Transistor is an interesting game, going in blind, I thought it was going to be some kind of action-rpg where you could stop time to have an easier time with some enemies. I didn’t know there would be a talking sword, I didn’t know there would be level-up mechanics, I didn’t know much, really. I enjoyed it quite much since I beat the game in three days, playing here and there where I had time. A fantastic little game, flawed in spots, but still pretty good.
I was wrong on many things, the first being that transistor would be an action rpg.And I have to say, with your four main ability slots arranged a bit like a MOBA, with the fact that you can swing your sword by right clicking, I really thought it was. Then I started to wonder what kind of ARPG it would be. Almost every move has animation that takes priority over actual effect. Your character might stick her sword into the ground before or after an attack, and there’s no cancelling out of that. Also, your character is quite weak at first, enemies get pretty overwhelming as you progress through the game, etc. My next step was to wonder if the point of playing the game like an action rpg was only to defeat weak enemies and mess around. Were you supposed to use the paused mode all the time?
I have some issues with the Turn() mode as well. It’s a very interesting system, but I felt like sometimes it gave me false information. And the point of Turn() is to plan a bunch of moves in order to deal as much damage as possible on your enemies, so when the thing said that I would overkill everything and then I let the action roll and nothing happened, I was bummed. There were a few other situations where things didn’t go at all like it said it would, leaving me confused and frustrated. The way it works is still pretty neat, you allocate moves - each cost a few points - and then the action resumes. After that you have to wait for the bar to fill up before you can act again, so you better kill everything because this adds to the fragility of your character. Also, I wish you could see more numbers, your own hit points and the like.
You have an impressive amount of customization possible in Transistor, you can equip four active skills with up to two passive skills supporting them, you can also equip up to four passives on your character. The number of different things you can do are quite big. Summoning dogs with chaining barks that turn enemies into allies, globes of damage over time/debuff goodness, having more health, dealing more damage, being able to use abilities during Turn() recovery. It’s pretty much all interesting. And you have incentives to try everything out because you unlock codex entries for using each ability in each different slot. By the end of the game though, all I did was use the same ability over and over, I didn’t even need to use the pause system anymore, just dash everywhere, dodging attacks and releasing projectiles on my enemies, rinse and repeat.
You can make the game more difficult for yourself if you want - and get more experience per fight - but I think that for the most part, the game is difficult enough as-is. Enemies start weak, but they quickly go up in versions with more abilities piling up on them. They move fast, act fast, and are hard to evade around - if you’re not dashing constantly - requiring you in most cases to use Turn() to deal with the most annoying of them. When they die, they release cells that you need to pick up in order to stop them from respawning. Some enemies shield others, some heal others, some will just turn invisible and hunt you relentlessly. There were a few bosses, but I didn’t have too much trouble with them, especially the last boss, I just dashed into him.
Transistor is also plenty of random things to do, there are terminals everywhere with little questions and trivia. The voice acting - although very much reminding me of Bastion - creates atmosphere for the whole thing. You have some hub space where you can do trials like in Bastion and they help learn how certain things work. Trials like killing enemies fast, killing enemies in one Turn(), surviving for a set number of seconds, etc. I was frustrated by some of the challenges and I wasn’t sure if I was doing the wrong thing or if I was doing the right thing but executing wrong, maybe some info after a few failed tries would have helped in those cases?
To conclude, Transistor was pretty good, otherwise I wouldn’t have completed it. That being said, I spent most of the beginning of the game frustrated by being unsure about how to play it. I am left here wondering if it would have been better to push further into the action-rpg or the turn-based strategy side. On one hand, having more quick snappy controls - less burdened by animations - would’ve made fighting in real time easier and more enjoyable. On the other hand, forcing you to fight in turn-based mode, reworking the Turn() system and removing real-time fighting might have given a more relaxed game and removed some of my issues with imprecise data during the planning stage.