"The world itself seems to be made of circuitry, and there is an otherworldly, surreal quality to the levels."
Deep within the Sony booth, nestled beneath a massive screen playing the latest PS3 and PS4 trailers, is Supergiant Games. Having garnered a sterling reputation after the success of their first title, Bastion, members of Supergiant were on hand to answer questions as attendees played through an early portion of their newest game, Transistor. I dropped by during the second day of E3 to check it out, and I came away with a positive impression.
The demo worked mostly as a tutorial for the game's combat, which has several interesting wrinkles. Red will acquire a number of skills throughout the game, and each of these has a different pattern and use during battle. The four skills I was able to use in the demo were unlocked as I encountered various people that had fallen to the main enemy, the machinelike Process. At first, fighting was in the vein of a standard but methodical action RPG, and while I found it enjoyable on its own, it was only with the introduction of a fascinating action-queuing mechanic that it really hooked me.
At the top of the screen is a meter that comes into play when you press R2 to immediately freeze time. At this point, you can move Red around and queue up attacks. Each of these actions takes up a portion of the meter, but you are free to move and line up attacks on rows of enemies, which is where the unique pattern of each attack comes into play. Once you're ready, pressing R2 again will unfreeze time, and Red will execute all of the selected moves and actions. Enemies are still able to move — albeit slowly — during this phase, but careful planning of attacks often allowed me to wipe out an entire room of foes. The meter recharges quickly, so the flow of combat has a unique pace, with real-time action beats alternating with meticulously executed queued combos.
The queuing mechanic also seems like it will be used in puzzle solving. One such situation included a locked door with two switches. Pressing both switches would open the door, but not long enough to pass through. By using action queuing, I was able to hit both switches and pass through the door before it closed. I was pleased to see this, because it gives me hope that the full game will feature more extensive puzzles that make creative use of your abilities.
The game's art design is stellar. Things have a similar level of fidelity to Bastion, but with an even more stylized flair. The world itself seems to be made of circuitry, and there is an otherworldly, surreal quality to the levels. The music and voice acting were also top notch — especially with Logan Cunningham (the voice of the sword, called Transistor) serving as your constant companion and narrator.
Transistor seems to showcase the same dedication and consistency of presentation that made Supergiant a favorite after Bastion. The story, atmosphere, gameplay, graphics, and music all make a strong case for this one being another hit, and we'll all have a chance to find out when it launches on PC and PlayStation 4 in early 2014.