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Transistor
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Posted 2017-05-05, 09:08 PM
I bought this game on Steam summer sale last year. I forgot about it and it's been sitting in my library. I was bored so I installed and started it. What is wrong with me? This game is amazing.

Transistor is a cyber-punk story of a dashing young program that almost got terminated, but instead found her boyfriend stuck in some sort of soul-sword. Beautiful scenery and driving music blend perfectly with this story narrated by your boyfriend-on-a-stick as you seek answers and revenge.

This action-strategy system gives you a choice: execute your well planned attack in an instant only to run around helpless during the time it would normally have taken, or attack in real time and keep your options open. At first, combat seems like an afterthought; attackers are dispatched with ease and you'll pick up "limiters" that make combat harder in exchange for more experience. The difficulty scales up a bit slower than you'd expect but does soon become challenging.

When you start, you get simple moves that combo well, but as you progress, you unlock new abilities and new slots for those abilities. Every ability that you get can be used in one of three ways: as an active ability, as an upgrade to an active ability, or as a passive upgrade. It's hard giving up the proven combo ability of your starters, but eventually, you'll find that they are amazing as upgrades for the new abilities you find. The upgrade system allows for many varied and interesting abilities, especially once you start using two upgrades on a single ability. Some things don't combine as well as others, but the number of viable combined abilities will surprise you.

The music is excellent in its own right, but is perfectly suited to the situations it is played in. For almost all of the music, the main character can stop and hum to the music, not just following the melody, but adding harmony to it. Once I finished the game, I couldn't get the music out of my head.

Overall, the game is amazing. Unless you dislike cyberpunk, can't stand linear stories (guess you can't stand movies, either), or don't like games, you should play this game. It's a somewhat short game, at around twelve hours, but it is a very rich experience; if the short length bothers you, wishlist it and wait for it to go on sale.
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Posted 2017-05-06, 01:06 AM in reply to WetWired's post "Transistor"
Out of curiosity, are there any other games or perhaps a genre you might compare the game to? It sounds pretty interesting, and it looks gorgeous.

Also, how would you rate the control scheme? Is a USB controller an option, or is it K+M only? Would one have an advantage over the other? I tend to prefer K+M games these days but find that a lot of times, depending on the game, it can be a pretty sizeable handicap to play that way.
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Posted 2017-05-06, 12:17 PM in reply to !King_Amazon!'s post starting "Out of curiosity, are there any other..."
I can't really think of anything to compare it to, no.

Both controller and keyboard+mouse are supported. The advantages with the controller are that the analog stick gives better movement precision and every ability is one press away. On the other hand, with K+M, you can just click an exact spot and move there; it's only really a problem if the spot you are clicking is near an enemy. K+M allows you to rearrange your ability slots (because most of the time they will have differing number of upgrade slots and you may want an ability with two upgrades on a different key/button) and to load them with drag-and-drop. I played through completely with K+M and didn't feel handicapped, except when I wanted to take a specific path amongst a group of enemies or such during planning. K+M offers superior target selection in both planning and realtime, though if you need to alternate abilities quickly in realtime, controller has an advantage.
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Posted 2017-05-06, 10:21 PM in reply to WetWired's post starting "I can't really think of anything to..."
I actually played a couple of hours into the game earlier, it seems pretty good so far. Definitely in the action RPG genre, but with a V.A.T.S.-style twist.
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Posted 2017-05-08, 12:31 AM in reply to !King_Amazon!'s post starting "I actually played a couple of hours..."
Alright, so I feel like giving a more in-depth analysis at this point now that I've reached my likely conclusion to playing the game. Let's start with the good.


Graphics/Audio

Hands-down, this is the biggest selling point of the game and certainly where it shines. It looks beautiful and it sounds beautiful, and as mentioned in the OP the soundtrack is phenomenal. There's really not much more to say here. 10/10.


Story

I don't even really know what to say here. I've played several hours into the game and I still have no idea what is going on. It has gotten to the point that I don't even bother reading most of the flavor text anymore because it is literally meaningless to me and feels like a waste of time. Maybe there is actually some real story to this game, but it is so overly obscured that it almost feels like understanding/following the story is the biggest challenge of the game. Personally, I'm not a fan of this sort of obtuse narrative. Maybe I've missed something, or maybe I just lack the patience, I don't know. The one thing I will say is that some of the writing can be pretty entertaining, particularly when the main character is making a comment on some terminal or something, but that's really the only good thing I can say. For me, the story gets a 2/10, and it's lucky to get that. Perhaps if I forced myself to finish the game my rating would change, but sadly I don't think that will ever happen.


