always gives games that have main female characters high scores even though the game doesnt deserve it.

Ailurusf
Ailurusf

@Sound_Demon So you're saying that Carolyn's score was too high because the lead character is female, but the game should have had a higher score? 

You make no f*cking sense. 

Ailurusf
Ailurusf

@hitomo @Ailurusf  Huh? You went from conspiracy theory to some weird implication that either (a) games are not capable of delivering an emotional experience, or (b) I don't read enough. 

Even if the game is by a former GS employee, it's had a rather universal praise, so I don't see this as skewed. I was praising Carolyn's style of reviewing. 

As someone mentioned, the interactivity of games makes them a unique medium to evoke emotions. No book or movie can equal the feeling of, for example, denying entry to a person in Papers Please while knowing they'll be killed in their country. The point is, videogames are not inherently better or worse than books, they're just different. Games and reviews like this one just help push the boundaries of games towards it being a more mature form of art.

toast_burner
toast_burner

@hitomo @Ailurusf  Books aren't interactive. That gives games a unique and effective way of telling a story.

This idea that all games must be mindless shooters is not only stupid but damaging to the industry. People complain that games are more censored than film and books, yet at the same time they say game shouldn't cover any of the themes that films and books do. Of course people are going to look down on gamers, you make us all look like a bunch of stupid kids.


kidflash2000
kidflash2000

@ESPM400 All games should start as 10 mentally, then you subtract the score based off your negative experiences with the game. While reviewing a game and your are listing both pros and cons you should tell the people reading the came why there were points deducted. Simple as that.

kleefkikker
kleefkikker

@ESPM400 @kidflash2000 they should cut the review scores already tbh; it never makes sense


makes a lot more sense to say "this is what is good about this game, these are the things that are bad. then a personal opinion for example "I don't like shooters, but I had fun with this" and personal gripes "if you don't like shooters, this might not be your kind of game"

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Sound_Demon 

If you don't like "hipsterism", that's your problem.

Also, if you want Carolyn Petit fired, you should be boycotting her articles - by coming here to b*tch about her reviews, you are already contributing to the views which her articles get.

Sound_Demon
Sound_Demon

@Ailurusf @Sound_Demon I'm saying she based her score on her hipsterism which is ridiculous. She gave gone home and KRZ3 ratings of 9 and 9.5. The other reviewers had no comment on the situation but that it was her review and she gave her take on it. I don't trust the basis of the ratings nor their value anymore, unless it's Kevin. I personally loved this game.

Jaykray
Jaykray

@hitomo @toast_burner  Transistor is not only a fairly challenging game in an of itself, but one can raise the challenge through game mechanics if one so desires. Essentially, your argument on challenge is moot, at least with regards to Transistor.

Lash540
Lash540

 @toast_burner Hitomo never said all games have to be mindless shooters, you made that assumption and did so incorrectly. Why is he stupid?

Hitomo has a valid point, a game by definition is a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck not how it makes you feel.

Randomness each time you play it helps keep the game interesting.
Challenges presented in the game each time you play help keeps you enthralled.

These are two pieces that I'm sure this game is missing and his point about this game being made by a former gamespot employee,
Gregg Kasvin, is also true. So I understand you want to disagree with him but he made valid points and you just name calling him without providing a single shred of evidence to prove your claims just makes YOU look stupid.

Notice how the reviewer had nothing bad to say about the game yet it got an 8? Why? If there was nothing wrong with it why not a 9 or 10? Why aren't you asking these questions?

I get it, you like the game, I do to, it's interesting the first time you play it and for the price they are asking for it, it's not to bad of a deal. But don't go around calling people stupid just because they say something you don't like and can't prove them wrong.




hitomo
hitomo

@toast_burnerbut I am talking about a challenge ... they are interactive indeed ... thats the function they have to use to create a challenge


I cant praise a game because of its ideas and concepts alone, if the challenging,

interaktive, imersing part isnt realised or only superficial ...


on the other hand I can love a challenging game wich I dont like the ideas and concept of in the first place ...


I dont make you look like a bunch of stupid Kids, I just Point out stuff ...

on the other hand I totaly would love to see more People becoming mature

in their minds, so we could actually bnring out the fuell potential of stuff,

instead of seeking the well known things over and over again


and I should have used TV as an counter example not Books


I seek a challenge in books as well, an intelectual challenge to my own opinins

and ideas ... thats a thing Video games can provide as well ... in fact a major

aspect of interactive media in my opinion, but the art in creating games,

really lies in using the interactive aspect to create a challenge that

will lead the 'player' to an intelectual achievment or a new way

of thinking



ESPM400
ESPM400

@kidflash2000 @ESPM400 No offense intended, but that's the wrong way to do a review. Going into the review process with the preconceived notion of a numerical 'score' biases the review. In the past when I've written them, I'd always play through the game (or enough of it to develop an informed opinion), taking mental and/or written notes along the way, then I'd write the review. After all of that was done, that's when I'd give it a score based on my overall opinion of the complete game.

Transistor More Info

  • Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    Transistor is a science-fiction-themed action role-playing game set in a futuristic city where you will take on the role of a young woman who gains control of an extraordinary weapon of unknown origin after a mysterious group of assailants nearly kills her with it.
    8.5
    Average User RatingOut of 84 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Transistor
    Developed by:
    Supergiant Games
    Published by:
    Supergiant Games
    Genres:
    Action, Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Mild Language, Violence