I sit in a dark room with a cold beer in hand. I snap it open as the clock on my desktop hits 1:25am. I’m staring at an empty word document. It mocks me. The soundtrack of Bastion plays through my headphones. The jawdropping melodies of Darren Korb fills my head with memories; fighting my way through a post-apocalyptic world, exploring the history of this mysterious land with the relaxing narration of Logan Cunningham in the background. I close my eyes and tilt my head back, trying to find words to verbalize my experience in text for the people of the internet. But instead of words, I get a vision of the future. It’s a hopeful vision, based purely on trust and will. In this vision I sit on a computer much like the one I am looking at right now, also with a beer in hand. I’m listening to the soundtrack of Transistor, trying to verbalize how much it meant to me, playing it all those years ago.
Recently, the release date of Supergiant Games’ new title, Transistor, was confirmed to be May 20th and I couldn’t seriously think of a game I’m looking forward to more right now than this cyberpunk-y adventure by the developers of Bastion, my game of 2011 and one of my favourite titles of the last generation. My love towards Bastion is tough to explain. The aspects of the game that I most enjoy are very subjective. I found the world and the characters to be very interesting and I think the aesthetical choices supported them perfectly, Cunningham’s narration being that last touch of spices on the meal to make it truly stand out. The gameplay challenged me, but also offered choices and space for my imagination, keeping me entertained throughout the journey. Sounds good, right? Well, I constantly meet people who hated the narration, the “shallow” gameplay and “boring” world. These people are hard to argue with; they simply see these things I love in a different way.
Bastion divided audiences, it wasn’t for everyone. I prefer art that’s not for everyone, though. It creates discussion and everyone has their own experiences with the piece, making it feel more personal and more important, no matter if you liked it or not. It’s one of the main reasons why The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is my favourite game of all time and why I have the utmost respect towards Metal Gear Solid and Dark Souls despite having a hard time enjoying them in extended periods. This brings me to Transistor, this “sci-fi themed action RPG that invites players to wield an extraordinary weapon of unknown origin as they fight through a stunning futuristic city”.
While I hope this for every game, I especially want Transistor to succeed in creating the best possible experience for the people who they want to appeal to. I also want Transistor to piss people off, to disappoint them, even if I am included in this category. Games that are slightly above mediocre for everyone are boring; they are games that are forgotten within a month. They don’t mean anything. While that kind of strategy might be better for a product, it’s always preferable for a creative piece of work to be exactly what the people behind it want it to be, not what they think the general audience wants. I guess the question is, will Transistor be a product, or a creative work by this group of artists?
I’d like to say that I trust Supergiant Games. Yes, they’ve only shipped one game before, but they have what I consider to be the right way to look at game development. Whenever I see people from the studio appear in an interview or on the internet, I see people who got into game development because they love games and want to make games they would like to play themselves. I see legitimate artists working on bringing their vision to life, not marketing executives or PR-firms trying to please everyone by dropping as many buzzwords as possible. This attitude makes me feel safe, because it creates personal projects, those kinds of games I mentioned before.
There’s a fair bit of gameplay-videos and story-trailers of Transistor circling around the interwebs and it’s all quite reassuring. While the game might look spookily similar to Bastion, a little digging reveals that the approach to gameplay is quite different, adding elements of strategy, playing around with perspective, puzzles and other things to make it interesting and varied, possibly as an answer for the complaints some people had with Bastion. While I never had a problem with the battle system of Bastion, seeing Supergiant offer us a larger amount of things to learn, experience and try is obviously great. As long as none of these aspects feel unfinished, they’ll make the game feel a lot fuller and meatier.
Very little has been revealed on the story or the world of Transistor, but that’s also what made Bastion so magical. I don’t want to be told anything about the world or the story, because I want to experience unveiling the mystery myself. The strange pursuers, the silent, unassuming main character and the mystical, talking sword-like weapon are all shrouded in wonderful veil of mystery and I cannot wait to jump in and experience this adventure myself. We have also not heard much upcoming music from the game, but I completely trust Darren Korb, for the music of Bastion is one of my favourite soundtracks of all time. Let’s just say there are not many soundtracks I track down the autographed CD’s for. The little music from Transistor that has been provided is amazing though, like expected. The music from the reveal trailer already gives me chills and I haven’t even heard it in the right context yet.
In conclusion of my disjointed rambling, Transistor has a damn tough act to follow with Bastion. Good sci-fi is difficult to make, but if Bastion managed to be one of the best fantasy/post-apocalyptia-stories in recent memory, Transistor should manage to create a sci-fi world worth exploring. I truly wish that Transistor will be what Supergiant Games wants it to be, because if it fails in feeling like a personal project to the studio, it will fail in feeling like a personal experience to the player. Gladly I trust few other developers like I do Supergiant Games. If someone can make this work, it’s these guys.
To leave you with a good taste in your mouth-holes, here’s a bit of smexy-smexy gameplay from Transistor.