Gameplay

Alright, so in general the gameplay is similar in style to most action RPGs, though it is also lacking a lot of the things that I think really give flavor to action RPGs, such as quests, loot/equipment, stats, etc. If you are looking for that sort of action RPG experience, this game will be a pretty big disappointment. So far as I can tell, the only way your character ever really evolves is regarding skills, and even then in a pretty limited fashion. When you level up, you get a choice of Functions (basically, skills) and eventually you start getting Permissions (which "unlock" certain features such as passive slots, extra upgrade slots, etc.) and Limiters (which give a bonus to experience at the cost of higher difficulty in various forms.) Unfortunately, as far as I can tell the choices you make here really don't matter, as if you choose one Function over another you'll be given the option of choosing the other Function at a later point anyway (and presumably you eventually unlock all of them.) Thus, the only thing your choices really affect is how soon or how late you get access to a given Function. As far as the Limiters go, I like the fact that you have the option to increase the difficulty as the combat seems overly easy, at least for as far into the game as I played. However, the small bonuses to experience seem practically pointless and at times almost insultingly low considering the costs. For instance, there is a Limiter that DOUBLES the damage of all enemies but gives you only a 4% bonus to experience. As far as the Functions go, there are some interesting ones and the incredibly large number of ways you can combine them for different effects is pretty interesting as well, but I never really felt compelled to explore this to maximize my potential. The game was just far too easy, and for the most part I could get away with spamming the same skill over and over (and often even forgot what Function I was using, because it didn't matter) since there's no "mana" style resource or cooldown or anything like that for the vast majority of the Functions. The Turn() feature (basically equivalent to V.A.T.S. in the later Fallout games) is pretty neat, but I found myself not bothering with it most of the time because it just slowed me down unnecessarily and came with some annoyances of its own, such as it indicating that an attack would hit an enemy when it actually wouldn't, or the first couple of queue'd moves causing the later moves to fail (for example, by knocking enemies out of the way.) Perhaps with some practice it would get less annoying/more useful, but as mentioned I never really felt compelled to use it because I could just spam skills to kill everything anyway. The few times I did use it, I didn't find that it was valuable enough to justify the "cooldown" period afterwards where you can do ~nothing but run around (save for some exceptions through use of upgrades) like an idiot.

I also feel the need to comment on the linearity of the game. Despite the snarky comment in the OP, I actually do enjoy movies and TV shows, but the linearity of this game is pretty painful IMO, and I'm not one to usually complain about linearity in games. But this game almost feels like it is "on rails." Even games like Diablo III, which is a largely linear game, gives you breaks from the linearity by having quest hubs to go back to for various reasons, bosses/areas that are worth running repeatedly for rewards, etc. There's nothing like that in this game so far as I can tell, and even if you wanted to go back and explore some area you have been to previously for some reason I don't think you can. The worst part of all of this to me though is that the flavor of the game never seems to change. Every area I go to looks similar to the last, the small variety of enemy types are all overly similar and almost completely lacking in character...and I found myself getting incredibly bored after a while. I never had a feeling of "I wonder what I might find in this next area" because I pretty much already knew before I got there. More of the same. Imagine playing Diablo 2, but instead of the different acts having a variety of themes (plains, desert, swamp, etc), they were all just an extension of the Act 1 theme.

All-in-all, I found the gameplay to be pretty disappointing. There's a lot of potential here and a lot of good ideas, but the execution is just all wrong to me, and the lack of NPCs/quest hubs/items/etc. really makes the game feel pretty shallow despite the very deep skill system. Gameplay gets a 5/10 from me, not abysmal but nothing to write home about.

Overall

I can't really recommend this game to many people, particularly fans of typical ARPGs. If you really dig cyberpunk themes or overly obscure narratives, maybe this is your thing. If the idea of spending hours playing with different skill combinations (even when it isn't really necessary as far as I can tell) sounds fun to you, you might like it. Overall, though, my recommendation is to steer clear of the game and just buy the soundtrack, as that is the only part of the game that is worth your money.
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Posted 2017-05-08, 10:11 PM in reply to !King_Amazon!'s post starting "Alright, so I feel like giving a more..."
The game does tell you if the enemy you are targeting has shifted during turn. Generally, you can account for this. The reason to use Turn is to exploit weaknesses of enemies. Backstabbing gives a significant damage boost, for example, but is much easier to do during Turn. Later in the game, some enemies have limited periods of vulnerability that can be exploited in turn. Finally, approaching some enemies outside of turn is near-suicidal. Running around helpless does suck, but I only generally find it to be a problem if I planned my Turn poorly and during the Tests in the Backdoor; because Turn allows you to assault without taking damage, you should be able to kill enough enemy to take the heat off for most of the recharge time.

Depending on the enemy and their level of upgrade, you may dispatch them easily with the same move over and over. This become less true as you face more enemies and more varied enemies. Generally, you will want to weaken enemies with Crash and/or Void for more effective damage application.

For character progression, I never claimed it to be an RPG, but a strategy game. In a strategy game, you generally unlock new abilities/units as the story progresses. This does not make a strategy game an RPG. You do get breaks from the linearity in the Backdoors. Given the urgency of your quest and the impending doom, in many games the non-linear features make little sense; this is especially true in this game.

As I said in the OP, the story is a quest for answers as well as revenge. Detective stories generally live in obscurity until it all clicks. I found the gradual invalidation of preconceptions and the growing horror of the truth to be beautiful.
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Posted 2017-05-08, 11:36 PM in reply to WetWired's post starting "The game does tell you if the enemy you..."
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I never claimed it to be an RPG
And I never said you did. But despite what you said, it is an (A)RPG, albeit a poorly fleshed out one IMO.

Unfortunately, pretty much everything else you said is irrelevant to my opinion. I don't particularly care if the combat eventually gets more complex/difficult, because for the hours that I played the game it wasn't, and the game didn't hold my attention well enough to get to the "good parts." For the record, I am of the opinion that if I have to force myself to play through hours of boring content (particularly in a short game as you've described it) to get to the "good parts" the game is poorly designed.

As far as the story being a "quest for answers," I just don't see it. It felt more like watching LOST where I have far more questions being generated by the content than answers, and at a point it just became too much for me. I had to be close to halfway through the game and yet I literally had no clue what was going on.
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Last edited by !King_Amazon!; 2017-05-08 at 11:38 PM.
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Posted 2017-05-12, 07:48 AM in reply to WetWired's post "Transistor"
WetWired said:
Transistor is a cyber-punk story of a dashing young program . . .

Is this a story about your life, WW?
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